by Senator Ihenyen
Nigeria’s unemployment rate keeps spiralling upwards. The most affected have been the youths with a youth unemployment rate of over 50 per cent.
As at 2010, the statistics from the Manpower Board and the Federal Bureau of Statistics showed that the youth population is about 80 million representing 60 per cent of the total Nigerian population. Out of this figure, 64 million are unemployed, while 1.6 million are underemployed. This is largely a failure of leadership.
‘Stop looking for white collar jobs.’ This was the advice from President Goodluck Jonathan in his address to 2012 Batch A Corp members who concluded their national service last week under the Nigerian Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme.
According to the President, his administration has introduced skills acquisition programmes to make Nigerian youths self-employed. In the president’s speech which was read by his representatives in the various capitals nationwide, he said: “The present administration remains focused on youth employment, which will be pursued using the platforms of the Sure-P; You Win and other programmes. I therefore implore you to cooperate and support this administration to reduce the current level of unemployment.”
Every year, thousands of graduates are churned out of the nation’s public and private universities, for whom there are no jobs. According to the CBN in 2007, over 70% Nigerian graduates will not be employed. And ironically, over 1.5 million candidates sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in 2012 to gain admission into our tertiary institutions with the hope of better career prospects.
According to the World Bank, it is estimated that there are between 8 – 10 million new entrants into the African labour market annually, with Nigeria having the biggest chunk of that. It is indeed a disaster either waiting to happen or already manifesting itself with the current level of insecurity in the various parts of the country, particularly the North.
Since 1999, Nigerians have been expecting a true democracy that ensures good governance, accountability and transparency for the overall objective of fast-tracking social, economic and infrastructural development. Nigerians have been expecting a working system where achieving significant improvement in our human development index would be primary. Nigerians have been expecting a democracy that really delivers concrete dividends.
Considering our immense human and natural resources, I dare to say that these basic expectations are not misplaced in any way. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are North African countries that recently experienced a system revolution after over three decades of dictatorship. However, in real economic terms, the living conditions of the North Africans have been better than ours. Against this background, it is better imagined the kind of time bomb the Nigerian government is sitting on when one considers the alarming high rate of unemployment in Nigeria.
Corruption in governance continues to breed poverty and social injustice in the society. Of course, security threats such as Boko Haram, the now decreasing Niger Delta militancy, the rising kidnapping business, armed robbery, cyber crimes and the likes are all largely ugly symptoms of youth unemployment.
Unemployment itself, is a system disorder caused by what one could describe as GAIDS – Government Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a most deadly and dreadful epidemic in public service – a leadership disorder and corruption disease.
Lack of infrastructural development especially in the rural areas, which is largely responsible for the rural-urban migration from the “villages” to the “cities” is one of the causes of urban unemployment. Another cause of increasing employment is the lack of a vibrant industrial sector with the capacity to absorb unemployed youths in Nigeria.
Also, the rapid population growth poses another national challenge. Given the annual growth rate of 3.2 per cent according to the National Population Commission in 2009, the population would hit 170 million by 2013.
Of course, corruption perhaps poses the greatest cause of youth unemployment. With impunity, many of our political leaders misappropriate public funds to the detriment of the people for which they were meant. The Federal and State governments present budgets every year, but with the exception of very few states, no significant improvement is made to impact positively on the living conditions of the people. As a result, we have social unrest, crime and violence. It is not enough for the Presidency to advise Nigerian graduates to stop looking for non-existent white collar jobs, without providing viable alternatives. It is not enough to create skills acquisition centres for graduates to learn soap-making and basket-weaving for Bachelors degree and HND holders in the year 2013! It is not enough to launch presidential programmes such as Sure-P and You Win and expect over 64 million unemployed Nigerians to key into it and “cooperate with the government.” It is not enough to introduce entrepreneurship in the school curricula without a well-structured and funded venture supports or financial investment. It is not enough to watch existing small, medium and large businesses collapse die across the country and brandish rotten carrots at new and potential entrepreneurs.