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Begging The Unemployment Question

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It goes without saying that one of the impedments to the socio-economic development of the Nigerian nation is the ever-increasing rate of unemployment. Since  attainment of independence in 1960, the optimistic predictions about the ability of the modern industrial sector of the country to absorb the increasing number of urban unemployed and rural underemployed labour force have not been realised. In spite of the minimally noticed unemployment in the country in the early 1960s, one of the national objectives of the first National Development Plan was to develop as rapidly as possible, opportunities in education, health, and other sectors for creation of more jobs. But unfortunately the incidence of  unemployment in the country has grown deeper and become widespread, cutting across all strata and geographical entities. A great number of those unemployed are mostly secondary school leavers and university graduates. As indicated in a publication titled “Productivity and Unemployment in Nigeria”, by Mike I. Obadan and Ayodele F. Odusola, as at 1996, an annual average of about 2.8 million fresh graduates enter the Nigerian labour market, with only about 10 per cent of them getting employment. Certainly, the situation is worse now.

The open urban unemployment only reveals the visible aspects of the unemployment problem in the country. The actual underutilisation of labour takes many other forms including various manifestations of underemployment and hidden unemployment. Thus to get a full understanding of the significance of unemployment problem in the country, we must also take into account, in addition to the open unemployed, those larger numbers of others who may be visibly active, but in economic sense are grossly underutilised. They include the hawkers who work all day in order to sell uneconomic quantilities of foreign and domestic products in our big cities. They include those who are engaged in second choice employment activities primarily because job opportunities are not available at the levels of education which they have attained. And they include farm labourers who are idle after the planting season and the construction company workers who are laid off during the rainy season.

Generally, underemployment rates are higher in the rural areas than the urban centres, and also higher among the females than the males.

Both unemployment and underemployment constitute a serious constraint to the economic progress of any nation. In fact they represent an obvious waste of the nation’s manpower resources.

In Nigeria, it is difficult to ascertain or quantify the waste because, in the absence of reliable statistical data, nobody is certain of the exact number of persons currently out of work. Statistics of the labour force, of persons employed, of employment and underemployment, and of vacant positions are scanty and in many cases non-existent in the local government councils, and the relevant ministries or departments both at the state and federal levels.

Several factors have been linked with the unemployment or underemployment dilemma facing the country. Popular among them are labour migration from rural to urban centres, high population growth rate, influx of foreigners from neighbouring countries, and faulty educational system which does not prepare its products for gainful employment.

But the most critical factor, and most neglected is the limited labour absorptive capacity of the country. As pointed out by the Professor of Economics and International Affairs, W. Arthur Lewis in his book titled Some Aspects of Economic Development: “One major difference between the United States and the underdeveloped countries is the apparently unlimited American capacity to absorb the products of schools”. Thirty eight years ago when only 15 percent of Americans obtained bachelor’s degrees, the people were afraid that they would not all find what to do. But as the number accelerated surprisingly, there was no surplus in the labour market. The American economy was elastic enough to absorb the increased number that the schools turned out.

The problem with Nigeria in terms of employment capacity is that the number of jobs for university and polytechnic graduates in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, arts,  social sciences, engineering, or some other professions are few. Consequently, as the number of graduates increases, the surplus goes into administration and other areas to do the jobs which can be satisfactorily handled by secondary school leavers. In the end, a large proportion of those who have acquired specialised training do not use it.

So as the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, promises the mass of unemployed Nigerians job opportunities in the days ahead, he should first of all initiate policies and programmes that will aid our educational system to produce creative and practical men and women who can adapt to changing job patterns.

But above all, government in collaboration with the private sector should expand the absorptive capacity for the country’s school products – primary and secondary school leavers and university and polytechnic graduates.

This is to say that Nigerian governments at all levels should give greater priority to labour-intensive projects. With the country’s abundant labour force, there is the need for industrial establishments to employ techniques of production that will guarantee a fairly large employment of labour.

Besides, rural development programme should be given priority attention. Such programmes should include agricultural development, expansion of food processing industries and small scale industries, provision of rural access roads, and other basic infrastructural facilities. These strategies can contribute immensely to gainful employment of the rural populace. And indeed, concerted efforts should be made in the area of data collection and information gathering on labour force and the labour market in the country. Absence of such vital information makes it difficult to carry out effective planning in the labour sector.

Vincent Ochonma

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Opinion

The Enemy Within

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Political scientists would talk about an Iron Law of Oligarchy whose custodians and protectors are the barons of the wit cult. The wit cult members are patrons of the cult of weeds, whose protectors are usually drawn from the security circles. A former president of this country once said that “some desperate politicians and people in power are known to protect notorious outlaws often linked to violent crimes”. Curious readers can check The Tide newspaper of 26/7/2019, Page 2. The credo of the Law of Oligarchy is that “whoever has the most power makes the rule and takes the gold”. Gangsterist Law?
What is oligarchy? It is defined as government or control by a small group of people, using democracy as a camouflage. Do we have a cabal in Nigeria? Yes! Who controls that cabal? A Presidency! Who is Presidency? A camouflage! Who are the small groups of people controlling power in Nigeria? Ask General Jibril Musa Sarki (Born to Rule) and Badu Salisu Ahmadu who told Nigerians that there is a standing Fulani Strike Force ready to claim the lands which they inherited from the British.
What does it take to make the rule and take the gold? Power, in its raw form! How do you get power? Ruthless exploitation of weaknesses and loop-holes! Are there weaknesses and loop-holes in the Nigerian environment? Yes! They include ignorance, timidity, cowardice, myopia and the desire to attend to stomach infrastructure, via hustling and scrambling for the crumbs from the table of the champions. Hungry dogs! Kept poor!
Who are the champions of the Nigerian political economy? Someone provided an answer, saying: “the wealth buried in the bowels of Oloibiri and in other oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta region is being cornered by a few Nigerians and foreigners”. The culture of parasitism had been a long issue in human history, but its modernised version takes the form of national and international politics. At the international level, the culture of parasitism operates through big corporations and conglomerates, via monopolies.
Any intelligent Nigerian would figure out easily that there are spirited efforts from various nebulous quarters to divert attention from what is actually going on in the country. For example, international borders in Southern Nigeria are not only blocked but manned with strictness, while similar borders in the Northern parts are left open. The heightened state of insecurity in Southern Nigeria in recent times cannot be for nothing, but indicative of an effort to divert attention from some ulterior motives. What are the motives?
Rivers State is of a particular importance in the current political drama, because of its status as a major pillar in Nigeria’s political economy. What unsuspecting Nigerian masses must know is that a number of the people are paid agents in the service of some vested interests. Many of such paid agents are not usually aware of whose interests or what purposes that they serve with zeal and commitment. Sponsors of acts of brigandage and banditry are members of an organized cabal, in whose clutches Nigerians are now helpless.
Apart from political parties and their propaganda machines, power holders and power mongers do use security agencies as tools and hirelings in their services. Apart from fueling crisis and animosities where there are stakes for such purposes, security agencies, via security votes, are handy tools in the service of power mongers. We find such tools and errand boys as regular participants in phone-in radio programmes, whose utterances and opinions are usually coloured by ideological leanings and sympathies.
It is particularly pathetic that indigenes of Southern Nigeria can become so myopic and blind that they become willing stooges in the current political shenanigans. “Fall guys” in this on-going power game are not usually insignificant persons but highly-placed members of the political elites. A common strategy of roping in such Southern elite is to lure them into some financial sleaze and scandal, which in the end would allow them the option of joining the party in power. We have seen many of such strategies in the past few years, resulting in political decampment and joining the party in power.
The time has come to alert Southern Nigerians that many of them are being used and co-opted into serving some sectional interests and hidden agenda, to the detriment of such stooges and hirelings. This has been going on for quite a long time, aimed not only at advancing some agenda, but also winning sympathies, via patronage and sinecure. A hate speech law was also crafted for the purpose of intimidating those who discern the game plan.
During the General Sani Abacha regime discerning Nigerians saw how operatives of the security and intelligence agencies served the sinister agenda of a section of the country. Acts of brigandage and criminality purportedly committed by armed or unknown persons were placed at the door-steps of NADECO or groups hostile to military rule. Now even in a democratic regime “armed and unknown gunmen” are still engaged in their trade. Soon after military rule came the clamour for Sharia Law, followed by the menace of Boko Haram.
Even though a large number of Nigerians are ignorant and capable of being led by the nose like assess, there are a few discerning ones who can perceive the shape of things to come. Behind all the shenanigans lies the truth that a few Nigerians, with the collaboration of some foreigners, cornered the wealth of the nation, represented by mineral oil and gas. Despite the use of intimidation, divide-and-rule strategies and other cover-ups, the game is up and the disenfranchised groups are wiser now. Agitations will rise further.
Let it be added, as an aside, that Scotland-Yard trained private eyes rarely write or speak carelessly. In this case, those who take interest in this article should heed the message, rather than ask that supportive evidence be brought, in chapters and verses, for the message to be considered valid. An enemy within usually operates like a chameleon, whose antics include vengeful attacks when short of further camouflage. The game is up! We have taken too much for the owner to know!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Checking High Bride Price

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Marriage is a sacrament which every couple is expected to obey as instituted by God. But today the reverse is the case, especially in African societies where most people violate this sacrament due to their selfish desires and sometimes, pressure from parents.
It is no longer news that in most African societies today, bride prices have gone so high that marriage ceremonies have become an economically viable venture. As such, most poor young men have remained unmarried  until they get so old. Yet, the rich young ones easily get wives to marry because they are buoyant enough to lavish money.
Although many leaders recognise this in Nigeria, especially in the southern part of the country, they are afraid to talk about it. This is mainly because they fear how the society would react. The fact is that whether high dowries are paid on brides or not, there is no marriage all over the world that would enjoy stability if Christ is not its pillar, and the anchor that those who make the contract rely on. Those who have accepted Jesus as their personal saviour also enjoy His spirit of love in their marriages. And there are a lot of testimonies to this effect. This is why most couples are able to stay till death do them part.
Talking about high bride prices in this society, the ability to haggle and bargain has an unhappy angle associated with the process itself. You can agree with me that in every marriage, there is some selfish human heart that comes into play. If not, how can a man pay well over N100,000 for a lady, and another pays as little as N200 and sometimes, no cash deposit to bring a wife under his roof?
However, because the game has become an expensive and dicey one, many young men have been frustrated and defeated, and most end up eloping with their heartthrobs as wives. But as long as the customs of the land remain, eloping with a lady boils down to  immorality, which may not be the direct sin of the man  in question.
In fact, numerous cases abound where men eloped  with their girlfriends, and began to live together as  husband and wife. They are, in most cases, blessed  with children, even in the midst of illegality. They ignore the parents of the woman or man, and go into their  own procreation process.
But the unfortunate thing is that sometimes the  problem associated with that strategy is that if the woman dies in the man’s house, the parents of the  deceased are likely to demand that the man marries the woman even in death, sometimes at very exorbitant prices. In fact, a lot of things may be lined up as  requirements for the marriage of the dead woman. In  some other cases, the children produced in that marriage are classified as bastards or children of the woman’s father until the man does the right thing, that is to pay her bride price.
I think as long as mankind lives on earth,  high bride prices never make husbands price their wives (like property) better. Instead, there are reported cases of men who have treated their wives as slaves because  of the huge sum of money spent as bride price. Methinks that if young men are able to prove to their supposed parents in-law that they can love and hold their daughters, this should be enough dowry than paying fabulous amounts of money that do not equate true love.
The high dowry on women has disadvantages on the bride too. Many women have confessed openly that high bride prices have compelled their real husbands out of the work contest, leaving unlovable wealthy men available in the market. The result is an unnecessary joining of  incompatible couples because money has become the  name of the game.
High dowries make women slaves as most of them  remain unhappy in their marriages. Perhaps, they just stay to satisfy the man who has spent so much on  them. The consequence of this is that a wide gap exists for infidelity, and a display of fake and smokescreen love, which is far from being genuine.
This is not to say that those with low income have not  married wives. No! On the contrary, some have actually found themselves wives, and they lived as happy couples  for decades. But we have also heard stories where men  go on to borrow huge amounts of money just to get  married. In a situation like this, such couples are forced  to go through terrible and agonising marriages.
In perspective, it has been imperative that high bride prices are no guarantees to long, stable and well-enjoyed   marriages. High bride prices only help to force men who are not rich into borrowing, thereby putting men with such financial crisis into slavery while the women are boxed into a corner, with little or no choice than to settle for men with the money. In the end, such women  look more like the men’s personal properties.
It is high time the state government or better still, local  government councils fixed equal amount to be paid as dowry for all women. Although this suggestion may sound primitive, I think it is workable and the right path to toe. This can be done by encouraging would-be husbands to go to their local governments to pay for their wives. This action should attract receipts, and such monies should later be handed over to parents of the  brides.
If all Nigerians go to the same markets, schools, workplaces, among others, then I do not see any reason why bride prices should vary. And until this is done,  women will ever suffer, and men without money will remain unmarried.
Etim writes from Port Harcourt.

By:  Sintrials Etim

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Opinion

No To Abolition Of NYSC

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A bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to abolish the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme has been initiated by a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Awaji-Inimbek Abiante (PDP, Rivers). The intent of this bill is to invalidate Section 315 (5a) of the 1999 Constitution and the National Youth Service Act.
The Youth Corps programme, which started on May 22, 1973, was established during the military regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon under Decree No. 24 of 1973 to reconcile and reintegrate Nigerians after the Civil War. It was also created to bridge ethnic and religious divisions across the country and promote the spirit of nationalism through understanding and appreciating others’ cultures and religions.
At the initial stage, it was compulsory for all graduates of tertiary institutions to be part of the service, but the age was later pegged at 30 years in 1984, while holders of the National Certificate in Education (NCE) were excluded perhaps to reduce the number of participants in the service to save costs.
Despite the goals of the NYSC, many Nigerians believe it is time for the scheme to be abandoned or reviewed, contending that it has lost its pertinence. Abiante’s suggestion to abolish the scheme undoubtedly strengthens this argument that the objectives of the NYSC should be reviewed or updated following the present realities of modern Nigeria.
Abiante, in his explanatory statement to the proposal, gave reasons for abandoning the NYSC. He noted the incessant killings of corpers and their frequent rejection by some public and private organisations as some of the justifications.
Furthermore, the lawmaker said public and private agencies are no longer recruiting qualified and skilled young Nigerians. Rather, they rely heavily on the availability of corps members who are not well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year, without any hope of being gainfully employed.
Available records show that in 2011, seven corpers were killed in the post-election violence that broke out in some parts of the country specifically after the presidential election. Regardless of these glaring problems, the question of whether NYSC has surpassed its usefulness remains controversial.
First and foremost, we must address the raison d’être of the Youth Corps programme, which aims to promote national unity and integration, among other things. Forty eight years after the scheme was established, can we say that this key objective has been achieved? Have we become more integrated than before? Certainly not. 
Another significant objective of the NYSC is to make the members self-reliant. But since employment is hardly available in Nigeria because of the current economic challenges, this goal is scarcely achievable. The majority of industries have closed and the remaining ones are operating at less than 50% capacity.
Though the scheme has in one way or the other benefited Nigerian youths such as exposing them to diverse groups, persons and cultures, promoting inter-ethnic marriages and discipline, it is inundated  with numerous problems that if nothing is done urgently and differently would contribute less to the unity of the nation, especially in these troubled times.
As could possibly be seen by many Nigerians, insecurity appears to threaten the scheme in a way that affects its sustainability. In the light of this, we question the appropriateness of posting corps members to places that are subject to serious security threats. Maybe, the government can examine this issue and allow everyone to serve in their comfort zone.
Any system that creates a disparity between the rich and the poor cannot accomplish its purpose. Even before the security problems, corps members were already influencing where they wished to be posted, especially children and wards of the elites. That alone has thwarted the objective the NYSC was established to achieve. The system itself is very skewed and grafted. Huge amounts of money are sometimes offered to influence postings.
Notwithstanding these shortcomings, we reject the view that the NYSC should be eliminated or scrapped. Rather, there may be a type of restructuring to make it more efficient. New ideas need to be injected into the scheme while the government should review its goals and focus training on self-defence, vocational skills and entrepreneurship. 
Several Nigerians are highly tribalistic and believe in ethnic supremacy, which clearly goes against the objectives of the project and has made it almost worthless today. Hence, we believe that NYSC should become zonal and each geo-political zone should be allowed to accommodate its corps members, sharing them in their areas as they deem best. This would solve a lot of problems since many Nigerians are no longer enthusiastic about serving in specific parts of the country.

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