While the country has been faced with the scourge of insecurity, especially in the North-East, the issue of national development cannot be left hanging in the balance forever. To a great extent, economic development can be a panacea to the lingering security challenges that have confronted the country in the past years. But this should not be permanently seen as an excuse for the government not to kick-start employment creation.
In an interview with NTA on July 27, 2015, the President, Gen Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) reiterated that about 60 million Nigerians are unemployed. If there is a sincere acknowledgement of this threatening percentage out of about 170 million people, every necessary and urgent step must be taken to stem the tide which continues to spiral.
There is no denial that funds will be needed to enhance the implementation of any job creation programmes. However, as the fight against corruption is being waged, drawing up practical ways to fulfil the desire of the present government to economically empower the electorate should not be relayed to the background, but to be on the front burner of national agenda.
It is important to stress that the government needs to reckon with the unemployed population as willing- people who want to be engaged with one profitable activity or the other.
One of the starting points of this crusade is for the government at federal, state and local levels to jolt unemployed people to begin as service volunteers. Such instances can be seen in the last administration’s cancelled SURE-P programme which recruited some youths across the country.
Though the initiative was termed a sham, but the current administration that is believed to be transparency-oriented can come up with more laudable initiatives that can attract the unemployed, even if they would be paid some stipends for the period they would be trained or engaged.
As the saying goes, ‘half bread is better than none’. By this action, many youths would be somewhat engaged that they may not have the mind and time to be involved in inimical activities.
During his campaign rallies, President Buhari promised to create three million jobs yearly to solve the problem of unemployment. In the same vein, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, at a campaign rally in Akure, also pledged 20,000 jobs yearly for the 36 states in the country, totaling 720,000.
Another veritable way to fast-track employment in the country is the Local Government Areas’ involvement. Just as the federal and state governments would be taking pragmatic steps in the areas of agriculture, vocational training among others, the 774 local governments can come up with innovative opportunities that can create jobs and empower their respective people. Examples of some initiatives that can put in place include neighbourhood security or watch, farm settlements, environmental as well as sanitation services.
The issue of corruption cannot be overlooked, as this is the major cause of unemployment in the country. If the government can tackle the looting of pension funds and pay retirees what is due to them immediately or even shortly before their retirement periods, the recurring cases of people readjusting their ages and years of service downward will be reduced to the barest minimum. Removing this moral deception will give young and capable people opportunities in civil service at all levels of government.
Indeed, the success of these initiatives cannot be real without adequate support from both the federal and state governments.
Among the leading economies of the world, one of the major systems of generating employment at a steady and sure pace has been through the private sector at all levels. And this has by extension buoyed their respective countries.
For some years now, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) inNigeria have become such a powerful platform that it rides on to grow its econmy. SMEs can address the unemployment debacle for this generation. And if this choice is harnessed, it will change the trajectory of the country.
Undeniably, it takes too hard to do business in Nigeria. This is as a result of many factors such as lack of electricity, infrastructure and low access to finance.
The lending rates of the country’s banks are quite repelling. In cases where funds are provided by some banks for SMEs to access, those funds end up in wrong hands and deny those they are really meant for.
In recent years, the government thought it needful to include entrepreneurship training in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programmes. This can further be raised to a higher level to ease the fear of unemployment among graduates.
Nigeria still lacks strong connecting roads and adequate housing system. Hence, the construction sector would be another fulcrum on which the government can boost employment. Most highways across the country are in bad shape. The ones that may not require outright construction or reconstruction definitely call attention to repairs and maintenance.
Civil, structural and electrical Engineers, Architects, and others such as masons, labourers can massively be engaged in this sector.
While addressing the Africa Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday, July 28, 2015, the United States president, Barack Obama, reiterated the need for African governments to look inwards and create opportunities including entrepreneurship programmes for their people to live in dignity.
According to Obama, “Everybody wants the dignity that frees them from wants. If alliance is formed with governments and private sectors, over 50 million jobs can be created in Africa through agriculture.”
This step , at micro level reflects and challenges the present administration of President Buhari on the need to wake up to the exploration of agriculture opportunities to drastically reduce the thick unemployment rate which the President repeatedly termed as a ‘tickly time bomb’.
Nigeria has a vast expanse of productive land, weather and climate. Opening wider agricultural opportunities for the people to be engaged would help reduce joblessness and sustain food sufficiency.
Agriculture has a very wide scope that Nigeria can focus on to significantly boost the nation’s economy. In this 21st Century, a lot can be tapped from agriculture. Besides mechanised farming, poultry, animal husbandry, food and fruit production factories and many subsidiary chains can be set up.
Automobile industry which the last administration revived through its Auto Policy should further be supported by the present government. It is one of the industries that can guarantee a massive and steady employment future for Nigeria.
The education sector is also a potential job opportunity avenue for the unemployed. In some schools today, both primary and secondary schools, there has been dearth of teachers. In many states of the federation, there have been cases of teachers having about 70 pupils or more in their classes which are also in bad shape.
Beyond the negative effect of such classroom arrangements on standard of education, the teachers under such situation will mentally be worn out before long.
The present administration has promised so much in many areas, especially that of employment generation which definitely is very cardinal to the peace, stability, economic vibrancy and international dignity of Nigeria.
Every now and then, the electorate’s hope on these promises is woven around the daily moves of the government, believing that the campaign promises will not be replaced by mere excuses.
While President Buhari may be strategising from various fronts to ensure his government fulfils the campaign promises, it is also necessary to look into what can propel the vision of job creation as early as possible.