The most recent figures on the unemployment situation in Nigeria give genuine cause for concern and ought to compel concerted, proactive action if the situation is not to degenerate.
The International Labour Organization, ILO, recognises Nigeria as home to about four per cent of unemployed persons across the world, and puts youth unemployment at 42.24 per cent. This translates to the fact that at least 15.2 million willing, able and active young people in Nigeria, are looking for work. The implication of this figure is that a segment of Nigeria is jobless.
The pervading disenchantment, disorientation, festering despondency and depression in the country, have been traced to this unsettling scenario. The attendant upsurge in crime and criminality, notably petty thieving, burglary, car jerking, kidnapping and similar misconduct, have been serially blamed on unemployment.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly spoken of the need for the diversification of the Nigerian economy as a most sustainable way to mitigate unemployment. The imperative of a national “return-to-land” was given official amplification by the recent launch of the “Green Alternative” policy, a road map towards economic diversification. The policy seeks to make agriculture the biggest alternative to oil and gas, in the effort to diversify the economy. This should help take many of our youths off the streets in the medium and long terms.
It is noteworthy, however, that side by side with this, opportunities still abound in the public service which can assist with the mitigation of the unemployment scourge. The recent recruitment of 10,000 people by the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, is a vivid example of how the public service can assist in mopping up from the ranks of the unemployed.
We welcome the institution of the publicly advertised recruitment process in that exercise and hope that the end result will be transparent and fair even as there have been complaints and murmurs that federal character was misinterpreted to recognise local government areas rather than states in allocating the vacancies. This may tend to give certain sections of the country undue advantage over others, against the letter and spirit of the federal character principle.
We note that several public service institutions are either recruiting fresh hands or intend to hire qualified Nigerian to fill existing vacancies. We also note the efforts of the federal government to recruit 1.3million teachers over the next six years, as announced by the Minister of Education. It should be noted that public service agencies straddle sectors of the economy including but not limited to agriculture, culture, communications, defence, education, electricity, environment, events, finance, health, press, law enforcement, petroleum, trade, transportation and many more. Vacancies are perennially created by means of retirements, change of jobs by employees, reasons of death and similar causes.
It is important that the federal government takes a comprehensive inventory of these available vacancies in all departments of the public service, including the civil service, the paramilitary and military agencies.
While the need to diversify the economy is non-negotiable at this point in our national history, fact also remains that every society needs its fair share of trained technocrats and bureaucrats.
No effort should be spared, at this time, to rescue the army of qualified, able and willing Nigerians from the unemployment market. This is the surest safeguard to our collective peace and the sustenance of our hard won democracy.