Dangers of youth unemployment
Recent prosecution and conviction of 33 youth members involved in cybercrimes, coupled with grave statistics of youth unemployment in the country point emphatically to the dangers, unless the concerned authorities purge themselves of the lethargy that has been their bane for years. The present picture ought to be a warning to government that the era of moaning over idleness among the youths is over; this is time to bear the consequences of the national stupor over the problem that has been identified and neglected ages ago. Almost on a daily basis, dozens of youth members are accosted in lush hotels while working on cybercrime or simply enjoying the proceeds of cybercrime. It is an ill-wind that blows the country no good, and it has already stigmatised Nigerians globally.
Incidentally, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that secured the conviction of the cyber criminals bordering on impersonation and obtaining by false pretences, had cause to also lament that more than 70 per cent of Nigerian youths might soon become ex-convicts if the present high rate of their involvement in cybercrimes was not stopped. In truth, cybercrime is just one of the pastimes of unemployed youths, as they are involved in varied other criminal activities such as cultism, drug trafficking, kidnapping, robbery, prostitution and rape. It is an ugly trend that buttresses the given fact that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop. Although many youth members are prone to criminality by virtue of their background, more of them are actually forced by unemployment to take to crimes now ravaging Nigeria. This is unfortunate and calls for urgent action.
The Benin Zonal Command of the agency lately secured the conviction of three cyber criminals before Justice A.T. Mohammed of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, bringing to 33 the number of internet fraud convictions recorded by the zone within 24 hours. They were sentenced to punishments ranging from imprisonment/fines and forfeitures. The Ilorin zonal commander of the EFCC, Mr. Usman Muktar, while speaking with journalists on the state of the nation, decried the high rate of cybercrime among youths and enjoined every stakeholder in the country to discourage the youths from internet fraud.
Muktar confirmed that the EFCC had witnessed an increasing number of arrests of Nigerian youths in cybercrime in recent time, charging parents to ask their children questions about sources of their wealth. Rightly, he lamented that free money from cybercrimes led to the use and sale of hard drugs and drug abuse, saying all hands must be on deck to save the situation.
According to Muktar, the Command, which covers Kwara, Ekiti and Kogi states, is engaging relevant stakeholders including religious and traditional leaders, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the youths with a view to sensitising them on the inherent dangers of cybercrime. But of course, the solution to the prevalence of cybercrime goes beyond mere admonition of the youths by parents or religious leaders. It equally goes beyond the EFCC’s determination to make life difficult for cybercriminals. Unless jobs are provided, it is a matter of time before the law enforcement agencies get overwhelmed. This is more than happening already in the area of banditry and kidnapping.
The frightful unemployment and crime situation is hardly surprising, considering that about 600,000 youths graduate from the country’s tertiary institutions yearly, out of which a meager 200,000 manage to get jobs, while the remaining roam about the streets, open to recruitment into crime.
The other day, the House of Representatives called on the Federal Government to declare emergency on youth unemployment, which reaffirmed that despite the much-talked about efforts by government to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths through different programmes, the unemployment situation is worsening steadily and has assumed alarming proportion. Figures released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) underscore this fact.
The House is also worried that some of the youths are being recruited by politicians to serve as political thugs during elections or engage in senseless anti-government protests as a result of their vulnerable condition. All the same, it is less than satisfactory that the lawmakers appear to be just waking up to the reality of the monster of youth unemployment. By not taking pro-active actions, the lawmakers are part of the problem. They ought to have risen to the challenge by making appropriate laws before now to address the social malaise.
The 33.3 per cent unemployment figure released a while ago by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that there is no respite. According to the NBS, 23.2 million of 69.7 million Nigerians in the labour market were jobless in the second quarter of 2020; and about 12 million youths have graduated from the country’s tertiary institutions, out of which a meagre 33 per cent got one form of employment or the other, while the remaining 67 per cent are unemployed. It is not uncommon to see young people who graduated for upwards of five years staying without job. The situation is dire.
Factors behind the unemployment quagmire are well documented; and they include epileptic power supply, exit of foreign companies and shutting down of many others, poor quality education resulting in ill-equipped graduates, low self-employment culture, among others. Sadly too, the environment is not business friendly and does not encourage even small scale business enterprises.
Without doubt, an emergency on unemployment will not be misplaced at this time. There is need for drastic measures to create technical skill for youngsters in plumbing, masonry, electrical, carpentry, painting and a horde of other professions suitable for self employment. When government initiates programmes that will put idle hands into agriculture and related ventures, it will be the beginning of stemming the tide of criminality among youths.