Nigeria: Unemployment and the Economy

May 3, 2019 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Jerome-Mario Utomi



Each time I question some of the theories advanced by successive administrations as reasons for unemployment rate in Nigeria, one thing seems to standout.


Aside from the government’s view of unemployment as a consequence of urban migration and laziness on the part of the Nigerian youths – a position which so distorts the problem, from the very birth of our nation, the nation have learned through the grim reality of life and history that there are many young people that want to earn a living by decent means but unemployment has become a promise many administrations (past and present) made without dedication or fulfillment.


There are two separate but similar examples to the above.


In his inaugural speech on May 29, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan while promising to address youth’s unemployment stated thus; ‘We are ready to take off on the part of sustained growth and economic development. In our economic strategy, there will be appropriate policy support to the real sector of the economy, so that small and medium enterprises may thrive. Nigeria is blessed with enormous natural wealth and my administration will continue to encourage locally owned-enterprises take advantage of our resources in growing the domestic economy. A robust private sector is vital to providing jobs for our rapidly expanding population.’


Similarly, in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking at the 2nd Convocation ceremony of the Kaduna State University which had ‘Entrepreneurship for Development’ as its theme declared that job creation will remain one of the topmost priorities of his administration’s economic agenda because it was vital for the attainment of the Federal Government’s other objectives of improved security and poverty reduction- adding that his administration will give the fullest possible support to all efforts to create more jobs through the reorientation of Nigerian youths towards an entrepreneurial mindset.


All these promises have since gone to the ‘dustbin of history’.


To explain; the above is not to suggest that inability to address unemployment challenge in the country is limited to the two, as no administration can boast of clean hands. The challenge may exist in ‘overt and glaring forms among the two but have existed in hidden and subtle’ manner in others.


Crucially, development experts have argued that every human being needs diverse kinds of skills to live a meaningful life. And the economic development of a nation is affected by the capability of governments to do the following: implement plans, policies and budgets that will lead to price stability, high employment through skill development, effective tax, effective regulation, trade and availability of finance for business.


Unfortunately, from the two instances above our government has evidently proved not to be interested in, or pay adequate attention to employment generation but merely concerned with clarifying the problem of unemployment without the solution-a state of affairs that has visibly led to failures in economy, mediocrity and underdevelopment.


It is factually supported that most of the socioeconomic programmes to alleviate poverty in Nigeria failed because rather than allowing experts in the various fields of specializations that will give employment to the unemployed youths and also have the job done, different administrations were only interested in using the available money and opportunity to award contracts to their families, friends and party members.


Comparatively, when national economic leadership has as its overriding goal, the improvement of national welfare and quality of life, as indeed is the case in Japan, China and others, it constitutes a part of the team in the quest for workable solutions to complicated national socioeconomic problems.


Nigeria’s situation is made worse by the government’s policy somersaults and implementing policies without adequate planning- forgetting that the value of any system depends on how it is employed. This has been going on for decades.


However, if care is taken by the government to understand the reasons for the criticism of the government’s inability to address youth unemployment with commitment and if the matrix is used by the government to generate creative ideas on how to solve unemployment challenge in the country given its recent situation, solution could be close at hand.


Although it was clearly documented that the Federal Government in its desire to fight unemployment has at different times and places initiated programmes such as: Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers Programme and Nigeria Social Investment Fund.


But there are inherent weaknesses associated with these methods.


Unemployment being ‘dynamic in its forms and patterns’, coupled with the sudden realization the world over that no nation develops without skilled individuals and relevant manpower as well as government support.


And more particularly, it will be difficult to appreciate what the unemployed Nigerians are going through unless we first understand the dilemma unemployment has placed them and the dangers inherent to unemployment.


As to what should be done, the need for government to equip and support National Directorate of Employment (NDE) for skill and manpower development of the unemployed Nigerians has become eminently urgent.


With four major areas of intervention: Vocational Skills Development (VSD), Entrepreneurship, Development/Agricultural Skills Training and Public Works Programme, NDE has a statutory mandate to design and implement programmes to combat mass unemployment, articulate policies aimed at developing work programmes with labour intensive potentials, obtain and maintain a data bank on employment and vacancies in the country with a view to acting as a clearing house to link job seekers with vacancies in collaboration with other government agencies among others.


The purpose of this overview is to emphasize that recognition of the potentials of the federal power is a primary necessity if the fight against unemployment is to be won. With it, however, must go another indispensable factor- the recognition by the government of its moral obligation to solve the problem.


From the above, if the government is interested in solving its unemployment problem, while other initiatives are being thought out, NDE must be seen as a coherent institution that will provide a lasting solution to the unemployment challenge via skill training of our fresh graduates and others in the secondary schools.


There are impressive precedents to my position.


Most importantly, Mr President must recognize that the present economic situation in the country has thrust upon his administration an extremely important destiny; to complete a process of job creation which our nation has spent far too long a time to develop. If accomplished, it will remain our most powerful accomplishment for earning world respect and emulation.





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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