NBS and Nigeria’s Unemployment Scourge
The Nigeria public space lately has been awash with comments and opinions on the scary statistics of the unemployment figure released by the National Bureau for Statistics (NBS). Quite a number of comments settled on successive failures of the political leadership in developing the right vision and proper planning to expand the system for increased economic activities to absorb the growing population of youth unemployment and the social vices it breeds. Though the figure released by NBS made distinction between underemployment and unemployment but it is worth noting that the strain of their respective effects on the social system are indistinguishable.
As such, their combine effects run through the system, breeding frustration, restlessness and despondency which in turn predispose the affected class to unwholesome activities that are criminal in nature. The sudden attraction and spread of kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killing and cultism among the youth are not unconnected to the exponential growth of the unemployed which the system cannot absorb in the right socio-economic activity.
In contemplating applicable solution models to get us out of the situation, our policy makers must give vent to the enormity of the problem in a clearheaded, proper and holistic diagnosis of the problem alongside its cause and effects. Only then will any solution thereof be meaningful. The diagnostic approach must wear a multi-dimensional outlook that sees beyond the ugly social ills of outright violent crime that youth unemployment breeds into a broader cautious gaze and attention on the role of corruption in high places –across the private and public sector in our unemployment woes, ditto– break down of moral values, the insatiable craze and monstrous greed of the privileged but corrupt few and their accomplices in the civil service.
The NBS settled at the figure of 20.9 million unemployed persons. It is incontestable that this figure isn’t spontaneous; it built up gradually and consistently over the years to this scary level. Within this period, corruption grew with it such that the nation’s earnings, resourcefulness and productivity which could have been deployed to absorb the unemployment scourge were swallowed by corruption, deficit vision and lack of proper planning of the political leadership.
Available information in the public domain has it that between 1990 and 1998 Nigeria realised$199.8 billion, from 1999 to 2009 the country got $401.1 billion and between 2010 and 2014 Nigeria got $381.9 billion from oil revenues, but most of the proceeds were either looted or wasted. It goes without saying that our current situation exerts overriding validity to the altruism that there is enough resources in the land for the nation’s population but evidently the nation’s resources cannot size up the greed of the few corrupt ones among us.
It is in the desperate attempt to absolve itself of blame that the ruling party exploded recently thus: “One of the critical things that we must bear in mind and see is that this government, despite earning $94 billion, up until 2017, we are spending more on infrastructure and capital than any previous governments; so we are spending N1.5 trillion on capital; that is the highest we have spent since 1990”. The gravity of our unemployment situation is better appreciated from the information that over 54 per cent of Nigeria’s rising population of almost 200 million are below age 35, whilst ILO puts the age bracket of 15-64 as the economically active segment of the populace. Ironically, this active but manacled class are the people the ‘Goal Keepers International’ advised the Nigeria authority in its 2018 report to recognize as activists, innovators, leaders, and workers of the future whose health and education she must invest in to unlock the nation’s productivity and innovation, cut poverty, create opportunities as the surest way to genuine prosperity.
A deeper reflection on the situation beckons on the sight of the Goalkeepers data report which says that by 2050, more than 40 per cent of the extremely poor people in the world will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria. Currently, Nigeria holds the medal of the country with the highest number of extremely poor people after India handed it down.
The focus now should be on framing social and economic policies that facilitate massive job creation -particularly those areas that have capacity to spin millions of job – massive private investment in agriculture, mining, downstream oil and gas – refineries, petrochemicals depots and pipelines – Ports, Steel and Railways. The right pieces of legislation and policies must be pursued to migrate the 36 states and 774 local governments from their present cap –in –hand status to stimulators of productive activities and job creation.
The nation has to evolve more drastic and far reaching intervention that touches on massive infrastructure investment revival with potential for momentous job-triggers, inward- looking revenue generation effort that task states to develop their local resources and creating the right environment for the flow of foreign investment.
While social intervention schemes with various nomenclatures like NEEDS, You Win Programme and N-power are commendable, they are however only tokenistic by the measure of the gravity of our situation –they are temporary instant cushioning mechanism which cannot hold back the impeding social explosion that high unemployment portends
The nation has a lot to learn from China, India, Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia by adopting strategies they used in unleashing the productive energy of their huge youth population, harnessing of natural resources, technology and small and medium enterprises.
Malaysia, for instance, embodied its Multimedia Super Corridor and Biotechnology Policy which she adopted in 2005 and faithfully implemented over the years with scant regard to party affiliation or personnel changes in government, consequent upon which is at the threshold of transiting from manufacturing to knowledge-based services. This she achieved by priming its economy on job creation strategies and Job creating policies in new technologies with high value-added linkages, emphasising ICT, biotechnology, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing.
Here in Nigeria we grapple with policy paralysis –clearly thought out policies meant to be implemented over a period suffer instant death with the birth of new regime. The National Industrial Revolution Plan adopted in 2014 is gathering dust on the shelf; the National Employment Policy, first adopted in 2002 and reviewed in 2016/17, acknowledged “novel aspects” of Nigeria’s rebased economy – ICT, creative/entertainment/Nollywood, expansion of the agriculture value chain are yet to be integrated into the policy or actively promoted. In July, Nigeria launched an ICT roadmap; since then very little has been heard about it. If the country is serious about formulating national policy on ICT which is expected to cover infrastructure, internet and broadband, local content development, and legal and regulatory framework, she must get down to work with the right intent and fast-track the enabling environment for the sector to flourish; else it may just be a fig leaf for inaction.
The American software giant, Microsoft Corporation, has volunteered a precious piece of advice cum information to Nigeria- deploy Information and Communication Technology (ICT) more decisively to reduce unemployment. There exist cutting-edge jobs to a tune of 3.5 million deficit in cyber security and artificial intelligence which should be seen as viable growth areas that the country’s youth should be encouraged to work in.
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