Youth Unemployment and Government Slanted Efforts

November 2, 2020
youth unemployment in nigeria

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

A peripheral look at the list of actions so far taken by the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to quail the raging youth unemployment challenge in the country will flash a feel that all is well with the Nigerian youths in the areas of employment and economic wellbeing.

But contrary to this belief, the mind eyes of Nigerians upon objective assessment need not pause before disagreeing with the above assertion.

This particular contradiction becomes more evident when one looks at available reports/data from Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which reveals that Nigeria’s second-quarter unemployment rate among young people (15-34 years old) was 34.9%, up from 29.7%, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group rose to 28.2% from 25.7% in Q3, 2018.

These rates, the report added, were the highest when compared to other age groupings. Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work is about 40 million out of which only 14.7 million are fully employed and another 11.2 million are unemployed.

To shed more light to the piece, recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had during a nationwide broadcast recently noted that this administration deeds and words have shown how committed they have been to the wellbeing and welfare of citizens, even with the steady dwindling revenues and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

He noted that the government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society. These included broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; the creation of N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund to provide opportunities for youths and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund, through which government is paying three months salaries of the staff of 100,000 MSMEs, paying for the registration of 250,000 businesses at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), giving a grant of N30,000 to 100,000 artisans; and guaranteeing market for the products of traders. These are in addition to many other initiatives such as Farmermoni, Tradermoni, Marketmoni, N-Power, N-Tech and N-Agro.

This is apparently a well-prearranged effort. However, if this is the promised commitment to massive job creation for the army of young unemployed graduates in the country during the 2015 electioneering and the promised wellbeing, welfare of citizens, and broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years, then it simply means that the present government is not willing to profit from the experience of its predecessor.

Hence, unlike evolution in nature, which prevents the present from repeating the mistakes made by the former, the nation is ‘condemned’ to hyper unemployment situation, youth-related and unemployment induced crisis. And most importantly, be ready to retain the world poverty capital title for a very long time. The reason for this assertion is not far-fetched.

Aside from the fact that youth unemployment remains the most pernicious of all challenges confronting the country as a large army of unemployed youths often always becomes a security threat to the few that are employed, what is of greater concern to this piece is the warning by development practitioners that solution/programmes mentioned by Mr President were but a mere repetition of mistakes made by the previous administration under a different operational nomenclature.

They were particularly of the view that it is not right for state and federal governments of Nigeria to create agencies that dole money to Nigerian youths with the aim of eradicating poverty as such huge resources do not have economic value. Instead, such amount they argued should be channelled towards building industries and factories of production.

Such a claim is not without examples.

In 2013, YouWin, which stands for Youths Enterprise with innovation in Nigeria, was initiated by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan led federal government to generate jobs by encouraging and supporting aspiring entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria financially to develop and execute business ideas that would lead to job creation. It was according to reports designed to generate between 80,000 and 110,000 new jobs for unemployed Nigerian Youths.

In the end, the scheme produced only 1,200 winners who were selected from a pool of over 24,000 participants. But today, most of the winners/beneficiaries are on the streets of major cities in Nigeria searching for Job. These are verifiable facts.

If such unpleasant incident occasioned by government’s failure to create enabling environment for small and medium scale industries to thrive could befall these youths that received between N2 million and N10 million in the programme, at a time when inflation was at single digit, when electricity bill has not skyrocketed and fuel pump price was still at N97 per litre, then we can imagine what might happen now.

This piece, therefore, wonders what sort of good N10,000 Market Moni or Trader Moni, by the present administration, will do to a small business centre operator along Demurin Road, Alapere Ketu, Lagos, when petrol pump price is presently at N162 per litre, when he pays as high as N28,000 monthly Electricity Tariff, buys N20,000 worth of petrol to fuel his generating set and pays N10,000 as rent all in one month?

In the same vein, Nigerians are still waiting with a mouthful of air to see how payment for the registration of 250,000 businesses at the CAC will translate to, or help new business owners survive under the prevailing electricity and pump price hikes and in a nation lacking in economic strategies and appropriate support policy to the real sector?

Also rings apprehension is the reality that the policies mentioned above by Mr President lacks a clear definition of the present problem and because they are laced with virtually no sustainable consideration for connecting the youths with secured and enduring future, such interventions in the estimation of this piece become mere palliatives that cure effects while leaving the root cause to thrive.

From the above realities, it is obvious that President Muhammadu Buhari urgently needs to give up the excuses and justifications and come to terms with the results his administration is currently producing.

He must in the words of Jack Canfield underline that the only things that will change the result is to change behaviour. This administration needs to prospect more, but must be willing to look at the results of his administration producing. The only starting point that works is reality.

Specifically, Mr President needs to start looking around at people. Are they happy? Is there a balance? Do the systems work? Are they getting what they want? Is your reputation as president increasing? What about your grades? Are they satisfactory? Are you getting better in all areas of your leadership? If not, then something needs to happen, and only you can make it happen. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Take your own inventory.

Finally, it is not impossible that the present administration may have a sincere desire to move the nation forward but the truth remains that considering the slow-growing economy but scary unemployment levels in the country, the current administration will continue to find it faced with difficulty accelerating the economic life cycle of the nation until they contemplate industrialisation or productive collaboration with private organisations that have surplus capital to create employment.

Whichever way, this piece holds the opinion that it is still very possible to operate profitable businesses that will create millions of employment opportunities for our youths by the federal government using the Indian/Lebanese system of business model. Finding what this means and possibly domesticate the same should be the urgent responsibility of this government.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.

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