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Paradox of unemployment and inadequate workforce in Nigeria

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ANALYSTS and concerned individuals have expressed concern on the increasing unemployment rate in Nigeria. The adverse effects of unemployment which include high rural-urban migration, increase in death rate, increase in crime rate, brain drain, prostitution and child trafficking, increase in admission into psychiatric hospitals, reduction in pay roll tax and, of course, insurgency have being a regular feature and bane of Nigerian society.

Many have proffered different solutions at different times. These include downsizing the civil service, effective family planning system, increased youth empowerment schemes, increased support to SME/Is, agricultural mechanisation, industrial development and infrastructure, formation of more practical-based school curricula, checking the activities of contractors striking a reasonable balance in the use of indigenous manpower and expatriates and encouraging the youths on self discovery and creativity.

Contrary to what many are made to believe, we actually have inadequate workforce in the contrary. One then begins to wonder why a country that has a police force of fewer than 500,000 officers and men to police about 175 million people is talking of unemployment when the police force alone can employ an additional 500,000 to solve the problem of lack of adequate manpower there. Despite our huge community of unemployed graduates who have acquired degrees in education and some other courses Nigeria still groans from lack of adequate numerical strength of teachers.

More than 7,000 Nigerian doctors are working in different countries of the world and more are leaving our shores in search of jobs in Europe, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. We cannot employ our doctors yet we complain of inadequate doctors in Nigerian hospitals. What a paradox!

The Nigerian civil service is completely awash with “ghost” workers. With particular reference to my local government council, Okene local government of Kogi State which  claims to have about 5,000 workers on its payroll while in truth it only has about 1,300 “real” staff with about 3,700 “ghosts.” This situation must be similar with all the 774 local councils in the country, states and the federal civil service. Currently, the Kogi State government is battling to choose between the options of either to implement a civil service screening report which identified about 17,000 “ghost” workers in its civil service or to sack about 6,000 “real” workers as part of its austerity measure to reduce wages and overhead costs. How ridiculous!

While I was growing up in the village, there used to be Agricultural Extension workers who regularly visited our village in groups to educate famers on improved farming techniques and ways to enhance yield in different crops. I have engaged a state director in the ministry of agriculture on why the agricultural extension programme is no longer as regular and “strong” as it used to be in those days, but all he had to say to me was that they did not have adequate manpower to continue to embark on such a regular and effective agricultural extension programmes. Considering the importance of agriculture to food security and the development of any nation and the current alarming unemployment rate in Nigeria, it is the unacceptable for us to continue to complain of inadequate manpower.

Whenever there is an election, especially the bye-elections and isolated state elections like the ones recently conducted in Ekiti and Osun states, we heard in the news that about 17,000 security agents who included the police, men of the DSS and other security personnel were deployed from neighbouring states. My point is this, the fact that the government has to deploy security personnel from neighbouring states into a particular state to secure an election means that the state did not have adequate security personnel to provide security at an election. It is, therefore, a paradox for Nigeria’s unemployment rate to continue to rise amidst inadequate manpower and workforce in practically all sectors.

Although the minister of Finance has said in some fora that thousands of “ghost” workers had been detected in the federal civil service at different times, a lot more still needs to be done by the federal, states and local government councils to stamp out the scourge and prevalence of “ghost” workers. These “ghosts” are actually the ones causing unemployment and it is high time the “ghosts” were identified and “flushed” out of the civil service for the real graduates and youths to be gainfully employed. Government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs, the military, the civil defence corps, and immigration among others are currently short of manpower, yet we are talking of a 24 per cent unemployment rate? The time for government at various levels to act fast to salvage this country from this embarrassing paradox is now. The adverse effects are already grounding our national economy.

Obaro wrote from Ilorin, Kwara State. 08065396694.



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