Last Thursday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, raised an alarm that Nigeria’s unemployment rate would hit 33.5 per cent by 2010.
The minister who obviously premised his outcry on the 2019 report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), demonstrated helplessness as he wondered aloud why the unemployment rate and poverty levels are on steady paths of growth in spite of several intervention efforts by successive administrations in the country.
While declaring open a two-day workshop on ‘Breaking the Resilience of High Unemployment Rate in the Country,’ last Thursday in Abuja, Ngige said the high unemployment rate of 23.1 per cent, and underemployment of 16.6 per cent by the NBS 2019 report was alarming.
According to him, “It is a worrisome status as the global poverty capital (World Bank, 2018); and concomitant high prevalence rate of crimes and criminality, including mass murders, insurgency, militancy, armed robbery, kidnappings and drug abuse, among others.
“As if this situation is not scary enough, it is projected that the unemployment rate for this country will reach 33.5 per cent by 2020, with consequences that are better imagined, if the trend is not urgently reversed”.
Ngige’s foreboding is not misplaced. The NBS had, in its “Labour Force Statistics – Volume 2: Unemployment and Underemployment by States”, for the Third Quarter, 2018, said that the national unemployment rate for the quarter was 23.1 per cent while the underemployment rate was 20.1 per cent. The top five states with the highest unemployed population, according to NBS report, are Rivers (1,673,991), Akwa Ibom (1,357,754), Kano (1,257,130), Lagos (1,088,352) and Kaduna (940,480).
The report said further that between the third quarter of 2017 and third quarter of 2018, only nine states, including Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Imo, Kaduna, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ondo and Rivers recorded a reduction in their unemployment and underemployment rates.
The latest NBS statistics is a time bomb for Nigeria and, unless something urgent is done to reverse the increasing rate of unemployment in the country, its consequences may be fatal. Already, the high prevalence of crimes and criminality among the youth is a direct consequence of high rate of unemployment in the country.
It is sad that Nigeria, in spite of its enormous resources, is facing serious unemployment challenge. This ought not to be, but for poverty of leadership in the country over the years. It is high time, therefore, that government at all levels woke up to the reality of unemployment and its fatal consequences on the nation.
We believe that the country’s unemployment challenge requires a holistic approach that should include collaborative efforts from all stakeholders. But the government must, first of all, provide an enabling environment necessary to boost the economy. One of the ways to do this is by fixing the nation’s epileptic power supply that has crippled several businesses over the years.
Added to this is the need to tackle the insecurity situation in the country which is capable of scaring away foreign investors.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the state of insecurity in the country, just like power supply, is worrisome. We urge the Federal Government to, without further delay, tackle this twin evil that is currently plaguing the nation’s development.
Diversification of the economy is another antidote to the nation’s rising unemployment challenge. Although the Federal Government has made remarkable inroads in this area by its investment in agriculture, it is not yet Uhuru. We expect the state and local governments across the country to take a cue from the Federal Government by investing, not just in agriculture, but also in other non-oil sectors as a way of boosting the nation’s economy, as well as engaging many job-seeking Nigerians.
We believe that unless a collaborative approach that involves a more proactive public-private partnership is adopted, the growing unemployment challenge in the country may continue to worsen, especially against the backdrop of the growing population in the country.
Still On Leah Sharibu
A 26-year old medical aid worker, Jennifer Ukambong Samuel, who was recently freed by Boko Haram obviously amazed the nation when she reportedly said that another captive, Alice, who had stayed longer in the camp of the dreaded terrorist group, told her that Leah Sharibu was alive and in good health.
“I didn’t see Leah Sharibu but Alice said Leah and Grace were doing fine, that is what she told me. That if I had known her before she was abducted, I would have agreed that she is doing fine; she is very fat but she wasn’t fat before her abduction.”
Jennifer’s admission that the insurgents gave them food and encouraged them to request whatever they wanted for their comfort was equally good to hear.
Even as her revelation could pass for a mere hearsay, it nevertheless came at a time when the people’s anxiety was beginning to turn to real fear, especially with social media reports suggesting that Leah had been killed by her captors following the Federal Government’s failure to meet the conditions for her return.
The public’s fear was also informed by the Sharibu family’s recent complaints that President Muhammadu Buhari’s communications and assurances on their daughter’s release from captivity had waned of late.
Leah Sharibu was among the 110 schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi in Yobe State at about 5.30 pm on February 19, 2018. Their abduction came four years after about 276 girls were whisked away in similar circumstances during an early morning raid at another school in Chibok in neighbouring Borno State. Although, more than half of them are said to have been released so far.
While 104 of the Dapchi girls regained their freedom after a series of indirect negotiations between the Federal Government and the insurgents, Leah was said to have been held back based on her refusal to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam. The remaining five girls reportedly died in captivity, apparently while trying to escape. Recall that even Leah attempted to escape but was caught and returned by a migrant Fulani household.
Like many Nigerians, The Tide is bothered by the inability of the Federal Government to secure a successful release of Leah and the remaining Chibok schoolgirls. In fact, in the case of Leah, there are those who suspect that Mr. President, being a devout Muslim, may not be impressed with the teenage girl’s uncommon courage to hold onto her Christian faith rather than accept an ‘easy and harmless’ condition for her freedom.
Proponents of this theory have consistently pointed to the speed and tenacity with which the Presidency intervened last year to save a Muslim girl, Zainab Aliyu, from the hang man’s noose in Saudi Arabia where she was arrested and detained on a drug trafficking charge.
Again, if Leah were to be the daughter of a prominent Nigerian politician, wouldn’t the government have done every thing possible to ensure her release?
Leah’s case became even more pathetic when her voice was clearly heard in an audio clip in August, 2018 pleading with President Buhari to quickly accede to Boko Haram’s prisoner-swap demand so as to ensure her release. But rather than respond to the distress call of a hapless Nigerian girl, the Federal Government said it doubted the authenticity of the audio, claiming that such could as well have been the handiwork of political mischief makers, especially in the lead up to the 2019 general elections. It promised to verify the audio clip but has remained mute ever since.
The Federal Government had consistently reassured Nigerians on Leah’s life and health even in captivity. But in the event that those were mere political posturing while it secretly nursed the fear that she may have been killed and therefore doubted Boko Haram’s sincerity, we believe that the latest revelation should serve as a clarion call to galvanise the government into a more determined action to bring the girl back.
Considering the manner in which these kids were whisked away, the agonies of their loved ones and the international embarrassment that attended the raids, we think that nothing is too much to sacrifice for the return of Leah and the rest of the Chibok girls, especially where it requires prisoner swap.
In Support Of Amotekun
The raging controversy over the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Operation Amotekun has again brought to the fore the ills of Nigerian society and the fault lines of the nation’s existence.
The security network launched on January 9 in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, was conceived by the South-West governors to complement the efforts of the conventional police and other security agencies in taming the scourge of banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, murder and other sundry security challenges in that region.
According to its proponents, Amotekun is not an army of the region or usurper of the functions of the conventional security agencies but an initiative meant to fill the obvious huge gap left by the police in the area of neighborhood watch, intelligence gathering and early detection of crimes in the South West.
It is, therefore, cynical that an ingenious initiative like Amotekun will attract vehement opposition from some vested interests, including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami. Rather than supporting the genuine innovation and patting its proponents on the back, Malami and his co-travellers, mostly from the North, are scheming to throw spanners in the wheels of the security outfit.
Malami did not only declare Operation Amotekun as illegal, he also went further to threaten severe actions against its promoters. A more disingenuous dimension was the rantings of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen, who warned South-West governors to back down on the security network or risk their region’s chances of producing the President in 2023. How uncanny and puerile can this be?
The Tide wishes Malami and his co-travellers good luck in their infamous attempt at demonising a well conceived initiative.
However, we commend the South West governors for rising up to the security challenges in their region a’la Operation Amotekun and we recommend similar security networks in other regions. We also commend the unanimous resistance of the people of the South-West to hold on to the security network in the face of opposition by some vested interests.
We believe that the establishment of Operation Amotekun by the South-West governors is a frontal response to the helplessness of the federal police to combat crimes in the region and the failure of the Federal Government to protect its citizens.
We recall that not long ago, the South-West was a flashpoint of security breaches where banditry, kidnapping and despoilation of people’s farmlands held sway. The July 2019 murder of Funke Olakunrin, daughter of an octogenarian leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, by armed bandits along Ondo road, is still fresh in mind. Many other innocent citizens across the country had been hacked down in similar circumstances. It is, therefore, natural that the South West governors, who are chief security officers of their respective states, take the bull by the horns and rescue their people from unwanted onslaught and brigandage.
There is no gainsaying the fact that security challenges in the country have become increasingly daunting for the security agencies to combat and have, in fact, boxed the country into the Hobbesian state where life has become nasty, short and brutish. Needless to say that the security situation has stretched the security agencies beyond their capacity, such that there is a thunderous clamour for state policing.
Already, we are aware of the existence of some unconventional security networks across the country such as Hisbah police in Kano, Civilian Joint Task Force and various community vigilantees.
Amotekun is, therefore, not different except that it is regional in outlook and modus operandi.
While we agree that there may be constitutional limitations to the purview of Operation Amotekun, there is no evidence that suggests that the security network is an effort to hijack the role of the police or in confrontation with the Federal Government. Malami’s fears are, therefore, needless and misplaced.
His postulation that Article 45, second schedule of the Constitution as (amended) gives the Federal Government the exclusive power to manage the police is akin to playing to the gallery. It is a mischievous attempt at clothing Operation Amotekun and any other similar security outfits that may spring up thereafter with the garb of a regional army ready to usurp the functions of the police. Malami’s outburst is also a futile attempt at throwing the law at community vigilantee or personal maiguard hired by individuals to protect lives and property.
It would have been more honourable and dignified for the AGF and others who oppose the establishment of Operation Amotekun to concede to the simple fact that the people of the South West have been pushed to the point where they can no longer afford to standby while anarchy and lawlessness reign in that region. They have seemingly taken their security away from the almighty Federal Government that has failed to protect them and their property.
That is the kind of result a nation gets when genuine innovations such as state police and security outfits like the Rivers State Neighborhood Safety Corps are not allowed to see the light of day due largely to some inexplicable and self-serving considerations.
Checking Medical Tourism Abroad
After spending 217 days mostly on health grounds abroad in three years, 10 months, he has been in office, President Muhammadu Buhari has also been the one recently lamenting the country’s loss of over N400 billion yearly to medical tourism is curious and worrisome.
Unfortunately, President Buhari who attributed the precarious healthcare situation attributed to government’s inability to address various health challenges at the inauguration and handover of a completed project to the management of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki , has since coming to office, embarked on several medical trips abroad including seeking medical attention for ear infection outside the country.
Represented at the event by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the President said, “Government has shown strong commitment in the revitalisation of the health sector. These efforts notwithstanding, our health sector is still characterised by low response to public health emergencies, inability to combat outbreak of deadly diseases and mass migration of medical personnel out of the country. This has resulted in increasing medical tourism by Nigerians in which Nigeria loses $1 billion on annual basis.”
Doubtless, this is a national embarrassment because if the President who has a responsibility to address the anomaly is lamenting, who will address the challenges? If the President is helpless on the issue of access to health care, who has more powers to help him? Lamentation is not a strategy anywhere.
The Tide holds that the poor access to health care in Nigeria may not also be unconnected with the disturbing degree of deterioration that has characterised the health sector. The deterioration, we believe, has been due to neglect by successive administrations. In fact, the nation’s health sector is groaning and now in a near total collapse and there is no glimmer of hope.
Worrisome is the fact that the dismal situation is in spite of the billions of naira expended on some tertiary hospitals by successive administrations including Buhari’s to equip some strategic departments in some tertiary and teaching hospitals as ‘centres of medical excellence.’
Worse still, even the State House Clinic established to take care of the President, Vice President, their families as well as members of Staff of the Presidential Villa, Abuja joined the league of hospitals that cannot deliver quality healthcare services. This came to the public glare when Mrs. Aisha Buhari took ill in 2017 and was advised to travel abroad because of the poor state of the clinic.
So, some of the factors hampering access to quality health care in Nigeria include obsolete equipment and the brain drain that began since 1985; not discounting the not-so-conducive operating environment. Again, inadequacy of medical facilities, high cost of drugs, sub-standard drugs, wrong diagnosis, poor attitude of health workers occasioned by poor remuneration and resulting in the neglect of patients by medical personnel, long waiting time for patients, etc. are all responsible for the unhealthy situation in Nigeria.
On brain drain, reports have been consistent that even as the nation grapples with shortage of medics, more are fleeing the country. Besides, most of those highly educated and talented medical professionals, who are out in foreign countries are excelling, where the conditions and atmosphere are relatively better.
So, it is obvious that Nigerian doctors are competent to manage a healthcare delivery system in Nigeria if the right environment is put in place.
Therefore, The Tide thinks that the continuing exodus of doctors should be a concern to people in authority. Against this backdrop, duty bearers must address the rising deficit in medical personnel occasioned by migration. Specifically, conscious policy must be formulated to attract health technologies and experts in the diaspora back to Nigeria for a more effective and efficient health service delivery. Hence, government ought to recognise that the country is in trouble if there are no adequate healthcare personnel for its teeming population.
So, as a country in need of more medics, the leadership must develop plans on how to retain trained medics. Against this backdrop, we suggest that the situation can be reversed by making the National Insurance Scheme (NHIS) compulsory for all citizens, which we hope will provide enough funds to improve the conditions of service and working environment for health professionals.
Also, we urge government to provide adequate remuneration and make conditions of service attractive for medics to live decently. Authorities at all levels should also provide the infrastructure and cutting-edge technologies needed for quality service delivery by medical professionals. Furthermore, we appeal to Nigerian medics in the diaspora to return and set up world-class medical facilities in the country. Their regular medical outreach programmes in Nigeria can’t be enough.
What is more, the President has to build on his positive experience in the health systems of other climes while receiving treatment, to impact on the Nigerian healthcare system by replicating what he saw and experienced in London at least to take care of the masses who do not have the resources to fly abroad for medical care. He should encourage health authorities in the country to replicate the medical equipment he saw abroad during his treatment.
Specifically, Buhari should make healthcare his personal agenda, and contribution to the growth of the Nigerian health sector. He should see his health challenge and experience in a London hospital as a wake-up call by revamping the health sector. This should be pursued so that Nigerians would stop going through this embarrassment for the good of the people and the protection of our national image.
Similarly, we demand that the ninth National Assembly should demonstrate good leadership, which is a critical variable in dealing with the current crisis in the health sector. The legislators should show good representation in the area of health sector reform. Hopefully, by amending the National Health Act, 2014 and with more investment in the health sector, many citizens will have access to quality and affordable health care, while the capital flight occasioned by medical tourism will be a thing of the past.
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