analysisBy Henry Oladele
By most accounts, unemployment is one of the greatest challenges facing Nigeria.
Observers say that the socio-economic problem is compounded by the fact that several thousands of jobless youths have been forced into crime because of idleness.
They, nonetheless, contend that while there are no justifiable reasons for anyone to take to crime because of unemployment, the negative effects of unemployment in the country today call for urgent efforts to remedy the situation.
According to the Economic Watch, the rate of unemployment within the age group of 20 years and 24 years in Nigeria is 40 per cent, while that of the age group of 15 years to 19 years is 31 per cent.
Besides, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) also said that the unemployment rate in Nigeria increased from 21.10 per cent in 2010 to 23.90 per cent in 2011.
The Bureau added that the average unemployment rate in the country from 2006 to 2011 was about 14.6 per cent.
The unemployment situation in the country is quite disturbing, as observers note that several criminal cases pending before various courts involve unemployed persons.
For instance, an Igbosere Magistrate's Court in Lagos State recently sentenced a 29-year-old unemployed man, Aba Mohammed, to three months' imprisonment for stealing a power generating set.
Besides, an Ikeja High Court sentenced 28-year-old Emmanuel Stephen, also unemployed, to 42 months' imprisonment for theft.
Stephen, who admitted guilt, told the court that he was pushed into the crime by unemployment, poverty and hunger.
Also, a Lagos High Court recently remanded three unemployed youths in prison custody over alleged armed robbery.
Equally, an Abeokuta High Court recently sentenced a 20-year-old unemployed youth to two years' imprisonment for stealing a chicken.
The trend is becoming quite alarming, forcing concerned citizens to call on the government to urgently look into pragmatic ways of creating jobs for the teeming youths who are jobless.
Some unemployed youths, who are visibly despondent, also urge the government to look into practical ways of addressing their plight.
Mr Dapo Gidado, a jobless graduate, believes that job creation is largely the responsibility of the government.
"Unemployment to a youth is like a disease; the government should go back to the drawing board and work something out for unemployed youths urgently.
"I would have started a business but I don't have the means to do that," Gidado moans.
Tony Ufoh, an unemployed graduate of economics, shares a similar sentiment.
"I struggled my way through the university and eventually came out with a Second Class Upper Division but here I am without a job. It is very sad, I must say.
"I have written many application letters to many companies; I have also gone for business seminars but all to no avail.
"Right now, I don't have any means of survival; I only rely on God and the goodwill of people for my daily sustenance," Ufoh says.
Another jobless youth, Ebenezer Fakunmoju, stresses that unemployed persons, especially the youth, have the tendency to engage in fraud and other illegal acts out of sheer frustration.
"Every youth is worried about the job situation in this country.
"I am an orphan and I had to do menial jobs to fund my education and become a graduate.
"Right now, I just hope I will get a good job," Fakunmoju, a graduate of History and International Relations, says.
He appeals to the federal and state governments to make urgent efforts to address the unemployment crisis, as part of efforts to reduce crime.
Miss Joy Phillips, a fresh graduate of Mass Communication, expresses the fear that she may soon be caught in the web of unemployment.
"I wonder how I will survive if I don't get a job in time.
"Even if the government cannot employ all the jobless graduates; it should, at least, employ a substantial number of them yearly.
"This will reduce the high rate of unemployment in the country," she says.
Mr Spurgeon Ataene, a lawyer, agrees that unemployment fuels crime in the society.
"It becomes frustrating when people who come out of schools cannot get jobs after some years.
"Most of them don't have the money to start a business even if they wish to.
"Some of the jobless youths might take to crime if they get frustrated after years of unemployment," he says.
Ataene, however, notes that unemployment is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
"Unemployment is a worldwide phenomenon but in advanced countries, there is what is known as social security.
"Our government should put a social security system in place so as to help the unemployed.
"Every month, the government should give stipend to all unemployed youths in the country.
"This will definitely reduce the crime rate in the country," Ataene says.
Mr Bamidele Oladele, a father of three, stresses that a jobless person can easily drift into the world of crime if there is no financial support from his or her family.
"Thank God we are still alive to support our children. Only one out of our three children, who are all graduates, is currently working but we don't allow the others to lack anything because being idle can be very frustrating.
"However, the government needs to take into cognisance the fact that some youths don't have people or guardians to cater for them.
"This category of youths pervades the society; they urgently need government's assistance," he says.
Nevertheless, Oladele urges unemployed youths to refrain from any temptation to engage in crime because of their condition.
He warns that taking to crime because of unemployment is not justifiable under any guise whatsoever, adding that the unemployment factor cannot exonerate any offender from punishment.
He urges unemployed youths to start businesses even if such businesses are on a small scale.
Oladele expresses the hope that Nigeria's economy will soon improve, while more jobs are created by the public and private sectors.
Another lawyer, Mr Mike Ibaji, believes that there are enough opportunities in the country for unemployed persons to become meaningfully engaged.
"The best employer is yourself, if you start a car wash business, you can gross over N1,000 a day and with that income, you can conveniently sustain yourself.
"If every youth can be creative, the menace of unemployment will be appreciably reduced," he adds.
Ibaji argues that formal education is meant to empower the youth to be more creative and resourceful, adding that unemployed youths should strive to become self-employed if there are no white collar-jobs around.
"I advise unemployed youths in the country to be positive and creative; they should not allow themselves to be used as tools for destruction.
"The government should also put some measures in place to assuage the suffering of unemployed citizens.
"The country is rich enough; it has abundant natural resources to take care of every citizen," he adds.
However, the Federal Government is making concerted efforts to tackle unemployment in the country.
The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Chukwuemeka Wogu, says that the Federal Government intends to tackle the rising wave of unemployment in the country by creating more jobs and maintaining the existing workforce.
He stresses that as part of the government's employment-generation strategies, President Goodluck Jonathan has constituted a National Committee on Job Creation.
The committee, which is chaired by renowned business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, is expected to work out the mechanism of creating about one million jobs within a year.
All the same, observers call for a synergy among the public and the private sectors in ongoing efforts to create more jobs in the country.
They stress that if more jobs are created, many citizens will be meaningfully engaged, while the crime rate in the country will be drastically reduced.