21 December 2013

Nigeria: Time for a National Social Safety Net


With the abject poverty, unemployment and under-employment ravaging the country today, it would be an understatement to submit that life is tough for most Nigerians. The human tragedy stalking the people in the nooks and crannies of the country is unimaginable. Anyone with a claim to our common humanity will find the plight of the masses in Nigeria contemptible and unacceptable. This is even more so when such ugly situation is presenting itself in a country blessed with vast natural resources. It is, in our view, time to stem this tide.

For too long, the vast majority of Nigerians has been left at the mercy of invisible socio-economic forces without any safety net of whatever description. To be sure, Nigerians face the vagaries of life with negligible help from their government, whose duty it is to see to their welfare and wellbeing. While one could quip that this is capitalism at work, the evidence in the strongholds of that economic system - the United States (US), Britain and most countries of the West - flies in the face of such stone-faced quibbling. We note that Britain and the US, though bastions of capitalism in its pristine form have robust systems of socio-economic inclusion that cater for the needs of the less privileged. We recall the council flat system in Britain and the Project House initiative of the US, through which both countries shelter their less-privileged citizens. Both nations also provide weekly stipends for the unemployed and the destitute in their societies. The two countries even have a food stamp system, through which they feed their poor. These are just two of several means by which these leading countries of the world take care of their citizens. It is our opinion that there is no reason why Nigeria cannot borrow a leaf from these two countries in this regard.

We therefore demand a National Social Security System similar to those operational in the aforementioned countries, to take care of the millions of Nigerians currently having a really hard time living in this country. A good starting point, in our opinion, would be to open a job/benefit centre in each of the country's 744 local governments, where all unemployed graduates can be registered in a national database. These centres would serve the dual purpose of job placement and stipends processing centres for the unemployed in each local council.

We implore the National Assembly, National Association of Nigerian Students (whose former members make up the bulk of the suffering unemployed youths in the country) and other youth-based organisations, as well as civil society in general, to take up the challenge and make the National Social Security System a reality for the millions of our voiceless countrymen and women suffering the indignities of joblessness and poverty nationwide.

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