8 February 2013

Nigeria: Unemployment - We Are 'Walking' On the Solution


In 2006 I started a programme for young women. It was a self awareness and development programme to instill in the young women the culture of hard work and self reliance. I had realized that women in that category had the propensity to believe that no matter your income, a lady would still need the financial support of a boy friend or sugar daddy to fulfill all her financial needs.

It was to make them realize that with your hard work, a woman could genuinely make enough money and even give loans and support to other persons. I had invited persons with such stories as resource persons who were willing to share their experiences and their experiences taught a lot. One woman's testimony in particular caught my fancy.

She was a lecturer in the weekend programme of the State University and her husband was gainfully employed with a construction company. They lived fairly well within their means. Immediately they relocated to that town, she noticed abundance of variety of fruits that were brought into the town from the villages for sale.

Many of these fruits get wasted because the demand was lower than the supply. She decided out of curiosity to buy N50 worth of oranges. She also bought a hand held orange squeezer at N100. She took them home. After supper, while the family was watching the evening news on the television, she squeezed the oranges and got six bottles of one and half liters each. She refrigerated them over night.

In the morning, she took them to the construction site where her husband worked and she quickly sold them making a profit of N400. On her way back, she bought oranges for N100, did the same that night. The following day she made a profit of N700.

She continued to improve on the quantity and customer base day by day such that after two weeks, she was able to stabilize to a daily profit of N1,500 She said, with that, she was able to feed the family daily and their salary was saved for some other things. It was not time wasting, energy sapping nor cumbersome.

When Prof Dora Akunyili was the Director General of NAFDAC, she was quoted to have said that she took a trip to South Africa to inspect the factories from where the many brands of fruit juice and assorted wine were imported to Nigeria. She lamented that while she looked forward to being taken to big orchards and farms where these fruits are harvested and made into juice, she discovered to her chagrin that none of such large farms existed.

What we drink in this country as packed fresh fruit drinks are nothing less than chemicals, not less harmful than any brand chemical. How are they able to break into the market in Nigeria, pumping chemicals into our systems while our fruits are wasting away along the streets and in our farms? What happens to the many fruit farms all over the country?

I am an unapologetic, unrepentant advocate of graduate self employment. I desire and promote our graduates (Polytechnics, Colleges of Education and Universities), taking into such one man business venture. The raw materials are available.

The environment is conducive. Imagine many of our children making this fresh fruit drinks, flooding our super markets and shops, daily distributing them to offices, eateries and recreation centers, what will make a Nigeria chemicals dumping ground for the foreign drink companies? It will take care of unemployment to some extent, the fruits will no longer be wasted and more farmers will get the pay for their hardwork.

The government at every stratum has a good role to play. For instance, Benue State is considered the food basket of the nation but the indigenes of the state are not reaping the fruit of their hard work that has earned the state that enviable title. What agrobased industry do we have in Benue State? If only a viable fruit juice making factory was operational in the state, Nigeria would have been drinking real fresh juice, not the chemical concoction from foreign countries.

Every year, drive through the state and see unconsumed rotten fruits, oranges, mangoes, pineapple, banana, etc, scattered all over the place. What is the Federal and State Ministries of Agriculture, Trade and Industries doing more than purchasing of fertilizers, herbicides and tractors, and recently telephone handset for farmers? What happens to the produce of the farmers when these have been used?

Even if the federal and state government do not know what to do, how much does it take to set up a simple cottage fruit juice factory by a local government council or a joint venture by a group of local government councils within a certain zone? What is the reason for the existence of the Association of Local Government Council of Nigeria (ALGON) apart from purchasing security vehicles for DPOs who simply use them to protect the interest of the local government council chairman?

The discovery of petroleum has done much damage to the other sectors of our economy and social life. We have not been able to appropriate the green vegetation of in our nation's landscape. Every minister, governor and local government chairman in Nigeria waits anxiously for the end of the month federal monetary allocation, 90% of which comes from petroleum and remaining comes from taxes.

-Idoko is the director, Pastoral Affairs, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja

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