Nigeria's Rising Unemployment: A Security Risk

By Dr John Idumange
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Dr John Idumange

Aso Rock may not be aware that a time bomb is ticking. It is a bigger security risk than banditry and Boko Haram. It may also be worst than the Arab spring. Only a clueless administration will not discern the looming danger. Mr. Wake Edun believes that things are looking up. He was not sarcastic. He might have lost touch with reality but he is the coordinating Minister of the economy.

Democratic rule resurrected in 1999, with it's challenges. One challenge that does not seem to go away in a hurry is the cross-cutting and often depressing issue of unemployment. The solar plexus of every macro-economy is job creation as an instrument of poverty reduction and wealth creation. Year after year, budgets are passed and monies are appropriated, yet not much is seen in the aspect of industrialisation and employment generation. So many university graduates search for jobs ten years after they are done with national service. The rate of unemployment in Nigeria is so high that even the social cost of the menace is crippling. Instead of facing industrialisation and promoting empowerment through the rejuvenation of Small and Medium scale Enterprises, SMEs, the problem of unemployment is treated as a system.

It was for this reason that the Buhari administration has embarked on some phoney social investment programmes such as seen in N-power, start-up loans and school feeding programmes which are just scratching the problem on the surface. If the National Bureau of statistics put the unemployment figure at 33.3 per cent, then the real figure could be much higher than 37 per cent. The numerous social investment programmes have fueled high level corruption. Recently, it is on record that a whopping N39 billion was found with the immediate past Minister of Humanitarian Affairs.

The National Bureau of statistics has shown that in 2014, 2015 to 2016, unemployment rate was 4.56 per cent, 4.31 per cent and 7.06 per cent respectively. It was projected that in 2021, unemployment rate would hit 40 per cent. For a nation eager to develop key sectors of the economy, the scourge of unemployment not only poses a serious economic threat; it also triggers security threat to the stability of the nation. Unemployment is characterised by financial hardship, poverty, reduction of family income and increase in dependency ratio.

The causes of unemployment in Nigeria are not far-fetched. Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources, but successive administrations have crippled the economy by mismanaging the resources. About 133 million of Nigeria's population lives below the universally accepted poverty threshold. The sad reality is that Nigeria is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Besides, our policy makers have always adopted the wrong approached to job creation.

Added to the aforementioned is the poor investment climate in the country. There is dearth of physical infrastructure, power supply, good roads and adequate security infrastructure.

Rural unemployment is mainly caused by frictional and residual factors. Most rural dwellers do not have the requisite skills and competences to manipulate economic processes. In a country where so much of the educated population is skilled, the rural folks who have no skills remain unemployed, and they have no encouragement to acquire them. Some people also decide to engage in occupations that can enable them sustain their households. Even when such people secure paid employments, they can voluntarily choose not to work.

Seasonal unemployment occurs when people get employed during a period when certain economic activities heighten. Such people are laid off as soon as the season is over. Recently, the main cause of unemployment is the global economic crisis. This is also caused by neglect of technical and vocational education. Worse still is the neglect of agriculture which was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy in the first two decades after independence.

During the Second Republic, Late President Shehu Shagari introduced the Green Revolution Programme. It collapsed Even prior to that the Obasanjo military junta initiated the Operation Feed the Nation programme in 1978. Instead of pushing Nigeria on the path of self-sufficiency in food production, the Nigeria imported more food. The bane of these programmes was corruption in the executive organ of government. The programmes died without changing the narrative.

Unemployment has had a deleterious effect on people and the economy of the nation. So many people who have been trained to acquire high calibre manpower are wasted and they are brain drained to other economies in America, Canada, the UK and elsewhere. Today, so many trained pharmacists, nurses, engineers and other para-professionals are wasted or under-employed because of lack of vacancies. No economy can grow with huge aspect of its manpower being wasted.

Qualified manpower is brain-drained out of the country in search for greener pastures. The feeling of hopelessness among the unemployed youths leads to despair and triggers deviance, crimes and insecurity. Most urban areas in Nigeria are yet to contend with the rising spate of urban crime and its attendant negative effects. In Nigeria today, because of social insecurity, the rank and file of terrorism and insurgency is populated by youths, some of them, highly educated. There is also the challenge of low standard of living and rural – urban migration.

When a huge number of youths are unemployed, the country loses a lot of tax revenue and this hinders the development of infrastructure and other social Investment initiatives.

In the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, unemployment heightens militancy, oil bunkering and violence associated with those illegal activities. Similarly, in the Sahel region, it triggers farmers/herders clashes and banditry. Nigeria must use intensive technology to deploy resources to agriculture. There is now an urgent need to increase investment in agriculture as the sector is a major source of employment and food security. No sector of the economy can provide jobs like the agricultural sector and its value chain. Agro-allied industries are the major employers of labour in Australia, India and Canada. Nigeria provides a good climate for agro-industrialisation and diversification.

Also, adequate investment in Information and Communication Technology, ICT, and strategically train and employ graduates in the sector. ICT is second to oil in terms of foreign exchange. Nigeria has the advantage of population to provide market for any ICT product. Nigeria has the largest market in Africa.

The Tinubu administration has started to adopt an out-dated style of government. He is prioritizing taxation like he did in Lagos when he was governor. Tax policies only work in an economy when jobs are created, the value of the currency is stable, investment security is guaranteed and adequate Infrastructure are provided to enhance industrialization. The Tinubu administration appears to be adopting the policy prescriptions of IMF and other Breton Woods institutions.

While the anti-graft initiative of government is commendable, government should evolve a policy regime through the intensification of techno -vocational education to increase the capacity of the economy to absorb millions of unemployed Nigerians in the Banking, ICT, agriculture, housing and construction sectors and the mainstream of the bureaucracy. President Tinubu should stop frying Nigerians alive.

Idumange is Executive Director, Herdadi

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