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Addressing Nigeria’s youth unemployment challenge

Jerome-Mario Utomi

For a nation to move forward both politically and socio-economically, the leaders must demonstrate esteem for talents, actively encouraging able individuals, and honouring those who excel in their profession. And encourage their citizens so that they can go peaceably about their business, whether it is trade, agriculture or any other human occupation.

Going by these words of Niccolo Machiavelli, it hardly needs to be said that Nigeria has an urgent challenge that it needs to find some answers to and soon.

To shed more light, Nigeria is a vast country with vast problems that disrupt its progress, namely, corruption, insecurity, unemployment, and lack of energy. But I need not pause to know that the most pernicious of all these problems, in my views, is youth unemployment.

Although Nigerians have in recent past seen some job creation initiatives from the Federal Government with N-power, an initiative under the Social Investment Programme for the creation of employment and empowerment of Nigerians as most recent.

These widening strides notwithstanding, from the growing concerns and frustrations among the youth, it’s evident that youth unemployment is rapidly on the increase and may not end suddenly unless something drastic and dramatic is done by the government.

Further providing a link to the above claim is the just concluded general elections where jobless Nigerian youths flooded every political campaign grounds in their numbers for illicit electoral responsibilities while looking up to the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.

This is ‘a tragedy deepened by the awareness that it was avoidable’.

As I sympathise with these youths whose shoulders rest on the crushing effects of fallen standard of education in the country, which has rendered many unemployable, I must confess also that instant gratification and other negative influences emanating from the social media have conspired to render some of them lazy and morally bankrupt.

However, these unruly behaviours by some youths do not in any appreciable means exonerate the government of the blame for the frustration and agonising moments the youths are passing through. As lack of political will to tackle the challenge from its roots, or seeing the urgent necessity to cease politics and turn outwards to look for constructive and creative channels to fight the enemy called unemployment in the country contributes to the ever increasing number of both the unemployed and the underemployed.

To explain; if the government has done anything substantial in this direction, Nigerians will not have to look very far to see the impact. And my concern is not what the Federal Government intends to do or is capable of doing. Rather, my concern is about what they are presently doing, and if it’s in the best interest of the Nigerian youth.

Now, look at the danger of such wicked neglect.

First, aside from the fact that youth unemployment has put us in a position of appearing before the world as a people that lack a plan for their future leaders, the situation impels the watching world to conclude that government is unmindful that youth unemployment comes with challenges that cut across, regions, religions, and tribes. Of which such had in the past led to the proliferation of ethnic militias as well as youth restiveness.

Notably, this threat has become even more pronounced not just in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of the country with the chunk of the proponents spearheaded by the large army of professionally-trained ex-militants currently without a job. But in the northern part where the Almajiris are on the increase by the day.

Very instructive also, our leaders may be ‘winning political positions’ but their inability to turn these victories into better life for the youths through job creation and other social programmes is beginning to generate questions about their integrity.

Thankfully, with the electioneering period over, it will be highly rewarding to remind these leaders (both the returning and new) of valuable options waiting to be accessed in controlling this appalling situation and the impending danger of their failure.

I hold the opinion that the government must do something to help the youth come out of this challenge. It Is in the interest of the government and the nation at large to create jobs for the youth as a formidable way of curbing crime and reducing threatening insecurity in the country. It should be done not merely for political considerations but from the point of views of national development and sustenance of our democracy.

get started, it will translate to great steps taken in the right direction if the Federal Government could overhaul agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Presidential Amnesty Office to be more responsive in job creation and youth capacity building.

In the same token, getting both the nation’s academic curricula and the National Youths Service Corp scheme to accommodate entrepreneurship and skill development with the like of the National Industrial Training Fund and the National Directorate of Employment equipped to handle youth skill training with startup funds made available.

Very importantly also, creating a productive collaboration between the government, private organisations and civil society groups during this window of vulnerability that will act as both a crucial enabler as well as a means to an end should be another urgent task before the government.

To take one example of why such measures are necessary, consider the impact the recent decision by the Kukah Centre to introduce skill acquisition centres in the Northern part of the country where about 10 million Almajiri children will acquire vocations of their choice would make in solving the present challenge if other organisations come up with similar initiatives and supported by the government.

The youth on their part must recognise that ‘the future is full of promises as it is fraught with uncertainties. That the industrial society is giving way to one based on knowledge’. They must, therefore, learn to be part of the knowledge-based world.

While this is ongoing, the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency take steps to address the current energy challenge in the country. Achieving a stable power regime will guarantee the peaceful existence of both the medium and small scale industries. It may also bring back multinationals that fled this country at the wake of the nation’s energy crisis. This will go a long way in throwing Nigeria’s monster youth unemployment which breeds all manner of restiveness into extinction. A stitch in time, definitely, will save Nigeria’s dangerously bourgeoning “unemployment nine”!

Source The Punch

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