• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Neglecting youth employment in Nigeria could be dangerous!

CareerLife Nigeria trains Port-Harcourt youths on employability skills

It is now commonplace to see young people of high academic prowess, qualifications and intimidating brilliance roam the streets in Nigeria in search of gainful employment that is nowhere to be found. The present economic realities in the world do not seem to promise a better future.

Things are seriously falling apart! No wonder there is a deluge of movement of young graduates from Nigeria to more developed countries in search of greener pastures, only to realise that not all that glitters is gold. It is becoming worrisome to see young graduates from high school and higher institutions getting confused, depressed and frustrated in the face of an unending plague of joblessness.

Year after year, more graduates are being turned out of our universities without hope of securing gainful employment. This situation is not unconnected with some nations’ political leaders who appear visionless, careless, mute and incapacitated in providing solutions to the age-long unemployment saga and the present economic realities. The rate of suicide is increasing, especially among young people who are out of school but are unfortunately readmitted to the school of impoverishment and hopelessness.

In 2023, the Africa’s Transformation Forum was held in Kigali, and one of the outstanding but disturbing statements during that forum was that “Almost half of the 10 million graduates churned out of over 668 universities in Africa yearly do not get jobs”.

Meanwhile, Africa’s youth population, particularly Nigeria is growing significantly and will likely continue to increase in the subsequent years. This could have a devastating effect on the already alarming unemployment rate among youths in Nigeria. It is understandable that the global unemployment rate worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic around 2019 and 2020. Hence, several countries, including Nigeria, became worse hit in the wake of the pandemic.

The aftermath of neglecting youth employment in Nigeria over time has led to the emergence of a youth precariat class. Now, this dangerous class is vociferously demanding equal access to the state’s resources, which up until now has been in the stranglehold of the plutocracy.

Further neglect of youth employment may equal a looming apocalypse that threatens the country’s social and political stability. While Nigeria looks more like a capitalist state or is pseudo-capitalist at the very least, the state and its political and economic coxswains have continued to exculpate an unjust system that hegemonies or prioritises the interests, needs and desires of the plutocrat or the tiny elite over those of a majority that is already weary and hapless, and whose angst at this inequitable system is gradually giving way to suspicion, growing disenchant and vengeance of the youth.

Anyone in doubt about the capability of the youth precariat class in Nigeria should consider the rise of the Boko Haram terror merchants and the ebullient and militant ethnic aggressors. Those who do not join armed groups or social movements have resorted to pursuing a criminal economy that turns them into nouveau riches overnight. These ones have become kidnapping czars, human trafficking couriers and masterminds, hired political assassins, drug pushers, violent street gangsters, cultists, armed robbers, cybercriminal overlords, oil bunkers and the nightmare of the Nigerian state.

Nigeria cannot afford to lose the advantage of its youth demographic bulge. Through the government and public institutions, it must ensure that the legitimate needs of its youth in the areas of employment, income generation, quality of life, and security are prioritised and enshrined as the grundnorm of government business.

Therefore, it is high time to widen the entrepreneurial space so that many more Nigerian graduates and young people interested in building their own businesses can be supported urgently. I lend my voice to the International Labour Organisation and other well-meaning national and international bodies and individuals canvassing for the compulsory monthly basic income payment to the unemployed and precariat class of the youths. It has been done in India and Brazil, and Nigeria can and should spare the money spent on wasteful sprees to give hope to these youths.

Creating a youth bank and supporting this with a special youth fund acting as an angel investment platform can help to provide the needed financing that youth entrepreneurs or gifted and creative Nigerian youths need to have a good chance at life. The government could also consider establishing an Employment Commission focused on attacking youth unemployment in Nigeria. Compulsory free education at the primary and secondary school levels must be sustained or introduced in parts of the country where this has not been done. The improvement and modernisation of the nation’s education curricula have become a prerequisite if Nigerian youths must become competitive in a global world that is ever changing. All stakeholders in the Nigerian project, which includes the business sector, civil society, the faith sector, non-governmental development organisations, and wealthy Nigerians, must all support positive initiatives that can move many, if not all, members in the youth precariat class out of their precarity, guaranteeing them a place in mainstream society where they too can enjoy the full benefits of bearing the Nigerian citizenship.

David Imhonopi is a professor of Industrial Sociology and Human Capital Development at Covenant University, Ota, Lagos-Nigeria. He can be reached via [email protected]