The unemployment situation in Nigeria has continued to be a source of concern not just to the jobseekers, their parents and guardians but also economic planners as well as security analysts who insist that it is a major input with regard to the security challenges besetting the country. On a regular basis, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) continues to churn out reports on the matter. One of such reports in March this year indicated that unemployment had surged to the second highest on the global list.
It is estimated, conservatively, that at least 25 million Nigerians are unemployed. Ordinarily, this should worry all right thinking Nigerians except those who see it as an opportunity to be unscrupulous. This group of persons has taken it upon themselves to inflict more pain on the desperate jobseekers.
These unscrupulous persons pretend to be legitimate employers or recruitment agencies and use job seeking dreams to defraud jobseekers. They manipulate the desperate jobseeker by asking for original documents and most times even call one or two top people in such organisations or agencies to give their tales some credibility.
On daily basis, there are tales of persons who fall victim to these scammers. Some lose hundreds of thousands and even millions of Naira, depending on the organisation or parastatals the fraudsters claim to have connections in. It is a sad tale because most of these instances involve government parastatals due to the urge to secure public sector jobs.
Many Nigerians argue that the pervasive joblessness is a reflection of the economic crisis in the country. From 2014 till this year, Nigeria has moon-walked into two economic recessions with the unemployment rate spiking steadily. As the economic situation pinches harder, many young people have become so vulnerable.
We recall some tragedies that befell jobseekers, the most prominent of which was the 2014 immigration recruitment exercise that resulted in a stampede that caused the death of about 15 persons. Thousands of youths were invited to apply for about 5,000 job positions. Another tragedy occurred recently with Iniubong Umoren who also got murdered in her search for an elusive job when she was lured to her death by someone who claimed to have a job for her.
This newspaper is worried at the rate jobseekers fall prey to these criminals masquerading as human resource consultants. Even more worrisome is the ease with which they carry out their nefarious business. Curiously, in our opinion, the security agencies appear helpless and make little effort if any to track down these merchants of misfortune.
It may be convenient to warn the jobseekers and their parents to be a little bit more wary in their response to such offers. But the truth is that when a youth stays without job for years on end, he or she becomes a low hanging fruit for the scammers. It is even worse that most of these false job offers involve ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). In most cases, these jobseekers are given letters of offer that look genuine. But because the fraudsters operate like a syndicate involving the top echelon of the establishments concerned, it becomes extremely difficult to fish out the culprits.
However, it is gratifying to note that the police recently ordered the arrest and prosecution of individuals responsible for the rising recruitment scam in the Nigeria. While the security services are dealing with the criminals, we think it is time the government took measures to effectively address this nagging issue of joblessness among the majorly young population in the country. Part of this policy change, in our view, should aim at incentivizing the private sector by creating an enabling environment that can enable businesses to thrive.
It must be emphasized that the private sector, in particular, the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as the engine room of economic activities, ought to be enabled to play their part more rewardingly. There must be a defined policy on start-ups that will encourage the unemployed to take their own destinies in their own hands. That, in our view, is the way to go as the nation continues to reel in this disturbing scenario.
In the meantime, it is also pertinent for the government to reform the recruitment process. Part of the problem is that, officially, it has become difficult to know when the MDAs are recruiting. What gave rise to these scammers is that most of them claim to be representing top government functionaries who have already been allocated job slots. In the process, the good, the bad and the ugly get entangled together. The desperate jobseeker has no way of knowing the genuine from the fake. It is that confusing.