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Path to addressing Nigeria’s unemployment nightmare

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Unemployment in Nigeria

The March 15, 2014, stampedes that left at least 16 people dead during a recruitment exercise by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) had served the major purpose of drawing global attention to the alarming rate of unemployment in the country. About 520, 000 people were shortlisted for the NIS recruitment exams, at the end of which only 4,556 would have been recruited based on the available vacancies. To register for the exams, the applicants had paid N1000 each, meaning the NIS raked in about N520 million from jobless citizens.

The applicants were to sit for the exams at selected test centres in all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, on that fateful day. In the FCT alone, it was reported that over 60,000 candidates thronged the M. K. O. Abiola Stadium, the venue of the recruitment exams, and were allowed access through only a single doorway, perhaps to avoid ‘gate crashing’.

Expectedly, a stampede occurred and eight applicants were reported dead. Four others died in stampedes at the Port Harcourt, Rivers State centre; three in Minna, Niger State and one in Benin City, Edo State. Unconfirmed reports had also claimed that the victim of the stampede in Benin City was a pregnant applicant. Stampede was also reported in Akure where 12,000 were invited for the test. Hundreds of people were also reportedly injured during the exercise nationwide. There were also claims of loss of thousands of certificates at many of the centres and not a few of the applicants regretted applying for the job in the end. A nationwide opprobrium against the exercise erupted afterward.

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The then leading opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) feasted on it. It decried government’s inability to create jobs for the nations teeming youths.

“Massive mindless looting of the public funds that could have been used to create millions of jobs end up in the deep pockets of corrupt government officials without any consequence.

“The truth has been laid bare – 5,000 or so vacancies declared by NIS attracted over six million applicants, from which over half a million was shortlisted, according to published reports,” current Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was then the interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, had said.

Thus, job creation became one of APC’s campaign stunts during the 2015 presidential election. The party told Nigerians that job creation would be one of its priorities should they be given the chance to steer the affairs of the country. Its then presidential candidate, now President Muhammadu Buhari, possibly to drive home the point, pledged that he would create three million jobs yearly for the nation’s unemployed youths if voted to power. The party won the election and Buhari was sworn in on May 29, 2015.

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Since assuming power, the APC-led Federal Government has thrown several solutions at the country’s frightening unemployment rate, which was at 8.2 per cent in Q2 2015, to no avail. Under its National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), a social welfare initiative which it set up in 2015, it created the N-Power scheme on June 8, 2016, to address the issue of youth unemployment and help increase social development. The scheme was created for unemployed graduates and non-graduates between the ages of 18 and 35 to provide a structure for large scale and relevant work skills acquisition and development, and to ensure that each participant would learn and practice most of what is necessary to find or create work. The scheme currently has six categories, namely N-Teach, N-Health, N-Agro, N-Build, N-Creative and N-Tech. While N-Teach and N-Health are available to only graduates who must have completed the mandatory one-year NYSC programme, N-Agro, N-Build, N-Creative and N-Tech are available to both graduates and non-graduates.

Also in 2015, the government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) launched the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which, among other objectives, was intended to create a new generation of farmers/entrepreneurs and employment. There is also the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), a micro-lending investment programme targeting entrepreneurs with a focus on young people and women. Through the programme, the government provides no-cost loans to its beneficiaries. On July 22, 2020, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) further approved the establishment of a N75 billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF).

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, had soon after the establishment of the Fund, challenged youths to come up with brilliant investment proposals that would enable them to access between N250, 000 and N50 million from the Fund. The minister had also recalled that apart from the Federal Government investment fund, the ministry had initiated other youth-centred opportunities such as the Digital Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Employability and Leadership Skills (D.E.E.L), Work Experience Programme (W.E.P), Digital Youth Nigeria (DY.ng) and the Nigeria Online Youth Assembly (NOYA) programme, all carefully crafted to address unemployment and employability of youths.

Still as part of efforts to tackle the country’s unemployment nightmare, the government kick-started a Special Public Works Programme on January 5, this year. Under the three-month programme, 774,000 Nigerians, 1000 each from the nation’s 774 local councils of the country, were employed. They will earn N20, 000 stipend monthly.

Nevertheless, these government initiatives seem like a drop in the ocean. The latest labour force report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at the end of 2020 rose to 33.3 per cent from 27.1 per cent recorded as at Q2 2020, indicating that about 23,187,389 (23.2 million) Nigerians remain unemployed. Under-employment rate in the reference period however dropped from 28.6 per cent recorded as at Q2 2020 to 22.8 per cent in Q4 2020. The report showed that the estimated number of persons in the economically active or working-age population (15 – 64 years of age) during the reference period of the survey, Q4 2020, was 122,049,400.

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In essence, Nigeria’s unemployment rate surged by additional 25.1 per cent between 2015 when President Buhari mounted the saddle and Q4 2020, despite the interventions by his administration.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in its reaction to the report through its National Chairman, Uche Secondus, said it showed that the massive job creation claims by the APC administration were untrue.

“The rise in unemployment from the alarming 27.1 per cent in Q2 2020 to 33.3 per cent in Q4 2020, despite the bogus claims of the APC administration, confirms that indeed, there is no hope in sight under the Buhari Presidency and the APC.

“It is clear that the direct cause of the escalating unemployment is the incompetence as well as the widespread corruption and treasury looting in the Buhari administration, where APC leaders are reported to have looted over N15 trillion, which should have been used to create wealth, develop our country and provide jobs for our citizens,” Secondus said.

However, the ruling party, in its reaction signed by its interim National Secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, said the unemployment surge was caused by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Nigeria is no island. We suffered our fair share of the economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on livelihoods and jobs. Commendably, President Buhari showed leadership in cushioning the effects and guiding the country out of the economic challenges.

“No government in the country’s history has systematically put in place measures to create jobs and alleviate poverty like the President Buhari government,” he said.

With the high rate of crime in the country, including insurgency, armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, internet fraud, etc., acknowledged to be the consequence of acute youth unemployment, there is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria needs an urgent and lasting solution to unemployment. So, to many Nigerians, this is not time for engaging in blame game but for concerted efforts that would result in workable solutions to the unemployment nightmare. The question therefore is: How can Nigeria navigate her way out of the quagmire? The reports below contain expert views on the way forward.

‘Government Should Address Infrastructural Deficit To Jumpstart The Economy’
From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
AN economist and development expert, Dr. Chiwuike Uba, has bemoaned Nigeria’s unemployment challenges, saying it was very unsettling given its social and economic implications.

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He noted that the latest unemployment data showed that over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s working-age population was unemployed.

He said: “I doubt if there is any more daring challenge facing a nation than having one in every two Nigerians either unemployed (33.3 per cent) or underemployed (22.8 per cent).

Uba

“Currently, 54 per cent of the youth aged 15-34 is unemployed. And this rate will increase to 70 per cent when those aged 35-44 are added to the basket. Without any doubt, when you have about 70 per cent of the working population that is unemployed as youths within the ages of 15-44, you can only witness what is currently happening in Nigeria – high crime rate and insecurity, among other social vices.

“It is disturbing to observe that even some professors and PhD holders are either unemployed or underemployed despite the lack or inadequacy of professors and PhD holders in our universities and other tertiary institutions. Out of the 187,033 teachers/professors, 52,835 of them, representing 28.2 per cent are unemployed and 51, 537 representing 27.2 per cent are underemployed. This means that about 55.8 per cent of teachers and professors in Nigeria are either unemployed or underemployed.

“In the same vein, 12,483 out of the total of 73,859 PhD holders in Nigeria are unemployed, while 15, 523 are underemployed. In all, about 37.6 per cent of PhD holders in Nigeria are either unemployed or underemployed. This situation has a negative implication on the quality of graduates from Nigerian universities given that most of the persons that are meant to teach and impact new knowledge are not employed. This, in turn, continues to reinforce the unemployment and poverty circle.”

Uba stated that education was an important mechanism to address the rising unemployment in Nigeria, lamenting that government at various levels had over the years neglected the education sector.

He added: “For instance, from 2008 to 2012, over 50 per cent of the total unemployed population did not have education beyond primary school. In 2020, over 81.3 per cent of the total unemployed population did not have education beyond secondary school. In addition, over 40 per cent of those with a first degree do not have jobs and they account for eight per cent of the total unemployed population. Evidently, it is difficult to rule out deficient school curricula and poor teacher training as a major contribution to the failure of educational institutions to provide their students with appropriate skills to make them employable or entrepreneurs. The situation is made worse by the poor and deficient infrastructure, teaching facilities and teacher quality.

“Unfortunately, instead of finding a long-lasting solution to rising unemployment, Nigeria has over the years resorted to a knee-jerk approach anchored on sharing of money and/or providing temporary jobs as we have seen in the 774,000 jobs and other ones like it. This situation is made worse by the conflicting and inconsistent public policies on employment. We cannot solve the unemployment challenges when the supply factors have not been identified and addressed. Currently, the manufacturing sector is almost dead in Nigeria. You need vibrant industries to absorb competent graduates. Industries cannot be established and sustained under a non-competitive and receptive business environment. Addressing the infrastructural deficit is required to jumpstart the economy. A productive economy will ultimately create sustainable jobs in a scalable form.”

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Uba further stated that the manipulation of national data and/or inadequate data was another major challenge of unemployment in Nigeria. He noted that effective policy formulation and implementation were embedded in accurate and reliable data, adding that employment data were very hard to obtain in Nigeria, even from statutory institutions and agencies established for gathering socio-economic data.

“Planning on data obtained from cross-sectional household surveys is not ideal because such data are often fraught with inconsistencies and errors. Nigeria needs unemployment registers to collect, collate and analyse information from unemployed persons across the country. The unemployment registers may be maintained at the community level. Having such a register will not only provide policymakers the data for planning but also reveal the data on informal employment and entrepreneurship,” he said.

He, however, acknowledged that the Federal Government had tried in many ways to address the unemployment challenges through various approaches like labour demand, labour supply and labour market interventions.

“These are commendable interventions. However, it is also important to underscore the reasons some of those interventions did not achieve the desired objectives. As I stated earlier, it is synonymous with winking at a beautiful lady in the dark when you are planning or intervening in a serious socio-economic matter, such as unemployment without accurate and reliable data.

“Moreover, inconsistency in policies, finance, absence of good administration and implementation, the unimpressive response from unemployed persons to government programmes geared towards skills training and unqualified personnel handling the training programmes, among others, have been counterproductive to the government’s initiative to address the challenge of unemployment in Nigeria. More so, many of the allocated funds to interventions meant to address unemployment end up either as overhead and administrative costs in offices or inside the private bank accounts of those managing the programmes. This, therefore, limits the envisaged impact of the programmes/projects,” he added.

Uba stressed that most Nigerian youths were uninterested to acquire skills, adding that the endemic nature of corruption in the country, which promotes “quick success and be rich quick syndrome” discourages people from working hard.

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He asked: “What is the incentive for a young person to acquire new skills when he/she sees those in government or near the government becoming stupendously rich by stealing from our commonwealth?”

Uba stressed that, “crime rate and insecurity are on daily increase; armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, rape, etc., have become the order of the day as a result of rising unemployment.”

He added: “It is not enough to train people to acquire new skills or trade. It is important that sufficient fund is provided to trained persons as a start-off capital after completing the training to facilitate their quick integration into the labour market. The start-up capital may come in form of a grant or a loan. Providing training is not enough. Nigeria’s unemployment situation is a structural problem that needs a structural solution.

“The use of short-term, populist-oriented and knee-jerk interventionist solutions will not address the unemployment challenge. Most of the government’s programmes meant to address unemployment in the past are largely and grossly inadequate to accommodate the number of unemployed youths. To address the unemployment challenge, policies must not only target the unemployed persons, especially, the youth, but must also take into consideration educational, training and labour market issues. It requires long-term, dynamic and progressive policy interventions.

“Agreeably, government’s policy that is geared towards encouraging the unemployed population to undertake entrepreneurship, in order to enable them to create employment for themselves and also become employers of labour is commendable. Beyond that, and more importantly, the government needs to expand the industrial sector to create opportunities for employment. And it is difficult to expand the industrial sector without the needed infrastructure; therefore the need to develop new and rehabilitate the existing infrastructure. The expansion of the industrial production space will ultimately create employment for millions of job seekers, especially Nigerian youth.”

With Necessary Incentives, Creative Industry Can Employ Millions Of Youths, Stakeholders Say
By Daniel Anazia
TO the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Achievas Entertainment, Paul Cole Chiori, the creative industry (entertainment), especially with the advent of the social media, is the biggest employer of labour in the country right now and could create more job opportunities for Nigerian youths if granted necessary incentive by the government.

His words: “The entertainment industry has done a lot more than the government has done in terms of job creation. Entertainment involves creating activities that provide amusement and give pleasure. The entertainment industry in Nigeria has blossomed over the last few years and enjoyed impressive global recognition. As stakeholders, we don’t get credited for this effort.

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“Today, we have social media influencers who have never worked for anybody but for themselves. They have mastered the act of promoting goods and services online, and they have been making good fortunes from that. For instance, someone like Lasisi Elenu, Broda Shaggi and Mr Sabinus, among others too numerous to mention, will not be where they are today if they had probably waited for the government’s promised jobs, which is not feasible looking at the state of the country today.”

Cole

Cole noted that the entertainment industry, through music and movies, was one of the key drivers of Nigeria’s economic growth, contributing about 1.4 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually. He added that the industry currently employs about a million people and generates over US$7 billion for the economy.

“When you talk about music and movies, there is someone behind the camera; there is someone who writes the story, someone edits the production, someone manages the entire production process and you find a lot young Nigerians playing in this space. These teeming youths have created jobs not just for themselves alone but also for others.

“The Nigerian entertainment industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it is an emerging industry. Government should create a structure that will further boost the industry, and this can be in the form of tax holiday for a particular period of time. Also, it can create grants for stakeholders, especially for the emerging businesses. That way, they can create more job opportunities and employ more people,” he added.

Over the years, the music sector of the entertainment industry has recorded significant growth and the growing number of new production studios and artistes paved way for a more vibrant and self-sustaining industry.

The investments, Cole noted, have no doubt aided production of world-class quality music because of innovations in sounds, rhythms and recording techniques, stressing that that was the reason the entertainment industry was rated the second largest employer of labour in Nigeria after agriculture.

He added that the multilingual nature of Nigeria was one of the reasons for the massive success of the entertainment industry as music and films were produced in English, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and other local languages.

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“Most of the actors, producers, directors and even music artistes earn payouts that are much higher than the national average. Even though there are millions of people already working in the Nigerian entertainment industry, there are rooms for more.

“Digital streaming services and social media have greatly disrupted the traditional media, as anyone with a smart phone and internet connectivity can produce content and stream online. This has increased customer sophistication as customers now have a very wide variety of content to choose from,” Cole stated.

Affirming the rising unemployment rate in Nigeria, frontline disc jockey, Thomas Amar-Aigbe better known as DJ Sose, said the situation was as a result of the educational system, stressing that Nigeria still practices the theory based system, which hinders the hands on experience of graduates.

His words: “If we look at it in all industries, there are very few good artisans left as the current ones that sort of dominate the various industries are not trained officially in an educational institution but on the streets by a boss. In the case of the entertainment industry, a lot of the creatives have realised the importance of hands on experience in the different sectors and as a result have set up official training courses/certifications and facilities to boost the strength of the industry and also provide work for the graduates.

“This creates an avenue of employment as the different sectors in the entertainment industry will hire the graduates to help build the ever expanding creativity of the entertainment industry. It is why we have so many make-up artistry courses/schools, film and video production courses/schools, and fashion courses/schools.”

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