Rising unemployment as embers of poverty
The inability of the Nigeria political class to tame unemployment has not only led to the steady rise in the number and dynamic of social vices but has now led to Nigeria becoming the headquarter of global poverty population.
Indeed, a few weeks ago, a report by Brookings Institution indicated that Nigeria assumed the inglorious position from India who is home to 1.324billion people.Painting a phantasmagoria picture of the situation, the report said six people join the extreme poverty population every minute in Nigeria.This is what the report said: “According to our projections, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extremely poor in early 2018, and the Democratic Republic of Congo could soon take over the number two spot.
“At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall.“In fact, by the end of 2018 in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there is today.
“Africans account for about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor and that if current trends persist, Africa will account for nine-tenths by 2030.”“Fourteen out of 18 countries in the world – where the number of extreme poor is rising – are in Africa.”In March, the International Monetary Fund had said Nigerians are getting poorer saying there is an urgent need for coherent and comprehensive economic reforms.
Reacting to the alarming scenario, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, who was speaking at the occasion to celebrate the 70th birthday of the General Secretary of Congress, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, accused the leadership of the country of not doing enough to create enough jobs that could put poverty at bay.Wabba lamented the inability of the ruling class to fashion out policies that can drive sustainable development of the country, saying, “other groups and other countries have continued to manipulate our policies. We cannot on our own fashion out policies that can change our situation.”
He argued that with the resources that God has given to Nigeria, there is no excuse for not succeeding in endeavours that other nations had made remarkable progress.His explanation: “What is happening in our country is an unfortunate one because we have more than resources to develop out country. How we cannot take the huge advantage that our population has given to us is a mystery. I think that leadership challenge is the greatest problem we have as a nation. We are incapable of developing and implementing policies that can propel economic prosperity. Sometimes I am tempted to ask what is the problem with the black man. There is virtually no African country that has peace and there is no way we can achieve development where there is no peace. Nigeria assuming the capital of poverty of the world is worrisome and a position we should not be in in the first place.”
Wabba opined that the poor pay and non-regular payment of salaries to workers are formidable factors that are driving the growth of poverty in the country.The NLC helmsman who alleged that about 350 Nigerians took loans to the tune of about N5.8trillion, which is haemorrhaging the economy, called for the prosecution of those involved.He said: “In the United States of America that allowed bailout fund to rejig its economy, those that benefitted from that largess have since paid back. Why are those that took loans to revive their businesses not paying back? While we call for the repatriation of the money, they should also be prosecuted.”
For Wabba, poverty would continue to ravage the African continent until genuine peace is achieved and drum of war permanently silent.His words: “We cannot achieve more if there is conflict everywhere in Africa. Today, there is hardly any country in Africa where you do not have conflict and these conflicts are man made. In most cases, our politicians supply the arms and also instigate those conflicts so that there will be divide and rule and the people would not concentrate on the challenging issues of development. Therefore, if we must develop as Africa and as Nigeria, it is very central that we must look at the issue of peace because peace is a panacea for development.
That is why the constitution so provides that the primary purpose of governance anywhere is peace, welfare and wellbeing of the people.”Expectedly, to the academic community overcoming ignorance and poverty rests on offering quality education to the citizenry. This was canvassed at the occasion by the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, who called for the unification of all the relevant stakeholders to ensure free and qualitative education at all levels of education to revive the sector.He also faulted government for what he referred to as ‘outsourcing of education’ to the private sector and gradual withdrawal of government from funding of education.
His words: “Section 18 of the 1999 Constitution says the Nigerian state provide education free of charge at all levels. Each time we talk about it, people will say the constitution says education should be provided when practicable. When will it be practicable? It will not except we ask for it. Are we asking for it? The answer is no we are not. Most of the times, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is left alone in the wilderness except for progressive organisations like the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and civil society groups. I am using this medium to invite all of us to join in the struggle to make provision of free education practicable in Nigeria.”
While ASUU accused government at all levels of not believing in the Nigerian project, it said government outsourcing education to the private sector is injurious to national development aspiration.
“The Nigerian government is outsourcing the education sector to the private sector and are working towards destroying those that see are standing in their way are either blackmailed, intimidated or crushed. We have a lot of work in our hands if we are to go back to where the state lives up to its responsibilities.
A Professor of Political Science at the University of Jos, Prof Wahisu Ali in his intervention faulted the plan to distribute the $322 million Abacha loot, saying, “the plan to share the loot is the most backward thinking. How can Nigeria has more than $300million and share it amongst almost 200million people? This in an opportunity for huge leakage of scarce resources. I think that kind of money should be invested in a physical project like the East-West road that is stalled due to lack of funds or even the Ajaokuta steel complex, which can generate thousands of jobs.”He expressed fear this step would further exacerbate poverty amongst the people and empower the few that have access to the purse of the Federal Government for political gains at the expense of the suffering masses.