On a rainy Thursday, at the Ladipo Motor Spare Parts in Mushin, Lagos, a well-dressed young man was trailing and wooing a would-be customer from the nearby Toyota Bus Stop to all the stops the supposedly potential customer made along the half-kilometer stretch of the market.
The scene became interesting and drew more attention from passersby when the would-be customer, covered from the rain by an umbrella, decided to call off the mission, but was politely challenged by the young man already drenched in the rain.
“Oga, we have whatever you want to buy in our warehouse over there, as long as it is motor spare parts, old or new,” the young man said.
On getting to the warehouse and making further inquiries, the once cheerful customer became gloomy on hearing that the young man, a graduate of Geology, is among the hundreds of hustlers who without no money, no shop and no items of their own, are just hanging around the market to convince buyers on preferred shops to buy from, just for a meager commission from the shop owners.
In a natural anger over the plight of these jobless guys, the customer fumed, “Wasting generation and nobody cares!”
Well, the hustler is not alone in the market. There are thousands of jobless young people who are coming to similar markets across the country every day to ‘hustle’ rather than roaming about the streets and constituting nuisance.
Hence, the customer’s rhetorical statement of ‘wasting generation’ sufficed.
Nigerian major cities are filled with youths who, for nothing reasonable to do, gather in groups very early in the morning when they should engage in productive ventures, playing Ludo, Whot, Snooker, Draft and other games, just to while away their time.
With about 53.40 percent of youths unemployed, according to youth unemployment rates released by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2022, the reason many youths are roaming the streets is obviously because of no jobs.
As well, a March 2023 report by Foundation for Investigative Journalism, revealed that the 53 percent youth unemployment makes Nigeria world’s second worst after South Africa, which has 61 percent youth unemployment.
The rate of unemployment has been increasing every day as more universities churn out graduates in the labour market, and apprentices on graduating, are looking for money to start their own businesses. With the development, the number of youths roaming the streets is alarming.
Despite the security, social stability and poverty threats the menace poses, little has been done to improve employment opportunities for the youth, lamented Youths In Action, a youth-focused non-governmental organisation.
According to the organisation, Nigeria’s ability to create new jobs at a sustainable rate is yet to compensate for its population size of over 200 million people, with the youth population of about 151 million, accounting for 70 percent of the entire population.
Aggrieved by the development, Samuel Onikoyi, a Nigerian academic in Brussels, Belgium, frowned over those he called ‘yesterday’s men’ who are sitting tight on their positions and opportunities that would have depleted the rate of youth unemployment in the country.
“A few years ago, I was contracted by a Nigerian university for field research and I was shocked that most of the people on the project were older lecturers. I further discovered that in a certain department, 60 percent of them were people from 45 years and above. I was also disappointed when one of them told me in defence that the youths don’t like teaching because it does not give quick money,” Onikoyi said.
Truly, there are many opportunities that would have been opened for the youth across all spheres of the economy, but some people selfishly sit on them, denying the unemployed opportunity to earn a good living.
“If we had implemented the Stephen Oronsaye’s Report on the Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Government Parastatals, we would have reduced the number of people still hanging on their jobs, and give more youths opportunity to work,” Ayomide Aderigbe, a retired federal civil servant said.
According to Aderigbe, Oronsaye’s 800-page report was meant to cut down on the cost of running government, and also boost the federal workforce with fresh blood that will improve efficiency at all levels, but those who thought it would not favour them kicked against its implementation till date.
“Ghost workers are still there, some deaths are not recorded and diseased workers still earn salaries, some earn Federal Government salary and are still in their state government’s payroll under different names and arrangements.
“So, if the government can address all these, there will be more job openings for youths of this country who are roaming the streets due to lack of jobs. I pity them and especially parents who are supposed to be collecting back from their graduate and working-class children, but are still giving them pocket money for job interviews and upkeep,” Aderigbe decried.
Aaron Nnodi, former commissioner in Abia State, who now lectures at the state university, decried the job situation in the country, where many falsify their age, documents and apply other manipulative means to stay longer in service.
“While in government, I had issues dealing with civil servants; they are smarter than you think and are the reason any government will move forward or not. The politicians are passersby, but the civil servants do the manipulations; they know the job openings and will be discreet about it because they don’t have candidates or are scared of being overshadowed by younger staff members.
“The system has to be overhauled to remove those not needed, the ghost workers and those in two or multiple paid employments. I had a case of some people running thriving businesses at Ariaria International Market in Aba and still staff of some ministries in Umuahia then. It may still be happening and denying many Abia youths huge job opportunities,” the senior lecturer said.
Monday Ochulo, a youth leader in Delta State, noted that the irony is that the children of the elite are still the ones being offered good jobs, while those who truly need jobs are roaming the streets.
“They said we have job quotas in Niger Delta Development Commission, Chevron, Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, CBN, and other organisations, but the positions are occupied by the children of the elite from Niger Delta because the poor youths even with their first class degrees are never invited or considered.
“The poor are the ones still suffering everything in the country and all the job promises during election campaigns are now given to someone in Lagos, or London, who did not fight the dirty fight for election in Warri, Asaba or Abraka,” Ochulo decried.
But Ononye Ikediashi, a lawyer and entrepreneur, noted that those calling the shots across the country are usually older and challenging them has been tough for the youths and even the government because that means going against the establishment.
“It will take sustained efforts and challenges to unseat some of these entrenched interests that are holding on to opportunities meant for youths. It will take more than #EndSARS to do so and lives may be at stake. Imagine waking up one morning to say no more ‘Agbero’ in Lagos, no more local Bureau De Change, no more militancy, these have backups from the ‘powers that be’ and they are the ones you are fighting and not their foot soldiers,” Ikediashi said.
He also blamed the youths for their lingering predicament, noting that many Nigerian youths misbehaved during the last election and have not learnt their lessons.
“Some people boasted that they will buy the youths over and they did; if not why will the youths scuttle the opportunity they had during the last election to change the country’s leadership for good. If the Nigerian youths are sufficiently angry, their sustained action and refusal of crumbs from politicians will prove them serious and things will change including more job opportunities for them,” the lawyer concluded.
While the economy bites harder and unemployment rate increases, quick wins, according to many who are concerned about the predicament of the youths, is to unseat those on jobs meant for youths, increase youth quota on all jobs in the country, and give more job opportunities to indigent youths.