The Senate’s resolution on unemployment




 

The senate, for the umpteenth time last week, raised the alarm over rising rate of unemployment in the country and called on the federal, state, and local governments to urgently declare a state of emergency on the problem. The senate’s resolution on the declaration of a state of emergency on unemployment in the country reinforces the warning issued in 2016 by former President  Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun power because of its high unemployment  rate.

With the state of emergency, the upper chamber said the three tiers of government would provide jobs for the teeming youth of Nigeria. According to the senate, the action has become imperative because the nation is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, with the state of unemployment among teeming qualified youths. It said this remained the only way to save the country from the problems of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and other social vices.

Asking the federal government to direct the Ministry of National Planning to set up a machinery for job creation for youths, the senate also urged federal, state, and local governments to revitalise existing industries, build new ones, and provide conducive and enabling environment for the private sector to build more industries. It equally asked government to initiate a sustainable unemployment fund for the payment of living stipends to unemployed Nigerians until such persons secured employment.

 Resolutions of the senate were sequel to a motion sponsored by former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, PDP, Enugu West. Ekweremadu, who brought the motion to the floor through Orders 42 and 52 of the senate standing rules, lamented that the large number of graduates from institutions of higher learning in the country annually without jobs was a time bomb waiting to explode.

Presenting the motion, Ekweremadu cited a report published by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS in 2019, which put Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 23.1 per cent. Also quoting the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, Ekweremadu said the unemployment rate would hit 33.5 per cent by 2020.

He said: “Any nation with such number of unemployed but employable youths is only sitting on a keg of gun powder. The most pressing demand of every legislator and public officer is the rising number of curriculum vitae and application for employment from Nigerians. A situation where every school graduate has to queue up for job only in government offices is an indication of the breakdown of the private sector which is the major driver of world economies.”

According to him, unemployed Nigerian youths with potential talents lying idle and wasting away are usually misdirected toward many unprofitable and harmful ventures and lifestyles. He said the most active percentage of the nation’s population was forcibly being kept away from participating in the economic development of their fatherland and could not, therefore, contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

Attributing the high level of crime in any society to high rate of unemployment, Ekweremadu noted that unemployment remained one of the major causes of upsurge in rural-urban migration which put pressure on facilities in urban centres. He expressed concerns at the large number of graduates churned out by various institutions of higher learning on annual basis who could not be absorbed by the labour market.

Former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti South, said if serious action was not taken to solve the problem, it could swallow everyone. She said the neglect of the agricultural sector has really contributed to unemployment in the country, stressing that women were the most affected. Senator Smart Adeyemi, APC, Kogi West, described unemployment as a serious national problem affecting everybody directly or indirectly.

He said: “This is an issue we must all take very seriously by proffering solutions as to how we should reduce unemployment in our country.” He said the Iron and Steel Complex, Ajaokuta, in Kogi state alone was capable of employing over 25, 000 people, lamenting only less than 500 were currently absorbed by the company. While describing unemployment as an issue beyond the federal government, Adeyemi said states should be encouraged to set up small scale businesses for citizens to check unemployment.

Also in his contribution, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi, APC, Ekiti North, decried the inability of the private sector to address the escalating number of unemployed persons in the country, lamenting that government on the other hand, lacked the capacity to create jobs. Resolutions of the Senate were unanimously adopted after a voice vote by the President, Ahmad Lawan.

It is instructive that Obasanjo had while delivering a lecture in 2016 at Owu Baptist Church, as part of the Church’s programmes to mark Nigeria’s 56th Independence anniversary, said unemployment was a major problem facing the country and cautioned that if care is not taken it will consume the country.

It is unfortunate that three years after Obasanjo’s warning the senate deems it expedient to re-echo the warning, the implication being that rather that abate the unemployment situation has worsened over the years. We are therefore in sync with both Obasanjo and the senate that the federal and state governments should as a matter utmost urgency declare a state of emergency on unemployment.

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