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Looming danger


  • Unemployment rate scary but N-Power scheme, if well managed, could reduce its impact


The disclosure that over five million candidates have applied for the Batch C of the Federal Government’s N-Power programme, which is expected to enroll only 400,000 beneficiaries, has brought home poignantly the level of desperation into which the unemployment blight is pushing our youths. It also shows the sheer magnitude of the Nigerian youths in the labour market.

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, which unveiled this last week in a statement issued by the minister’s special assistant on strategic communication, Halima Oyelade, said specifically that 5, 042, 001 youths applied for the latest batch of the scheme before the registration for the exercise closed.

In a related development, 441 First Class graduates in various fields have queued up to teach in Oyo State secondary schools. They were among the candidates who applied for the computer-based test for the employment of secondary school teachers, which commenced in Ibadan, last week Tuesday.

Chairman of the state’s teaching service commission, Pastor Akinade Alamu, who made the announcement while monitoring the exercise, noted that the interest of the First Class graduates in teaching was a significant turnaround for the education sector in the state. Such is the level of desperation among our teeming job-seeking youths that they now grab any available strand that has a semblance of employment. The stark reality is that as thousands of graduates are discharged into the labour market every year by the various tertiary institutions, the unemployment bracket widens, leaving the motley to chase the little available job spaces.

The immediate macro-economic consequence of the burgeoning unemployment rate is deepening poverty, as the mass of despondent job seekers continue to depend on their parents and guardians, most of whom, assailed by the harsh socio-economic environment, are themselves barely able to eke out a living.

Apart from the economic angle, the unemployment bogey has a direct security challenge. As President Muhammadu Buhari noted recently, high poverty stemming from joblessness adds fuel to banditry and Boko Haram radicalisation. Both pose existential danger to the country. We are witnesses to the orgy of killings and other despicable acts being perpetrated by these vile elements in many parts of the country.

Indeed, joblessness produces restless youths who in turn vent their egregious spleen on the hapless society. Government should, therefore, do something urgently about the problem. And to address the challenge, it must first check the monstrous haemorrhage in the system that fritters away scarce resources that could have been invested into building infrastructure to provide jobs.

N-Power is, no doubt, one of the attempts at tackling the unemployment challenge. The scheme must, therefore, be carefully tracked to ensure it does not derail from its original goals: It is not a permanent job. It is only a stop-gap for beneficiaries to exit to set up their own businesses or land better permanent jobs based on their newly acquired skills.

The programme should be more vigorously pursued to create a new crop of Nigerian graduate and non-graduate entrepreneurs, that, complemented by better infrastructure – stable power, improved network of roads and a good, modern rail system – should create a big pool of jobs.

The high number of the N-Power applicants is alarming but that should be a bother only in the short run. The scheme should pull down the number with time, other things being equal, since it should create private-sector, skill-driven jobs rather than expand government’s bureaucracy.

Of course, having First Class graduates snap up secondary school teaching jobs could be a boost to secondary education, as the obviously elated chairman of Oyo State Teaching Service Commission had enthused, given the envisaged enhanced, quality teaching, but again, that should be in the short run. It is latent that the situation would have been different if the First Class graduates had better options. Such brains are better utilised to strengthen the manpower pool in the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.


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