NIS recruitment deaths and Nigeria’s unemployment burden

The tragic death of 16 applicants on March 15, 2014 in the course of participating in the aptitude test to enable them secure employment into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) is one unfortunate incident that perfectly marks the intolerable and alarming degree to which Nigeria’s unemployment crisis has reached.
The disastrous exercise, which also had several applicants injured, was graphic as virtually all scheduled venues for the aptitude test, most of them stadia or public squares, overflowed beyond their normal carrying capacities. Therefore, the calamity that happened needed just little impetus from the horribly shoddy planning superintended by Minister of Interior, Mr Abba Moro, to occur, as revealed via public hearing by the Senate.
Beyond the deaths and the embarrassment to Nigeria in the eyes of the international community, the exercise offered the world an uncensored and realistic peep into the miserable unemployment situation that has ruined the lives of millions of Nigerians over the decades, apart from the fact that the incident puts a lie to all the statistics of growth which government officials continue to bandy around since 1999 as dividends of democracy.
Against the fact that the increasingly burgeoning unemployment situation in the country has become an unbearable burden which invariably contributes immensely to the huge social and security challenges facing the country, it is simply insensitive and irresponsible for our senior government officials to continue to make statements which suggest that we are making tremendous progress.
One such statement was the dubious data alluded to by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who even in the face of the recent immigration recruitment debacle still had the courage to claim that government annually creates 1.6 million jobs. “We created 1.6 million jobs as confirmed by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, but these are not enough. Every year 1.8 million new entrants come into the job market. This is in addition to 5.3 million job seekers that have accumulated over time. So we need to work harder and faster to create more jobs for our youths,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

Given that over 500,000 unemployed Nigerians turn up for 4,500 vacancies at the Immigration Service, and that they were so desperate to warrant a situation where 16 young Nigerians died, Okonjo-Iweala is certainly the only Nigerian to believe the NBS. While we know that as Minister of Finance and on whose shoulder an additional responsibility of ‘coordinating the economy’ lies, Okonjo-Iweala is under very tremendous pressure to create the impression of positive development in all sectors of our political economy, however, in doing her job, she ought to carefully measure her embellishments with realities on ground so as not to be seen to insult our collective intelligence, for that is what her claim amounts to.

We acknowledge that though unemployment is a challenge all countries face, even advanced economies, but rather than the laissez-faire attitude that is habitual with our government over the years, serious nations do everything to ensure that unemployment is perpetually kept very lowbecause they see itas a potential time bomb. Rather than play politics with unemployment, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, as ‘Coordinator of the Nigerian Economy’, should rally round all her colleagues to formulate policies that will reinvent critical sectors of the economy, especially the real or manufacturing sector.

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