President Goodluck Jonathan last week lamented the growing unemployment situation in the country stating that it may lead to some social unrest in the near future. The President said: “As I said in my Budget Presentation speech late last year, unemployment among our youth is one of our biggest challenges as a nation.

But this is a challenge that we are willing and ready to address to unlock the vast potentials of the Nigerian youth. In the course of the campaigns for the April 2011 Presidential elections, I met many young Nigerians, based at home and in diaspora who have refused to submit to the blackmail of self-defeat and despair, and who are showing great initiative in making positive use of their God-given talents.”

Every Nigerian, in low or high places, knows this simple fact. The President did not say anything new. What would have been news is if he said how far this administration has gone to tackle the problem. Since the days of the ill-fated Structural Adjustment Programme or the Shehu Shagari Austerity Measure of 1982, unemployment has been with us.

Unemployment in Nigeria has become one of the most critical problems the country is facing. Years of corruption, civil war, military rule, and mismanagement have hindered the economic growth of the country. Nigeria is endowed with diverse and infinite resources, both human and material.

However, years of negligence and adverse policies have led to the under-utilisation of these resources. These resources have not been effectively utilised in order to yield maximum economic benefits. This is one of the primary causes of unemployment in the country.

Analysis of employment data for the past five years shows that the rate of new entrants into the labour market has not been uniform in the past five years. The rate was on the increase from 2007 to 2009 but declined significantly from 2009 to 2010.

The rate increased again from 2010 to 2011. Within the five-year period, there has been an average of about 1.8 million new entrants into the active labour market per year. In 2011, Nigeria’s estimated population stood at
164.3 million, 92.3 million are said to be economically active. A breakdown of this showed that the labour force stood at 67.25 million. Of this, the employed were 51.18 million, unemployed 16.07 million and newly employed 2.13 million.

2010 statistics showed that about 10 million Nigerians were unemployed in Nigeria in March, 2009. The 2011 survey based on the definition of unemployment used, showed that the national unemployment rate is 23.9 per cent compared to 21.1 per cent in 2010 and 19.7 per cent in 2009.

The Federal Government since 2009 has been singing the tune of tackling unemployment but so far, there has been no sign of improvement. Today in Nigeria, almost half of 15-24-year-olds living in urban areas are jobless,” yet reducing unemployment and enhancing economic productivity are top priorities for the National Economic Management team.

“Forty-nine per cent (49%) of the unemployed reside in the urban areas and 39.7% unemployed are in the rural areas.The secondary-school graduates consist of the principal fraction of the unemployed accounting for nearly 35 to 50 per cent.

The rate of unemployment within the age group of 20 to 24 years is 40 per cent and between 15 to 19 years, it is 31 per cent.  What  this means is that there is something wrong with the economic growth achieved in the country in the last five years making this an economic issue which could grow to become a social issue.

It is sad that year in year out, billions of naira are budgeted for recurrent expenditure with little for capital expenditure that will lead to job creation.

Fortunately, the buck stops at the President’s table. He is the one who has the key to unlock and unleash the nation’s economic potentials for the benefit of all Nigerians. The President had no one to cry to other than putting on a thinking cap and getting the job of the office of the President done.

The Federal Government cannot be talking of unemployment when the nation is massively importing every- thing under the sun.

his government   should lead by  example by patronising made-in- Nigeria goods. By creating local demand and empowering local producers, the government can create jobs through the value chain in agriculture, mineral exploitation, small and medium enterprises.

The leading economies of the world today laid the economic foundation in small and medium enterprises. In fact, the strength of the American economy is in small and medium enterprises.

Less consumption has led to lower production and economic growth has been hampered. Unemployment also has social consequences as it increases the rate of crime.

Here in Nigeria, such ventures are left in the so-called informal sector. This sector has the potential of lifting the nation out of its current predicament. In the Niger- Delta, there are small and medium scale crude refiners that are described as illegal refiners, up in the North, there are several local miners that are equally described as illegal miners.

These groups of informal sector operators have some form of indigenous technology that can be tapped and used to grow the economy. Rather than encourage enterprise by integrating the informal sector into the mainstream of the economy, the government is busy chasing shadows.

During the sad experience of the Nigeria-Biafra war, the Biafrans developed some technology that the nation should have tapped into that probably would have resulted in Nigeria’s own industrial revolution; that opportunity was lost.

Worse still, at the prevailing interest rate in Nigeria, no small or medium enterprise can survive. Instead of the President’s lamentation, he should come out with far-reaching policies that will address the bottleneck hindering entrepreneurship in the country.

Unemployment is a known fact, how do we address it before the four-year time bomb frame feared by the President elapsed? Four years time will just be about the time the President will be ending his tenure. The question is, will the zero-hour be during his tenure?

Many eminent economists have forewarned oil exporting countries such as Nigeria to be mindful that alternative sources of energy could be generated and have to   diversify their economic base.   They have to focus on: diversifying, that is what Nigeria and other oil-exporting countries should be doing.

Nigeria has so many    mineral resources that have not been developed. So diversification and prudent management of the resources being generated now and in the past years of oil boom, is important because you are dealing with a wasting asset that could have a competitive alternative.

Economic growth is not the only means of curbing unemployment in Nigeria. Other solutions such as the provision of right skills to the people to help them tackle the problems and lead a more prosperous life, should also be given importance.

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