1 September 2013

Nigeria: Checking Unemployment


In the last few weeks, persons from all parts of Nigeria have been gathering at the Civil Service club located along the Shehu Yar'adua express way, Utako, Abuja, ostensibly to collect the Civil Service employment forms in response to a directive from a circular issued by the Federal Government to the unemployed. The gathering broke into a protest a few days ago because of the seemingly endless waiting, temporarily interrupting activities along that route. After long hours of waiting, the job seekers could not obtain the forms, and were told in some instances that the forms were not available or had finished. This led to the protest which thankfully was not violent, even though some policemen got drafted to the scene, well armed as usual.

This obvious tokenist approach to alleviating the problem of unemployment is just not it. Trying to get the Civil Service to absolve the unemployed at a time when the government is telling us it is cash strapped smacks of irony of the absurd: How is it possible to employ when there is no cash backing and right in the last quarter of the year and with what budget? It's beyond the understanding of those out there in the street. This is no way to create jobs or employment. If the government is serious about creating jobs and employment it must embrace a holistic approach that dissuades attention from employment into the Civil Service.

The best bet is to establish enabling environment to encourage individuals and groups exploration of their latent entrepreneurial skills and talents. This would demand the enactment of practical policies or a review of existing ones to accommodate innovations and creativity in different fields and sectors of the economy. Unless the government gives serious attention to such development policies, unemployment and consequent youth restiveness would remain with us for a time to come.

Unemployment is agreeably a global issue, but a number of countries have evolved policies that have not only halved their unemployment rates, but look to curtail future economic crises that would result in the reawakening of the scourge in unacceptable proportions. There is need to be proactive in this particular regard, as our army of unemployed grow, so do our fears of the resultant insecurities. Nigeria has seen and is still witnessing the result of government negligence and/or lackadaisical attitude to issues in the high spate of kidnappings for ransom, recruitment into insurgency activities and assassinations. The list goes on.

Economic revival in all its ramifications is definitely what we need. It should be beyond imported Bretton Woods' ideas to something that must situate within our peculiarities and circumstances. We believe that there are ideas out there worth exploring, but which out of wrong attitude we choose to ignore them. We suggest that to start a sincere economic revival, we need to revisit those failed industries and provide them in all sincerity with the required interventions, not just on paper, but in all practicalities. Anything short of this will lead to a lot motion without movement and the next protest from the unemployed may not be that peaceful again.

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