By Emmanuel Edukugho
With about 1.8 million graduates entering into the Nigerian labour market every year, this country is already breeding an army of frustrated, angry, desperate job seekers whose pathetic situation could reach the boiling point required for an explosion that may not be contained anymore by the government.
There is no family without two or three members flaunting university degrees still searching endlessly for employment. Many have graduated over six years or more ago without any hope of getting jobs. They have become socio-economic liabilities not only to their parents, families, friends but also to the society.
Government should go beyond paying lip service to the unemployment debacle and churning out figures about the performance of the economy and employment which absolutely do not translate to the realities on ground.
According to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and also Co-ordinates the economy, the country was able to create 1.6m jobs therefore getting close to the 1.8m that enter the job market. There is a pool of 5.3m unemployed graduates that have accumulated over the years. “So our strategy is to come up with strategies that will cover the number of entrants every year before taking care of the backlog.”
On agriculture, 400,000 part time jobs have been created in this sector, while 75,000 jobs can be created in the housing sector as government targets 10,000 mortgages in 2013/2014 because for every house built, 5 jobs direct and 2 ½ indirect jobs are created.
Earlier speaking to Reuters, the Finance Minister had acknowledged that the country has a current account surplus, an inflation rate that is going down to 7.7%, a deficit of 1.9% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a debt-to-GDP ratio of 21% with a growth rate of 7% over the past decade. She explained that government has projected GDP growth of 6.75% in 2014, slightly less than 7.3% forecast by IMF but up from 6.4% in 2013.
Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged that Nigeria has a strong, buoyant economy as it continues to receive billions of dollars of foreign and domestic direct investment in power, petro-chemicals, agriculture and consumer goods but it still needs to grow faster to reduce poverty.
For so long, unemployment had been taken for granted without our political ruling elites realising its devastating economic consequences for both the nation and individuals alike as seen in the recent Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS recruitment exercise. About 20 young people lost their lives in the scramble seeking for job placements which eventually became a national tragedy.
In a population estimated at about 170 million and over 100 million Nigerian youths, majority of them unemployed after successfully passing through basic, tertiary, professional and vocational education wielding certificates, diplomas, and degrees but largely without entrepreneurial skill. It is only now that some tertiary institutions are introducing capacity building training on entrepreneurial education and practice particularly for universities and polytechnics in the country.
The formulation of purpose in Nigeria’s education policy is yet to emerge out of the realities of daily life and take into consideration the entire scope of human life.
According to Professor Gabriel Ogunmola; as society we must be specially concerned about the needs and well being of our youth population, of which the average age of our population is about 17 years. A nation or society is its people, it is a society of individuals. “Where there is individual growth and fulfillment, there will be prosperity, enrichment and health within the society as a whole. On the other hand, when the individual is stifled, the society weakens and deteriorates. There is loss of happiness all round which manifest in various societal vices, corruption and poverty. “A society prospers when its elements or individuals are united in their value commitments and disintegrates when wide divergence develops in those commitments. Our education should serve as a preparation for adult life.”
In the country today, the heavy dependence on oil boom has led to the neglect of agriculture which used to be a major income earner with the export of groundnuts, palm oil and kernels, cocoa, etc. But unfortunately now, it is a major importer of food such as rice and even palm oil.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary-General of Commonwealth, once noted that Nigeria still bears the paradoxical and ugly reputation of a country with abundant resources but where, according to Joseph Stiglitz, “the wealth from this abundance fueled corruption and spawned privileged elites that engaged in internecine struggles for the control of the wealth.”
Unemployment has been worsened by the poor infrastructural situation. The poor power generation is yet to be adequately tackled with positive results although the power sector has been privatised that PHCN unbundled. It is on power that most development and productive efforts rely.
Manufacturing has become comatose as industries like textiles, shoes, food, tyres, glass, rugs, carpets, iron and steel have re-located elsewhere which would have produced jobs for thousands of Nigerians. The Jonathan administration’s industrial policies and strategies are still being developed.
Housing, road and rail construction which can provide massive employment lacked vigorous investment and participation.
Unlike the countries often referred to as “Asian Tigers” (Malaysia, Singapore Indonesia and the emerging industrial nations of India, Brazil, Taiwan, Thailand), Nigeria unfortunately failed to take advantage of increased flow of capital and the opening of markets in the advent of globalisation to increase the pace of its national development and creation of jobs for the teeming population.
As rightly pointed out by development experts, Nigeria since 1960 has had a myriad of socio-economic and political challenges to contend with of which terrorism is the most current that could be traced to inefficient governance, selfish and bad leadership.
It is believed that there are over 51 million people unemployed, frustrated without a secured future. Conservative estimates put the jobless at 41 million which is 23.9% of the population while the government seemed tactless and without direction in finding solution to.
Funds running into trillions of naira that are either missing, stolen or unremitted to the federation account can be channeled into ventures which will provide jobs for thousands of people if only the government has a clear economic, industrial and social agenda to reduce the jobless population.
Media reports alluded to a particular expert opinion that “Nigeria has the largest army of unemployed and under-employed youths in Africa.” While higher institutions are producing about 200,000 graduates yearly from about 129 federal, state and private universities.
Invariably, the unemployment time bomb is steadily ticking away and may get to the point that all the multitude of jobless youths would invade government offices, ministries, agencies and departments to chase out all the existing workers.
Government must come to grips with this danger and seek ways to turn back the catastrophic tide as the war against unemployment can be won. Ghana was once in this similar situation when its citizens flocked to Nigeria in search of a living. But when Nigerian government expelled them, they took up the challenge and looked inwards.
Now, Ghanaians have settled finally in their own country gainfully employed and never to return to Nigeria again. Our country can do the same – looking inwards to provide employment to ensure peace, stability, progress and national development.