Nigeria: The Youth Unemployment Challenge

March 14, 2019 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Jerome-Mario Utomi



For a nation to move forward both politically and socio-economically, the leaders must demonstrate esteem for talents, actively encouraging able men, and honoring those who excel in their profession. In addition there is the need to encourage their citizens so they can go peaceably about their business, whether it is trade, agriculture or any other human occupation.


Going by these words of Niccolo Machiavelli, it hardly needs to be said that the nation Nigeria has an urgent challenge that it needs to find some answers to and soon.


To shed more light on this piece, Nigeria is a vast country with vast problems that disrupt its progress; corruption, insecurity, unemployment, and lack of energy. But I need not pause to know that the most pernicious of all these problems in my view is youth unemployment.


However, Nigerians have in the recent past seen some job creation initiatives from the federal Government with N-power; a federal Government initiative under the social investment programme for the creation of employment and empowerment of Nigerians as most recent.


These widening strides notwithstanding, from the growing concern and frustrations among youths, it’s evident that youth unemployment is rapidly on the increase and may not end suddenly unless something dramatic is done by the government.


Further providing a link to the above claim is the just concluded general election where jobless Nigerian youths flood every political campaign ground in their numbers for illicit electoral responsibilities while looking up to the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.


This is ‘a tragedy deepened by the awareness that it was avoidable.’


As I sympathize with this youth whose shoulders rest on the crushing effects of a fallen standard of education in the country- which has rendered many unemployable, I must confess also that instant gratification syndrome and other negative influences emanating from social media have conspired to render some of the youths lazy and morally bankrupt.


However, this unruly behavior by some youths does not in any appreciable means exonerate the government of the blame for the frustration and agonizing moments the youths are passing through. As lack of political will to tackle the challenge from its roots, or see the urgent necessity to cease politics and turn outwards to look for constructive and creative channels to fight the enemy called unemployment in the country contributes to the ever increasing number of both the unemployed and the underemployed.


To explain; if the government has done anything substantial in this direction, Nigerians will not have to look very far to see the impact. And my concern is not what the federal government intends to do or is capable of doing. Rather, my concern is about what they are presently doing, and if it’s in the best interest of the Nigerian youths.


Now, look at the danger of such wicked neglect.


First, aside from the fact that youth unemployment has put us in a position of appearing before the world as a people that lacks a plan for their future leaders, the situation impels the watching world to conclude that the government is unmindful that youths’ unemployment comes with challenges that cut across regions, religions, and tribes. Of which such has in the past led to the proliferation of ethnic militia as well as restiveness across the country.


Notably, this threat has become even more pronounced not just in the southern oil-rich region of the country with the chunk of the proponents spearheaded by the large army of professionally-trained ex-militants currently without a job, but in the northern part where the Almejiris are on the increase by the day.


Very instructive also, our leaders may be ‘winning political positions’ but their inability to turn these victories into better lives for the youths through job creation and other social programmes is beginning to generate questions about their integrity.


Thankfully, with the electioneering period over, it will be highly rewarding to remind these leaders (both the returning and new) of valuable options waiting to be accessed in controlling this appalling situation and the impending danger of their failure.


I hold the opinion that the government must do something to help the youths come out of this challenge. It is in the interest of the government to create jobs for the youths as a formidable way of curbing crime and reducing threatening insecurity in the country. It should be done not merely for political consideration but from the views of national development and sustenance of our democracy.


To get started, it will translate to great steps taken in the right direction if the Federal Government could overhaul agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Presidential Amnesty Office to be more responsive in job creation and youth capacity building.


In the same token, getting both the nation’s academic curriculum and the National Youths Service Corp (NYSC) scheme to accommodate entrepreneurship and skill development- with the likes of the National Industrial Training Fund (NITF) and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) equipped to handle youth’s skill training with start-up funds made available.


Very importantly also, creating a productive collaboration between the government private organizations and civil society groups during this window of vulnerability that will act as both a crucial enabler as well as a means to an end should be another urgent task before the government.


To take one example of why such measures are necessary, consider the impact the recent decision by the Kukah Centre (TKC), to introduce skill acquisition centers in the Northern part of the country where about 10 million Almajiri children will acquire vocations of their choice, would make in solving the present challenge if other organizations come up with similar initiatives and are supported by the government.


Youths on their part must recognize that ‘the future is full of promises as it is fraught with uncertainty. That the industrial society is giving way to one based on knowledge.’ They must, therefore, learn to be part of the knowledge-based world.


While this is ongoing, the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency take steps to address the current energy challenge in the country. Achieving a stable power regime will guarantee the peaceful existence of both the medium and small scale industries. It may also bring back multinationals that fled this country at the wake of the nation’s energy crises. This will go a long way in throwing Nigeria’s monster-youth unemployment which breeds all manner of restiveness. A stitch in time, definitely, will save Nigeria’s dangerously bourgeoning “unemployment nine”!





Jerome-Mario Utomi

Jerome-Mario is a Social Entrepreneur and an alumnus, School of media and communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria.

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