On 29th of May, 2011, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on his inaugural speech, pledged his allegiance to “all Nigerians for staying the course” in their collective commitment to build a democratic nation”. His inaugural speech showed plainly that a “collective commitment” is one of the essential requirements in building a “democratic nation”.
Successive paragraphs of the speech however, barley provided a layman explanation to some freely used terms such as “all Nigerians”, “democratic nation” and a “collective commitment”. It however, becomes imperative at this time, to re-analyse such terms as they affect current economic realities in this country.
Now, “all Nigerians” for instance, could include all our founding fathers whose enduring sacrifice and abiding faith in the unity and greatness of this nation have lost its value to the current political and religious lapses. It would also include 120,000 annual Nigerian graduates who are left in the labour market without initial capital from the federal puarse and over 60 per cent citizens in the rural communities who are currently without electricity, pipe borne water, good roads and access to financial aids.
It is also quite unfortunate that beside those Nigerian pensioners who are currently subjected to economic penury, a number of citizens, especially around the Niger Delta Communities, who have no access to health centres, are all part of the “all Nigerians” who probably received a presidential allegiance on the Democracy Day.
As the current administration progresses, the galloping impact of poverty in the country calls for sympathy from all quarters. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the percentage of Nigerians living in poverty rose to 60.9 percent in 2010, compared with 54.7 per cent in 2004.
Also, using the Dollar-per-day (although the current global poverty line is $1.20 per day) measure, the Statistician General of the Federation (SGF), Dr Yemi Kale, at a press conference in Abuja, on February 13, 2012 maintained a rise at 71.5 per cent, with almost 100 million Nigerians living below one dollar each day. Still, the UN Habitat, an arm of the United Nations, responsible for the promotion of quality housing and urban planning around the world contended that poverty rate in the country has “shut up from 46 per cent in 1996 to 76 percent at present”. This is quite evident on the poor standard of living in this country especially around the Niger Delta region where a number of communities have not reaped the fruit of the inaugural address.
Alongside the galloping impact of poverty in this country, is the increasing rate of unemployment. According to NBS, unemployment rate increased to 23.9 percent as at November 15, 2011 compared with the 21.1 in 2010, and 19.7 percent in 2009.
Currently, at least 120,000 students graduate annually from various universities and polytechnics across the country. And since the annual job creation is currently at 25 per cent, it follows statistically, that at least 30,000 of the 120,000 graduates find suitable jobs on annual scale. This is an annual rate of 25 per cent. Seventy-five per cent of graduates who can not find suitable jobs are spewed heartlessly unto the labour market, to join their senior colleagues on national unemployment queue, with no intial capital from the federal pause. Well, experts warn that the total number of unemployed graduates in 2015 will rise beyond national economic remedy if the government fails to address the problem.
The footprints of these are obvious: youth restiveness, violence, crime, religious war, political conflict and disparity, social disorderliness, and some forms of ideological clash among the ruling few!
The Rivers State Governor, Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi recently sympathised with Okogbe community who lost over 200 persons to inferno in a bid to scoop petroleum products from a fallen tanker in Okogbe, Ahoada West Local Government Area of the State. The governor blamed the cause of the incident on poverty and ignorance.
A number of people die annually around the Niger Delta communities, because they lack access to improved medical facilities, pipe borne water, good road and food security. The rate of crime in our society has risen fearfully in the last decade due to poverty.
Despite the Federal Government’s Amnesty programme, many streets around the Niger Delta region still remain an haven of restiveness for unrestricted crime. To what extent has the federal government decongested the labour market, and reduced poverty rate, in order to solve these spiralling wave of anti-social trends in Nigeria?
Solutions to these numerous challenges however lie with the government at all levels.
Government must not just make pronouncement on how to better the lots of Nigerians, but must also see that its pronouncements are followed with concrete actions. President Jonathan’s promises to the nation, which include the implementation of a National Action Plan on Employment Creation (NAPEC) targeted at creating 5 million new jobs annually within the next 3 years; establishment of more skills acquisition centres; implementation of local content policy in all the sectors, especially in the oil and gas industry in order to boost jobs creation in the country; and review of the universities’ curricular to align with industry job requirements, among others, must go beyond mere political rhetorics. They must be actualised.
James is of the Department of Mass Communication, Rivers State University of Science and Technology.