By Bilkis Bakare-Ogunnubi
Nigeria, the most populous Black Country in the world and the second largest economy in Africa with a population of over 150 million, is endowed with diverse and infinite human, material and capital resources. But years of mismanagement, negligence and inconsistent policies have hindered the country’s economic growth. Although unemployment is now a global phenomenon, but due to the aforementioned reasons, available resources in the country have been underutilized to yield maximum economic benefits. This has complicated unemployment and poverty situation in the country.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria unemployment rate was recorded at 12.1 percent in first quarter of 2016, up from 10.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, reaching the highest since December of 2009. Realistically, 65% of Nigerian population is made up of the youths and this segment of the population is generally unemployed. While secondary school leavers are predominantly affected in the rural areas, making up about half of the unemployment rate figure, Universities and Polytechnic graduates make up the overall figure. What seems to be more worrisome is the fact that the nation’s Universities and Polytechnics continue to churn out more than 150,000 graduates both Bachelor’s degrees and Higher National Diploma annually and job creation has been inadequate to keep pace with the expanding working age population. Recently, the Nigeria Police put up an advertisement for recruitment to fill 10,000 vacancies, but over 1 million Nigerians applied!
The age-long craze for white collar jobs is still a fad among the youths. Rural-urban migration in search of the Golden Fleece has also continued unabated. Urban centres are now over populated by youths in search of so called well paid jobs. This has led to an increase in socio-economic challenges in metropolitan areas in cities like Abuja, Lagos, and Port Harcourt etc. Similarly, poorly skilled individuals are replete in all sectors of the nation’s economy and to address this, acquisition of vocational skills have been identified as tools for moulding employable individuals as unemployed individuals need more skills than they already have to find new jobs.
Various Governments, both at the Federal and States levels had attempted to tackle unemployment, but all efforts at creating jobs for the growing number of the unemployed have yielded little or no result. This is because Government alone cannot shoulder this problem.
With a population of nearly 20 million, Lagos State is burdened with the provision of essential infrastructural facilities including employment for the ever growing army of the unemployed. Although, unemployment is a national challenge, the metropolitan nature of the state complicates its situation. In order to proffer solutions to the lingering crisis of unemployment, the present administration in Lagos State under Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode cemented its desire for an entrepreneurial spirit in the citizens of the state by establishing the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment.
Established on 17th June, 2015, the Ministry is vested with the responsibility of promoting and sustaining entrepreneurship and employment through the effective use of wealth creation strategies and resources by collaborating with all stakeholders. The Ministry’s activities are geared towards creating employment through the creation of enabling environment for the expansion of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the State.In fulfillment of one of his campaign promises and in seeking to redefine solutions to generic challenges of unemployment and wealth creation, the State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, on 5th January, 2016 signed the state Employment Trust Fund into Law and also set up a N25 billion. Employment Trust Fund. The employment fund initiative, applauded by all, is set up to bridge the deficit skill and policy gaps, as well as tackles inadequate financing.
The Fund is disbursed to residents with innovative ideas that can translate into viable businesses which will promote self employment as well as the creation of employers of labour. And for the next four years, the Government will commit N6.25 billion annually to loan given out with moderate interest rate of 3% per annum. It provides financial support to residents for job and wealth creation and also gives equal opportunities to all citizens, as part of his all inclusive governance strategy in the State. Similarly, it is a known fact that Nigerian youths, particularly, University and Polytechnic graduates usually longr white collar jobs, but the prevalent unemployment situation in the country has redirected their focus towards embracing self employment. Hence, in order to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of young Lagosians, the Ready Set Work project was put in place.
The aforementioned is an entrepreneurship and employability initiative aimed at equipping final year students in the State owned tertiary institutions, namely; The Lagos State University, Lagos State Polytechnic and Lagos State College of Health Technology with critical skills to either become employable or become employers of labour. The capacity building programme, an initiative of the State Ministry of Education, is expected to run for 13 weeks (Saturdays) during the second semester in each of the participating institutions, and will be subdivided into three distinct components, employability, entrepreneurship and general module.
*Ogunnubi writes from Lagos.