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Another one million jobs for youths – Part 1

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These are perilous times for President Muhamadu Buhari and the 36 state governors of Nigeria. In fact, some would argue that this is not a good time to be president or governor in Nigeria .

Already, about 27 of the states are said to be so insolvent, that the governors are unable to pay civil servants their monthly emoluments without assistance from the Federal Government.

The burden is even more severe on the seven active crude oil producing state governors who are now facing the risk of having oil installations in their domain vandalised by Niger Delta Avengers – an apparent offshoot of the dreaded MEND – and such other environment rights or criminal elements now holding sway in the Niger Delta.

As a result of losses sustained from such vandalism , the NNPC suffered operating deficits in excess of N24 billion in February and over N18 billion in March. Consequently, Nigeria is unable to meet her OPEC allotted quota of 2.3mbpd. In fact, right now, Nigeria is struggling to export less than 1.8mbpd largely due to forced shut downs, etc. This is a clear five million barrels short of the badly needed crude export to generate income in order to replenish our fast depleting forex reserve.

In a recent interview with the chief executive officer of Shell Petroleum and Development Company (SPDC), in Nigeria, Osagie Osunbor, he revealed that in 2014 theft of crude oil from SPDC pipelines was 37,000 barrels per day. It dropped to 25,000 in 2015, in part due to sale of some of the facilities to indigenous investors and the SPDC, boss further disclosed that the number of attacks also dropped from 139 in 2014 to 93 in 2015, but nonetheless, theft and sabotage still constitute about 85% of spills from SPDC pipelines.

Ibe Kachikwu, petroleum minister of state, who also doubles as GMD of NNPC, says Nigeria’s oil production is down by about 40% due to renewed militancy in the Niger Delta. When you add the debilitating effects of such horrendous vandalism induced losses to the tumbling crude oil price in the international market, then you can vividly see the reason there is palpable apprehension about the looming insurgency of militants that could further exacerbate an already complex and precarious situation in the Niger Delta zones in particular and which is bad news for Nigerians, as a whole.

What the scenario above illustrates is that starting from governors who are assumed to be enjoying in mansions to the ordinary man who is hamstrung by dearth of infrastructure like roads, hospitals , pipe borne water, and schools, the threat or actual vandalisation of oil assets results in more heartache.

Worse still, similar types of losses in the oil/gas sector apply to electricity, telephone and water/dam infrastructure which were being consistently damaged or under threat at the peak of Boko Haram terrorist attacks in north eastern parts of Nigeria.

The destruction of communication and electricity infrastructure by terrorists was ostensibly to prevent remote communities under attack from calling security agencies for help, but thank God the terrorists did not turn their gaze to water reservoirs and dams as targets for poisoning.

Considering the recent attempt in Kenya to poison a water reservoir by using anthrax by the terrorist group, Al Shabab, the need to protect public water installations in Nigeria, which are core parts of critical national assets, can’t be over emphasised.

Viewed from the prism of the colossal amount of money and lives lost to vandalism related activities catalogued above, it goes without saying that government should seek for enduring ways and means of protecting critical national assets such as the ones identified as being under threat.

Already, President Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, in the course of their campaign for office last year, promised that the Federal Government would recruit  500,000 unemployed graduates into the teaching profession to create employment and also boost education, which is good. Another opportunity to create  1,000,000 jobs for youths through the establishment of critical national asset protection corps is knocking on the door now.

Here is the deal: Currently, there are a plethora of youth-centric outfits such as the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) set up way back in 1973, as a national integration forum for Nigerian youths. There is also the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), which is an unarmed paramilitary agency set up to ensure public order, just as there is Federal  Road Safety Commission ( FRSC) focused on safety on Nigerian roads.

So there already exists a blue print for setting up such a youth-focused organisation and the requisite experience abounds for its operation.

Considering that a recent advertisement for application into the Nigeria Police attracted about one million youths even though only 10,000 were needed, the importance of creating more platforms to harness the productivity of these apparently idle but virile young men and women in their prime, for the growth and development of Nigeria cannot be over emphasised.

More so, as they will be performing a fundamental task of filling the security gap which the lack of existing plans for the protection of critical national assets created, hence they have been unduly exposed to vandalism.

A couple of years ago, an advertisement by Nigerian Immigration Service, inviting youths for employment also attracted a record number of them, but due to lack of effective crowd control strategies, a number of youths who turned up in droves ,were unfortunately trampled to death during stampede.

What the two scenarios described above imply is that there already exists a workforce with latent energy waiting to be harnessed as veritable human resources for the proposed Critical National Assets Protection Corps.

Just as the youths abound, there is also a huge reservoir of men and women with military experience waiting to impart the knowledge to a new crop. This is because over the past few years, Nigerian military has spent huge sums of money training members of the armed and other security forces at home and abroad. Owing to coups and counter coups, which were common at the nascent stage of Nigeria’s development, most of the military men trained in prestigious institutions in the United States of America (USA), Europe, lndia and Pakistan retired prematurely from the service. Their very robust training in security matters qualifies them as veritable pool of potential human resources developments that could drive the Critical National Assets Protection Corps initiative.

It goes without saying that the corps members would only supervise licensed private security firms to be sourced from the various communities where the assets are located. That way, there would be a sense of ownership by the community and the current concept of vigilante – rag tag army – would be eliminated.

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, so make no mistake about it, what is being proposed is not a novelty.

To be continued

Onyibe , a development strategist, was a commissioner in Delta State and an alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Medford,Massachusetts, USA.



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