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Unemployment as a paradox

By Jide Oyewusi
08 September 2019   |   3:47 am
The continued rise in the unemployment level in Nigeria should be of genuine source of concern to all well-meaning citizens. The statistics of unemployed youth in Nigeria, twenty-one million as of December 2018...

Unemployment. Photo/VON

The continued rise in the unemployment level in Nigeria should be of genuine source of concern to all well-meaning citizens.

The statistics of unemployed youth in Nigeria, twenty-one million as of December 2018, is quite disturbing not because the number is high but that it keeps increasing annually while the nation’s leaders appear completely bereft of how best to address the problem and prevent it from getting worse.

A nation that cannot guarantee its youth gainful employment opportunities after their education has a lot to worry about. The youth as future leaders need proper empowerment which starts with gainful employment opportunities that guarantee decent living. The inability to achieve this over time leads to depression and general disenchantment. It is therefore not surprising that much-unemployed youths have continued to take different leaps in the dark which most times have proved highly suicidal while many are also hooking up on all manners of criminalities as survival strategies.

Of all the daunting challenges facing most nations of the world, unemployment has become a general phenomenon. Indeed, even for the working class, fears of losing jobs are causing so many sleepless nights and almost everyone now thinks of other workable plans in the event an unexpected happens.

Yet, if other nations have various excuses for the inability to create jobs for their citizens, Nigeria should be an exception. So many untapped avenues stare the nation in the eye while leaders seemingly turn a blind eye thereby allowing the problem of unemployment to escalate. Even as the government is not creating jobs, the few individuals who through their ingenuity have been able to engage a good number of job seekers are being overburdened with taxes of various forms forcing many entrepreneurs either to fold up or to retrench most of their employees.

The call for the nation to diversify its economy has been dominant over the years while successive governments’ response in that regard is somewhat lacklustre. Many people have opined that it’s not good for the nation to put all its eggs in a basket but such admonition as it had so far fallen on deaf ears as the nation continues to hang all its hope on crude oil and then spending billions of naira on questionable subsidy. Or how would anyone believe any government spending a staggering six hundred and twenty two billion naira on subsidy in twelve months? Moreover, there have been numerous calls for the deregulation of the downstream sector that would put a  stop to unnecessary spending all to no avail and the nation has remained on the same lane that holds no promise whatsoever except stagnancy.

How a nation as endowed as Nigeria can find it difficult to create jobs for its citizens or pay its workers a living wage will continue to surprise the entire world. What can possibly be the excuse when abundant mineral resources litter the whole landscape begging to be harnessed for maximum benefits? Even the crude oil from which the nation derives more than ninety percent of its earnings is carried on at the expense of huge losses to the nation due to inability of the nation to refine all its own product leading to continuous importation at an alarming exchange rate. Accepted that the nation’s fuel requirement need is huge since epileptic power supply has made everything dependent on fuel, and since it’s hardly possible for the nation’s refineries to cope as they are not even performing at an optimal level, what stops the building of more refineries over the years or licencing modular refineries to take care of the shortfalls?

All the funds spent on subsidy in saner climes would have been deployed to developing all the other mineral resources wasting away in almost all the states of the federation and from there generate more than enough employment opportunities for the people. If anything, Nigeria ought to be one of the leading countries in the entire world with the most gainful employment opportunities not only for its citizens but for a larger percentage of job seekers. Most of the western world with fewer resources have done well for themselves and are also able to cope with the influx of many immigrants into their lands.

With all the arable lands at the nation’s beck and call and an added advantage of a good climate, how can the people still be groaning about food insufficiency if the government has invested adequately in agriculture? The whole of Sambisa forest in the North East as big as almost the size of some states has lied fallow for years and no government ever thought of putting it into a good use until it became the headquarter of Boko Haram. Now, with such vast land wasting away, the Federal Government is still soliciting for land from reluctant states to launch its RUGA project. Why is Sambisa, together with other such wide lands spread throughout the length and breadth of the North not considered for such a laudable project? What stops the Federal Government from investing massively in cattle rearing so it can become another foreign exchange earner for the country?

In Nigeria, while billions of naira are continually embezzled by single individuals almost on daily basis, and the government itself waste so much funds on contract scams, citizens are made to swallow hard pills of paucity of funds as responsible for government’s inability to create jobs. Sometimes too, the argument is that it is not the government’s responsibility to create jobs but to provide the enabling environment. Even when a lot of people retire from civil service, incumbent governments are ever so reluctant to employ new hands to replace them due to non-willingness to shoulder the issue of salaries and in order to perpetuate continued mismanagement and stealing of public funds

While Nigeria exists practically on foreign loans, elected officers continually display complete nonchalance and extreme lavishness in their general comportment thereby adding another dimension to the nation’s problems. Indeed the way politicians in Nigeria have handed the issue of governance over the years is suggestive of the fact that the current system of government may not be the best suited for the country. What is more, executive and legislative arms of government that display such questionable flamboyance in the face of visible global recession should never be expected to proffer any solution to any national problem. Where the nation then hopes to find leaders focused enough to confront all the multifarious problems facing the country will for now remain a million dollars question.

Oyewusi an educationist, wrote from Lagos