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 Unemployment: Have We Lost It In Nigeria?

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Since the advent of democratic rule in 1999, one challenge that does not seem to go away in a hurry is the cross-cutting and often depressing issues of unemployment. The solar plexus of every macro economy is job creation as an instrument of poverty reduction and wealth creation. Year after year, budgets are passed and monies are appropriated, yet not much is seen in the aspect of industrialisation and employment generation. So many university graduates search for jobs eight years after they are done with national service. The rate of unemployment in Nigeria is so high that even the social cost of the menace is crippling. The lack of industrialisation and promotion of empowerment through  rejuvenation of small and medium scale enterprises, SMEs, is the reason the Buhari administration has embarked on some phoney social investment programmes such as N-power, start-up loans and school feeding programmes , which to say the least, are merely scratching the problem on the surface.
If the National Bureau of statistics put the unemployment figure at 33.3per cent, then the real figure could be much higher than 37per cent.The statistics are really bad. The National Bureau of statistics shows that 2014, 2015 to 2016, unemployment rate was 4.56per cent, 4.31per cent and 7.06per cent respectively. It was projected that in 2021, unemployment rate would hit 40per cent. For a nation eager to develop key sectors of the economy, the scourge of unemployment not only poses a serious economic threat; it also triggers security threat to the stability of the nation. Unemployment is characterised by financial hardship, poverty, reduction of family income and increase in dependency ratio.
The causes of unemployment in Nigeria are not far-fetched. Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and material resources, but successive administrations have crippled the economy by mismanaging the resources. Apart from being the poverty capital of the world, Nigeria is one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Besides, our policy makers have always adopted the wrong approach to job creation. Added to the aforementioned is the poor investment climate in the country. There is dearth of physical infrastructure, power supply,  good roads and adequate security infrastructure. Rural unemployment is mainly caused by frictional and residual factors. Most rural dwellers do not have the requisite skills and competence to manipulate economic processes.
In a country where so much of the educated population is killed, the rural folks who have no skills remain unemployed. Some people also decide to engage in occupations that can enable them sustain their households. Even when such people secure paid employments, they can voluntarily choose not to work. Seasonal unemployment occurs when people get employed during a period when certain economic activities heighten. Such people are laid off as soon as the season is over. Recently, the main cause of unemployment is the global economic crisis. This is also caused by neglect of technical and vocational education. Worse still is the neglect of agriculture which was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy in the first two decades after independence.
During the Second Republic,  President Shehu Shagari introduced the Green Revolution Programme. Prior to that, the Obasanjo military junta initiated the Operation Feed the Nation programme in 1978. Instead of making Nigeria to move towards self-sufficiency, the country imported more food. The bane of these programmes was corruption in the executive organ of government. The programmes died without changing the narrative.Unemployment has had debilitating impact on people and the economy of the Nigeria nation. So many people who have been trained to acquire high caliber manpower are wasted.
Today, so many trained pharmacists, nurses, engineers and other para-professionals are wasted or under-employed because of lack of vacancies. No economy can grow with huge aspect of its manpower being wasted. Qualified manpower is brain-drained out of the country in search for greener pastures. The feeling of hopelessness among the unemployed youths lead to despair and triggers deviance, crimes and insecurity in most urban areas in Nigeria are yet to contend with the rising spate of urban crime and its attendant negative effects. In Nigeria today because of social insecurity, the rank and file of terrorism and insurgency is populated by youths, some of them, highly educated.
There is also the challenge of low standard of living and rural- urban migration.When a huge number of youths are unemployed, the country loses a lot of tax revenue and this hinders the development of infrastructure.In the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, unemployment heightens militancy, oil bunkering and violence associated with those activities. Similarly, in the Sahel region, it triggers farmer/herders clashes and banditry. Nigeria must use labour-intensive technology. There is need to accelerate investment in agriculture as the sector is a major source of employment and food security. No sector of the economy can provide jobs like the agriculture sector and its value chain.
Agro-allied industries are the major employers of labour in Australia, India and Canada. Nigeria provides a good climate for agro-industrialisation and diversification. The same goes to adequate investment in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and strategically training and employing graduates in the sector. ICT is second to oil in terms of foreign exchange. Nigeria has the advantage of population to provide market for any ICT product. It has become dear that ephemeral programmes such as N-Power, school feeding programme and other social investment ventures cannot endure because they have low penetration to affect the critical mass of those who have skills but are unemployed.
Government must evolve a policy regime through the intensification of techno- vocational education to increase the capacity of the economy to absorb millions of unemployed Nigerians in the banking, ICT, agriculture, housing and construction sector and the mainstream of the bureaucracy.

By: John Idumange

Idumange is a public intellectual.

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Opinion

  Exchange And Variety: Vital For Continuity

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One William Bolitho, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, whose leg had to be amputated after a road accident, made an important statement: “The most important thing in life is not to capitalise on your gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligence, and it makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool”. Similarly a woman who was thrown out of her matrimonial home for having extra-marital relationship, but whose second marriage became a great success and joy, said that: “Exchange and variety give joy, fun and longevity to life”.
Surely, monotony results in boredom and stand-still, because, sustainability and continuity in life demand regular exchange and variety. Exchange should be understood to mean equity and balance in the process of giving and taking, while variety refers to comprehensive exposures to the issues and vagaries of life. In every interaction or relationship, one-sidedness has always been a major cause of disharmony and breakdown. One-sidedness can arise from a deliberate intent to cheat, or ignorance, which places the burden of giving only on one party, while the other becomes a parasite. Unfair deal!
Among other demands on a living being is the necessity or ability to turn liabilities, handicaps or losses into one form of asset or another. Thus individuals are often laden with burdens and cares which they must strive to resolve diligently, in the process of which they learn vital lessons and advance towards greater successes. So, to develop that tenacity to survive in a hostile environment demands that an individual must learn to take some loading tests and pass them without breaking down.
Not only individuals are exposed to loading tests as a means of capacity building, but nature also forces human environments to bear some stress and strains as the means for renewal of energy and regeneration. What we call natural catastrophes are usually necessary processes of repairs and balancing of wreaks and decrepit situations often brought about by humans. For example, lightning discharges between the clouds and the ground during thunderstorms balance the extreme differences in electrical potential which build up between the ground and higher atmospheric layers. Human activities, including illegal refining of chemical substances, cause such imbalances in the atmosphere.
Climate changes and climatic imbalances result from mining and other industrial activities whose disturbances and waste products pollute and endanger the atmosphere and ecosystem. Can crop yields and food production not be affected adversely in areas where the mining activities take place? Even though the effects may not be immediately visible, is it not likely that human health can suffer some risks arising from economic activities? Nature has a way of using ex-change and variety to maintain balance when human activities tend to throw the ecological system into chaos.
We can apply this Exchange and Variety theory in every human situation as a means of correcting social ills and perplexities. Without malice or favour in its application, exchange demands that value should go for an equal value, and variety based on complementarity. Is the political office holder in Nigeria being paid four times what the President of the USA earns (apology to ASUU) in one year, giving services of equivalent value to Nigeria, or a parasite to the country?
Where there is a mis-match in the blending of a variety of substances, there surely would arise some chaos and discomfort. Be it in food intake or in the amalgamation of chemical substances, conditionality must always prevail. Constipation arises in the human stomach when non-complementary food items are consumed, and, in the blending of a variety of substances a condition of near-homogeneities applies. You do not grind onions, tomatoes and stones together! So, the principle of exchange and variety as vital for continuity and sustainability cannot be applied without conditions; neither does nature apply it in an arbitrary manner.
In the farming system, farmlands get exhausted in terms of soil nutrition if same crops are cultivated repeatedly. So, local farmers resort to shifting cultivation while scientific farming would recommend alternation of crops as a way to guarantee or maintain fertility of the soil. Manure and fertilizers are also used to improve soil fertility. We also observe that natural catastrophes rarely occur without warnings to humans as a means of providing opportunity to avert worst dangers. Medical practitioners would say that pains and fever are signs and symptoms of some ailments trying to build up.
Often human beings in their myopic, indolent or complacent attitude allow signs and symptoms of impending disasters to pass without taking appropriate actions. From stomach discomfort, fever and pains; to increasing cases of banditry and terrorism, there is often the tendency to play down on signs and symptoms that are harbingers of catastrophes. The principle of exchange includes giving up something as a restitution, such as giving up a bad habit as an exchange for good health. In all such transactions there must be equity and justice.
Nature abhors and spurns injustices and inequities, and wherever they occur and persist with recalcitrance, then comes appropriate penalty or restitution. A genuine restitution goes with penitence, apology or compensation for the damage done. Similarly the principle of variety as vital element for longevity and sustainability includes the use of complementary additives to boost the energy and health of anything undermined by decrepitude. Healing by magnetism or by herbs is accomplished by infusing matching substances or radiation to give a boost to an ailing health.
In no way can something capable of aggravating a bad situation be considered as a complementary variety. In medical practice matching tests are conducted to ensure appropriate remedies for specific ailments. Thus the habit of consumption of drugs without diagnostic or matching tests is seriously discouraged. But in human relationships we find the union of people who rarely have complementary dispositions. Where the qualities and endowments of one person in marriage do not match with the other, love alone will not bridge the gap.
The woman quoted as saying that “exchange and variety give joy, fun and longevity to life”, after the failure of her first marriage, added that “there is stability and joy when you find a matching partner”. Often it takes several bitter personal experiences and perhaps failures, to be able to appreciate the fact that it takes an indomitable spirit to profit from your losses. Exchange and variety must go with willingness to give and interact justly and sensibly. Put everything to test before embracing them.

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Off Violence And Global Food Insecurity

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On February 24, 2022, the ego of one man led Russia to war. Many in the West, never envisaged that such a day could come again in continental Europe, but Vladimir Putin’s lust for a place in infamy cannot be quenched. For him, Mother Russia must be resurrected, even if it means the senseless deaths of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, and millions of refugees. After four months of Putin’s so-called Special military operation, the ripples are now felt across the world. Global food security is now at risk due to millions of tons of Wheat trapped in  Ukraine, and countries across the world that depend on food aid from the world food programme are now at risk of starvation since 50 per cent of the programme’s wheat supply comes from the country. Ukraine also produces about 20 per cent of global high-grade wheat and the equivalent of 7 per cent of total global wheat production. The war is also affecting Russia’s production, which when combined with Ukraine supplies about 30 per cent of wheat and 24 per cent of global barley supply.
Benue State is to Nigeria, what Ukraine represents in the global food supply, and it has been the target of continuous attack from Fulani herdsmen and bandits. Even though these attacks did not begin in 2015, since the advent of President Buhari, they have increased in frequency, spread and sophistication. Nigerian farmers in most states in the country now have to contend with stranger criminal elements unheard of in the past. The term bandit is a synonym for terror; most of our food-producing communities are the ones bearing the full brunt of the attack.
In Benue State, about 70 per cent of those in IDP camps are farmers whose communities and farms have been sacked and livelihoods completely eviscerated. When the herdsmen and bandits descend on these communities, they destroy barns and seedlings for the next farming season. Our once celebrated food basket is almost empty, and the impact could be felt across the country on every kitchen table, and food inflation now stands at 18.8 per cent. The most troubling part of this issue is that little or nothing is being done to arrest the situation; and by not dealing decisively with this matter, President Buhari has given tacit support to his kinsmen as they continue to decimate farming communities in Benue since 2018. Unfortunately, the farming communities in Benue State are not the only ones suffering at the hands of Fulani herdsmen and bandits.
On a TV programme in January 2022, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Aare Gani Adams, stated that the food crisis is imminent in the South-West region of Nigeria due to the onslaught on farmers by Fulani herdsmen. According to him, farmers in hotspots have stopped going to their farms for fear of being attacked by criminal herders. Another telling side of this herdsmen saga in South-West Nigeria is that they deliberately lead their herds into farms to graze, as a result, many farmers have incurred huge amounts of debt, leading to frustration.
In Rivers State, especially in Ogoni land and Etche, herdsmen with AK-47s have destroyed countless farms, raping women, destroying livelihoods, and dislocating local food supply in the process. They are undeterred because nobody wants to go to war; but how long shall we continue like this? They have removed the natural buffers and shock absorbers that offer us defence in times of food inflation and global food crises; and the monthly “Selected Food Prices Watch” of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in all parts of the country has been showing it.
According to the NBS’s data for May 2022, the average price of 1kg of beans (white, black eye, sold loose) rose on a year-on-year basis by 37.22 per cent from N382.37 in May 2021 to N524.70 in May 2022. Also, on a month-on-month basis, this increased by 1.09 per cent from N519.05 in April 2022. The average price of 1kg of a Yam tuber increased on a year-on-year basis by 37.87 per cent from N269.98 in May 2021 to N372.23 in May 2022.
According to the NBS’s data, on a month-on-month basis, the average price of this item increased by 3.05 per cent in May 2022. Similarly, the average price of 2kg of Wheat flour: pre-packed (golden penny) on a year-on-year basis, rose by 34.92 per cent from the value recorded in May 2021 (N785.87) to N1, 060.26 in May 2022. On a month-on-month basis, it increased from N1, 047.74 in April 2022 to N1, 060.26 in May 2022 indicating a 1.20 per cent rise.
From  the NBS’s data also, the average price of Palm oil: (1 bottle, specify bottle) increased by 42.81 per cent from N593.36 in May 2021 to N847.39 in May 2022. It also rose by 0.55 per cent on a month-on-month basis. The average price of 1kg of beef (boneless) rose by 34.11 per cent on a year-on-year basis from N1, 513.43 in May 2021 to N 2,029.59 in May 2022. In addition, the average price of Groundnut oil: (1 bottle, specify bottle) stood at N1, 040.88 in May 2022, showing an increase of 47.99 per cent from N703.36 in May 2021.
During the monetary policy committee meeting in March 2021, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, adduced that the activities of the Fulani herdsmen was a contributory factor to rising inflation, he said, “This persisting uptick in food inflation was the major driving factor to the uptick in headline inflation”. According to him, this was due to the worsening security situation in many parts of the country, particularly, the food-producing areas, where farmers face frequent attacks by herdsmen and bandits on their farms. Unfortunately, things have gotten worse since 2021. Again, the committee further noted that the hike in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), the upward adjustment in electricity tariffs, and the depreciation of the naira are the key drivers of the increase in core inflation.  Where are we today in the above indices as compared to 2021? There is even a continuous micro increment on electricity tariff, but we dare not talk about the price of diesel, which is heading to N1000 per liter. However, going by the reasoning of the MPC in March 2021, the coming hike in the pump price of PMC might be the last nail that seals the coffin of most Nigerians for good.
But we know that most of these problems are self-inflicted. They are akin to the insane policy failures of President Joe Biden in the US. He has banqueted a thriving economy in January 2020, but in only 18 months the US economy is wrecked. It is so bad that the US is unable to produce its own baby formula, shelves are emptying fast across the county, and recession is already on the horizon. The saddest part is that he blames everyone but himself.
In all honesty, we cannot say that President Jonathan handed a fantastic economy to President Buhari, but whatever state the economy was in 2015 has been upended. Most of those in the cabinet of President Jonathan was indisputable technocrats, whereas, President Buhari’s incompetence and nepotistic disposition gave us one of the worst National Executive Council of all time.Thanks to Buhari, families who were able to eat two square meals are now struggling to eat one. It is sad because we thought that campaign promise meant anything, unfortunately, the repercussions of our votes in 2015 is felt every day on the kitchen table of our wives and our dining tables, and just like Joe Biden, President Buhari, through his spokesmen, Garba Shehu and Lie Muhammed have taken no responsibility for turning Nigeria into a living hell for most of us.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

Still On Open Defecation

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The issue of open defecation was once again brought to the fore at last Tuesday’s inauguration of the 2021 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH-NORM) III Report in Abuja. The report puts the number of people that still practise open defecation in Nigeria at not less than 48million.
Commenting on the report, the Minister of Water Resources, Mr. Suleiman Adamu, said, “The results show clearly that access to basic water supply services is available to 67 per cent of the population, at 92 per cent access levels, the richest households are twice more likely to use basic water supply services than the poorest households with 46 per cent.
“Disparities also exist between urban areas and rural areas, the most common sources of drinking water recorded by households were boreholes/tube wells, and only 11 per cent of the household population use pipe-borne water”, adding that the slow progress being made in improving water and sanitation services was due to population expansion, low commitments from states and impact of COVID-19.
That this huge number of Nigerians still defecate in the open is very disturbing, especially going by the government’s claim at tackling the menace.
Recall that in 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order 009 to end open defecation in the country by 2025 titled “The Open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025 and Other Related Matters Order 2019.”  The order aimed at changing the embarrassing record of the country being the second country with the highest number of people practising open defecation, next to India. Part of the executive order says, “there is a National Secretariat called ‘Clean Nigeria Campaign established in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources Secretariat. The secretariat is authorised on behalf of the President to implement this Order by ensuring that all public places including schools, hotels, filling stations, places of worship, market places, hospitals and offices have accessible toilets and latrines within their premises.”
Three years down the line, has anything changed? How many of these public facilities now have toilets and latrines? At the coming into being of the Order many questions were asked by some Nigerians which are still relevant today – How realistic is it for the nation to eradicate this problem in the next three years as the federal government targets? What plans are there to adequately provide these facilities before 2025? What are the established mechanisms of monitoring the use of existing public toilets and the ones yet to be established?
Again, many people resort to open defecation due to lack of water for flushing. Should we therefore not make water available to the citizens first of all, for our dream of ending open defecation to be a reality? There is also the issue of unstable water tables which makes digging of toilets in some places very difficult and expensive. Was this factored into the plan to rid the nation of open defecation in the next couple of years?
The minister was blaming the inability of the government to provide water on population expansion and others. Shouldn’t this have been factored into the development plan of the country? Year 2025 is just three years away and we are still being given excuses? It’s quite unfortunate. Going by the devastating impact of open defecation on the environment and health of the citizens, shouldn’t more sincere efforts be made by both federal, state and local governments towards reducing its prevalence in the country? Almost every year, the nation battles the outbreak of water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhea, hepatitis and others. Last year, the outbreak of cholera in some parts of the country caused no less than 816 deaths according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC). Experts have described cholera as a preventable and treatable epidemic -prone disease which is transmitted by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. One major cause of water contamination in Nigeria is open defecation. The huge human wastes that daily go into the seas, rivers and lagoons going by reports, is quite alarming. Little wonder in October 2019, Nigeria became the number one open defecation nation globally, passing India. In bushes, in schools, fields and classrooms, in uncompleted buildings, at dumps, walkways, under bridges, excreta are a common sight. It is not unusual to see someone hawking food item drop the item at a corner of the road or close to drainage, bend down, and pull down his underwear to answer the call of nature; neither is it strange to see a commuter bus pull out from the highway for the passengers to excrete at a nearby bush.
Let’s not talk about what obtains in some of our higher institutions of learning and public secondary schools where open defecation is almost a norm. Students are compelled to excrete in polythene bags and dispose off   on the streets or  in the bush either due to lack of water supply, poorly managed toilet facilities or outright non availability of toilet facilities.
At the airports, markets, motor parks and other public places, the situation is not too different. Although, most times, there are public toilets in these places, some people still prefer excreting in the open, thereby polluting the entire environment.  A typical example is the “prestigious” Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.  This is arguably one of the best airports in the country. In terms of neatness, especially inside and at the tarmac, it is next to none.
Move towards the car park,  the whole place reeks of urine and decaying faecal matters. This abysmal attitude obviously, is not peculiar to rural or urban dwellers nor can it be attributed solely to poverty or lack of toilet facilities. I have not forgotten an experience at a workshop some years ago, where all the participants made up of top civil servants, media executives, heads of schools, and other top people in the society gave affirmative responses to the moderator’s question of if there were any of the participants who had not defecated openly before. Some even narrated how they enjoy the natural breeze that caresses them while defecating in the open.
It is therefore,  imperative that Nigerians be educated and sensitized regularly on the dangers of open defecation and importance of proper hygiene because apparently, many do not know and some who are aware, prefer the unwholesome attitude.
Without these challenges being addressed, the idea of eradicating open defecation in the country in 2025 might just go the way of other unrealistic national campaigns. State governments should also toe the line of the federal government by prioritizing the issues surrounding water, sanitation and hygiene which will ultimately make the drive for no open defecation smooth and fruitful. Authorities at all levels should play down on politics which has taken center stage in Nigeria right now and pay more attention on tackling the mounting challenges in the country which are affecting the quality of lives of the citizens.
Meanwhile, as the government is expected to intensify efforts in their role towards solving the problem of open defecation in the country, we as the citizens should complement the government’s effort by dropping our primitive lifestyles that make us defecate anyhow, anywhere.   We should be more committed in taking care of the few available toilet facilities in our offices, worship centers, shopping malls and other public places.  It is indeed  time we improved on our personal hygiene and good sanitation habits.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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