Key Issues in Employment Generation in Nigeria
KEY ISSUES IN EMPLOYMENT GENERATION IN NIGERIA
Youth unemployment has become a cankerworm to national development. Many believe that unemployment is squarely responsible for the rampant cases of crime and violence in the society; from kidnapping and armed robbery in the south to religious fanaticism in the north as well as explicit destitution among the citizenry, resulting in the gradual erosion of patriotism and established cultural values. I have come to grips with the enormity of the problem and why , despite so many cross-cutting efforts by many Ministries, citizens see very little in the way of reduction in the rate of unemployment.
The first salvo was delivered by the Minister of National Planning, who declared that unemployment rate for Nigeria in 2011 stood at 23.9%, that translates to almost 40 million citizens, and considering our extended family system, the true picture is very evident. Another figure from the National Bureau of Statistics has indicated that over 70% of Nigerians live on a USD a day or less. These figures have actually been rolling over for decades to reach the monumental level we have today. It has therefore become the lot of the Jonathan administration to put a stop to such decline and chart a way forward for economic engagement with especially young people.
Several Ministers during the Ministerial Platform organized by the Federal Ministry of Information averred that employment generation is the central pillar of this government’s Transformation Agenda. The President himself has harped on the need to have more Nigerians earning a living income and continuously charged Ministers to come up with deliberate strategies to achieve this. Ministers of Agriculture and that of Housing made clear policy statements on the direction of their Ministries. The Minister of Agriculture spoke of the need for young people to move to the farm as it has the potential to not only change their lives, but the economy of the country. He also spoke of many concessions approved by government for new entrants into agriculture. That of Housing said her plan is to ensure that 10% of Nigerians are employed in the housing sector as obtained in the developed world.
The Minister of Labour spoke about policy initiatives which will lay a strong foundation for employment with the approval by FEC of the National Action Plan on Employment Creation (NAPEC) for incorporation into the National Development Plans. A Committee on Database for unemployed Nigerian youths has been set up and the Ministry has during the last one year trained 140,000 youths on skill acquisition in vocational, technical and agricultural trades, while 75,600 graduates have benefitted from the same training along with 3,255 who benefitted with transient jobs. 4379 secured soft loans to establish micro and cottage enterprises.
The Ministry of Youth Development on its own part said government has approved N1.2b in this year’s budget for the Youth Employment Programme. N200m is to be expended to engage youths in Agriculture while $8m is be expended in training of youths to acquire hands on experiences. Its most attractive programme, YouWin, is meant to generate 40,000-50,000 jobs in three years. So far, 6000 have been trained, out of which 1200 have obtained loans of between N1m and N10m. Media Trust ltd, publishers of the Daily Trust Newspaper have bought into this and are running a similar programme.
The Ministry of Niger Delta is establishing industrial parks across its area of jurisdiction that have the capacity to house 5,000 SMEs with a view to spreading employment generation and wealth creation. The NDDC has trained over 700 youths during the last one year and has seen to the demobilization of over 20,000 militant youths in the Niger Delta.
More Nigerians are also benefitting from the industrial sector as the Minister of industry has said. Over 100,000 Nigerians have benefitted from the SMEDAN/CBN, SME credit Guarantee Scheme, which has earmarked N200b to help in training and the establishment of SMEs across the country. The Bank of Industry also has N5b fund donated by Aliko Dangote to support MSMEs in the country. Many Nigerian have already benefitted from these windows of opportunity.
According to the Minister of Women Affairs, arrangements have been concluded to provide microfinance to women in agribusiness through the Nigeria Inventive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. There is also a Women Fund for Economic Empowerment (WOFEE) which is run between the Ministry and Bank of Agriculture to support women in agribusiness. 5,000 women have benefitted from the loans so far with N261m earmarked in this year’s budget. Another fund is the Business Development Fund for Women (BUDFOW) meant to assist women entrepreneurs and is run in collaboration with the Bank of Industry. In the last one year, N82m has been disbursed to women across the country. A new concept to spread the employment bracket especially among women is the Lady Chauffeur Training Programme, which was launched by the First Lady, with 150 women benefitting in the first batch.
It is clear therefore that there are many opportunities for employment and wealth creation as provided by the Nigerian government, which are open to the participation of all Nigerians. What is left is for those who are unemployed to seek opportunities that fit their requirements and benefit from them. Nigerian youths are not known to be lazy and complacent; that is why they should venture out and grab one of the opportunities made available by government.