Tackling Unemployment in Bayelsa State---Dr. Imoro Kubor

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In 2010, the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Juan Somavia, called on developing nations to adopt a job-centred growth strategy as a faster step towards global economic recovery. We also have around 45 million young people entering the labour market each year. Our 2010 report Global Employment Trends for Youth says that of some 620 million economically active youth aged 15 to 24 years, 81 million were unemployed at the end of 2009 – the highest number ever. The youth unemployment rate increased from 11.9 per cent in 2007 to 13.0 per cent in 2009,"he said. The report warns of the "risk of a crisis legacy of a 'lost generation' comprised young people who have dropped out of the labour market, having lost all hope of being able to work for a decent living." This is worse in the less-developed countries, especially those that are not industrializing.

The ILO identified unemployment as the collective frustration among youth and a potential cause of social tension. Now, it has become increasingly difficult for young people to find jobs to put food on their tables. Governments across the globe are struggling to find innovative solutions through labour market interventions such as addressing skills mismatches, job search support and entrepreneurship training. In America, the Obama administration has just signed the America Job Act to bring the people back to work and resuscitate the middle class which had hitherto been suffocated. The significance of getting people back to work is so crucial that if the unemployment index continues to soar, it is capable of precipitating social tension, as we have seen in the protest against corporate greed or OCCUPY Wall Street.

Nigeria's growing unemployment challenge has become a major concern to many analysts as the figures increasingly suggest dwindling potentials. This is particularly disturbing because at least 70% of the population of this country is youthful. Official figures from the Bureau of statistics puts this figure at about 20% (about 30million), but this figure still did not include about 40million other Nigerian youths captured in World Bank statistics in 2009. The bad statistics have so far worsened. By implication, therefore, Nigeria's population is 150 million, then 50% of Nigerians are unemployed or worse still, at least 71% of Nigerian youths are unemployed.

The situation is even worse in Bayelsa State where government is the sole employer of labour, and where the organized private sector is moribund. Analysts believe that the present administration has lifted the embargo on employment, conducted interviews but none has been employed. The only silver lining is the less that 120 persons in the Plastic Industry. Again, existing micro-finance banks are not granting soft loans to the informal sector. Besides, government empowerment programmes has no trickle-down effect, as it has been hijacked by top government functionaries. Therefore, the morass of poverty has worsened in the State as no deliberate efforts are made to create jobs in the informal sector.

Since the 1980's the CHANGE ADVOCACY PARTYgovernorship candidate of Bayelsa State, Dr. Imoro Kubor was passionate about creating jobs for the teeming youths. Although, trained as an aeronautical engineer, he can be said to be the most well equipped person in Bayelsa State to tackle unemployment. I am perturbed that the challenge of unemployment has loomed large in Nigeria over the years. The phenomenon has assumed a very dangerous proportion. The scenario seems to have been worsened by the global economic down-turn, which has had debilitating effect on developing economies, and Nigeria is not an exception.

I had an interaction with the CHANGE ADVOCACY PARTYgovernorship candidate of Bayelsa State Dr. Imoro Kubor to know how he intends to solve the unemployment challenge in Bayelsa State. His experience as Coordinator of the School-to-Land Programme in old River State and Coordinator of the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Dr. Kubor has what it takes to create jobs for Bayelsa Youths. At the NDE, Kubor was instrumental in designing and implementing programmes to combat mass unemployment. NDE was obtained and maintained a data Bank on unemployment 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; and To implement any other policies as may be laid down from time to time by the Board established under sections of its enabling Act. NDE Job Creation programmes are principally geared towards empowering people in the informal sector for self-employment creation. However, poverty and other social factors are responsible for lukewarm attitude of unemployed school leavers and graduates in particular to embrace skill acquisition training for self-employment.

The Governorship Candidate on the platform of the CHANGE ADVOCACY PARTY, Dr. Kubor has outlined a seven-pronged approach, which are strategies borne out of his experience.

Firstly, he affirmed that his administration will collect, collate and analyze unemployment data. The data will be disaggregated along the lines of sex, age, professional pedigree and experience. This exercise will cover the entire spectrum of the work force: formal and informal, skilled and non-skilled). This will provide a fairly clear idea of the available labour force the stock of available skills and the type of training requirements. Secondly, on the basis of the skills gap, government would mount training programmes to equip youths with the competences and abilities for be productively engaged in techno-vocationally oriented jobs.

Thirdly, government will leverage on existing MOUs with foreign development partners. There are documents prepared by the present administration which show that Bayelsa State is at the verge of entering into partnership with experts from Vietnam for the cultivation of the three rice farms: Isampou, Peremabiri and Burma rice farms. Israelis and Norwegians had been invited for vegetable cultivation and shrimp culturing respectively. The mechanized cultivation of these farms will not only create employment opportunities, but also ensure food security and for export. An extension of the programme is investment in fisheries, especially the establishment of fish farms and procuring trawlers to engage in deep-sea fishing. Bayelsa State will collaborate with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in the acquisition of agricultural skills and empowerment of young farmers as well as Capacity Building.

Fourthly, Bayelsa is abundantly blessed with locally sourced materials. For instance, the abundance of sharp sands and clay confers on the State huge advantage in the establishment of Glass and ceramic industry. A Kubo led administration will take advantage of these locally sourced raw materials to establish cottage industries. The intermediate skills required for these industries will be trained in partnership with the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP.

Fifthly, the CAP Candidate has made it clear that he would emphasize the promotion of entrepreneurial education. This would be achieved through partnership with the multinationals such as Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria SPDC, Nigeria Agip Oil Company, NAOC, and other training institutes so that the youths especially in oil producing areas the host communities. This partnership will lead to the training of youths to acquire skilled vocational trades, Welding, Fabrication, Auto-Mechanic, Electrical Installation, Computer Operation, Secretarial Studies, Catering and Confectioneries, Fashion Designing and Hairdressing among others. This strand of the policy will take care of youths who did not have the opportunity of attending tertiary education.

Sixthly, the Bayelsa administration will seriously tackle unemployment by adopting the School – On - Wheels Scheme is an integral part of part of the NDE's Vocational Skills Development Programme. It is designed to carry out training of school leavers and unemployed youths in rural areas. In achieving this objective, the NDE takes fully equipped Mobile Training Workshops (MTWs) to rural areas. In order to reduce the funding demands, the NDE collaborates with L.G.As in such a manner that the L.G.As bears some costs, especially consumables, and allowances for trainees while the NDE provides, the equipment and training facilities and anchor men.

Finally, there exists the Bayelsa State Plastic Company Limited, the Bayelsa State Palm Limited and a proposed scrap metal company. Existing companies will be revitalized and their operational scopes expanded while new proposals will be established based on highly competitive advantage. The lack of money is the root of all evil; it is not the love of money.The change Bayelsa State we need is fixing this broken economy from the bottom up.

Bayelsa State will pursue food self-sufficiency because the fact is that every successful example of economic development this past century – every case of a poor nation that worked its way up to a more or less decent, or at least dramatically better, standard of living. This implies that THE Kubo administration will provide for huge budgetary allocations to the agriculture sector. The same priority will be accorded commerce and industry, housing and education. More than 90% of Bayelsans are employed while collar jobs. The informal and semi-skilled sectors have been neglected, but this is the sectors that should absorb so many of our youths in Bayelsa State.

Appropriate agencies shall be set up to implement the Millennium Development Goals. Many of those living in slums are deprived of adequate shelter and lack access to most basic services. They often do not enjoy any security of tenure, nor can they effectively participate in municipal policy making. At the root of urban poverty lies the shortage of jobs and of the opportunity to earn an income through decent work. Adequate and workable mechanisms will be put in place to implement these policies to generate employment and yield maximum advantage to Bayelsa people.

Dr. Kubor believes that employment generation should not be left in the hands of government alone, and this underscores the need for partnership and synergy between the Public and private sector. Basically, pro-poor job creation can and should be actively promoted as a major step to lift Bayelsans out of poverty and launch the people into economic prosperity and social progress. The KUBOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARADIGM is holistic, engaging and forwarding-looking, and Bayelsans can only embrace it to guarantee their future and that of their children.

Elvis Diepreye, contributed this from Asaba, Delta State

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