Nigeria is sitting on a ticking time-bomb. The rulers of the country know it, but they circumvent the brewing crisis with devious statistics. The unemployment time-bomb is ticking away leisurely and no one is taking concrete steps to defuse it.
The federal government unemployment figure is light-years behind the reality on ground. Government puts graduate unemployment figure at 5.8 million. Based on that figure, the actual number of unemployed may be sailing perilously close to the 40 million mark. That is calamitous enough to compel a state of emergency.
The European Union, a confederation of 28 nations with a population of 510 million, has an estimated 26 million unemployed people. The rulers are panicky over the unemployment situation because one week of street protests could bring down governments.
Nigerian rulers are pretty comfortable with an estimated 40 million jobless people in a population of 170 million.
Nigerian rulers are complacent. They capitalise on the puerile docility of the populace which is often mistaken for resilience. The situation is worsening by the day, and there are fears that the patience of the downtrodden could snap as an odd combination of persistent fuel scarcity and unprecedented power failure forces more firms out of business and raises the unemployment stake.
The sheer number of youth who showed up at the deadly recruitment drive organized last month by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) indicates that the time-bomb may be ticking perilously close to its symbolic mid-night. By some estimates, seven million youth applied for the 4, 500 openings.
Another frightening indicator that the unemployment time-bomb is on a short fuse, is the estimated 1.8 million graduates churned out annually by the country’s decrepit education system.
Ironically most of the graduates enter the labour market practically with no marketable skills because the government, the graduates themselves and their parents have all combined to render the business of knowledge and skills acquisition a cash-and-carry affair.
That has turned the country into one huge labour market at the mercy of a handful of employers. Swindlers smile to the banks by conning the jobless. The situation is so bad that if one puts out a notice calling for first degree holders to apply for the post of a cleaner in an imaginary outfit, at least 10, 000 applications would tumble in.
And if the advertiser is “smart” enough to charge a “moderate processing” fee of N500 per applicant, he would have raked in N5 million without sweat. Most of the security men and cleaners with banks and multinational companies are master’s degree holders eking out a living from grossly demeaning under-employment. I know a man who studied one of the core sciences and graduated 10 years ago. After years of fruitless search for job he started teaching chemistry to children of the elite in their homes.
Now, those who studied education/chemistry have eased him out of the job on claims that they did not only study chemistry, but were taught how to teach the subject. His wife, a lawyer, is equally jobless. He now uses a rickety car he inherited from a relative on kabu-kabu runs. There are millions like him who do not enjoy the luxury of inheriting a rickety car which could be used for kabu-kabu. Some do not even have relatives to live on. They are among the sea of faceless youth hawking all sorts of wares at traffic bottle-necks on Nigeria’s bumpy roads.
The rulers of Nigeria can get millions of the country’s restless youth back to work by easing their merciless grip on power supply and ending the shameful dependence on petroleum products import.
The unemployment situation in the country is worsened by the total darkness that has descended on the land. The power distribution companies extort money from consumers for services not rendered. The federal government must find a solution to the eternal darkness grinding Nigeria to a halt.
The World Bank believes that Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) would rise by 25 per cent if power supply is guaranteed for an average of 18 hours a day. At the current GDP rate of $510 billion, that amounts to a cash inflow of $1 billion per year. Such a cash inflow would generate millions of jobs for the graduates and master’s degree holders now eking a living from sweeping offices and guarding the living quarters of those they may one day turn against.
The worsening power situation is killing businesses and hiking the cost of production for those managing to survive. MTN, a leading mobile telecommunications network in Nigeria spent N34 billion in 2013 on diesel for powering its cell sites. The entire telecoms industry is retrenching because of the unbearable cost of doing business.
Nigeria can as well create more jobs by taking steps to end its unwholesome dependence on imported refined petroleum products. Nigeria sustains millions of jobs in the countries it imports refined petroleum products from, and depletes the local job market by the number of jobs it sustains abroad with the senseless imports. The nation’s four refineries are conduits for siphoning money into private pockets. They should be sold. Government should encourage private investors to build refineries.