17th June, 2011
The unemployment situation in the country is alarming, but a civil rights crusader, Segun Olutade says there are jobs but they have been taken over by Chinese prisoners
Segun Olutade, the Executive Director of Shelter Watch Initiative, will not remain a happy man until the government finds solution to the problem of unemployment which he sees as one of the greatest challenges facing the country currently.
The man is wondering why artisans in the country are wasting away in the midst of plenty of job opportunities. He is also troubled by the fact that the government and citizens of the country believe that there are no jobs when actually expatriates have taken over even the least of jobs available for the people of the country.
Comrade Olutade said he recently discovered that apart from the Indians who have pushed the countryâ€™s workforce into the labour market, thereby impoverishing them the more, Chinese prisoners have also been continuously â€˜importedâ€™ into the country to work as part of the efforts by the Chinese government to keep prisoners serving various terms in jail busy.
â€œIt is not only in Nigeria that you have these prisoners. They are sent to other African countries. The Chinese government is doing this to keep them busy till they complete their jail terms. It is only in Ghana that they cannot enter because of the regard the government has for its people,â€ he said.
But the case of Nigeria is lamentable. Olutade, a civil rights activist, said he got to know about the alarming number of Chinese prisoners while training some youths on various vocations. In the course of the training, he and his group went to Dangote Cement, located at Ibeshe, Ogun State and â€œrealized that most of the artisans in the place were finding it difficult to get jobs. The local artisans who even had jobs were being paid N1,500 daily as against their Chinese counterparts in that same company who got N8,000 as our sources claimed.
â€œWe also got to know that as a result, there was a protest in 2009 when the local artisans complained that even though they trained the expatriates, they were not earning as much as the Chinese and Indians and the crisis was later resolved by the former Ogun State Deputy Governor.â€
According to him, investigations have shown that Ogun State has the highest number of expatriates, most of whom are illegal immigrants. They have taken over the quarry in the state. He also said Dangote Group alone had well over 3,000 of these expatriates. He, however, added that they were not brought into the country by the company as, according to him, the Chinese government brings them into the country through international companies especially those of Chinese origin. He cited Phenoma Engineering Company owned by the Chinese adding â€œif you go to the CECC yard in Iganmu, Lagos State, early in the morning, you would see hundreds of these Chinese. And within the country, there are over 30,000 Indians doing the jobs our graduates can do comfortably.
â€œGo to Julius Berger and you would realise that most of the artisans are foreigners. I have seen graduates in Nigeria selling groundnuts, selling ice cream and we have expatriates who are not as qualified in chauffeur-driven cars. In Britain, you are rated as second class citizens; in your country, you are again forced to play second fiddle. Go to Idumota, they are already displacing our people.â€
He said he decided to take the fight to the federal government, but he had witnessed a lot of frustrations and lack of will power on the part of the government to act. It was only the late Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, who wanted to act, but according to Olutade, the former President fell ill shortly after and had to be flown out of the country. He died later. He wrote a letter of complaint to President Goodluck Jonathan immediately after he was sworn in. However, several months and 12 letters later, nothing has been done by the current government, though it has been mouthing promises to create jobs.
He said President Jonathan had given the impression that he would act fast on the complaint after he replied one of the letters through his Chief of Staff, Mike Ogiadhome acknowledging its receipt. â€œWe also wrote to the Ministry of Labour and after some time, they told us it was beyond their jurisdiction. We were moved to the Ministry of Finance where Olusegun Aganga (former Minister in charge of the ministry) booked an appointment with us. But on the said day, he disappointed us by not turning up after making us go to Abuja,â€ he said.
Lamenting the effect of the situation, the comrade illustrated the current challenges with the increasing number of almajiris in the north and the problems of insecurity caused by the Boko Haram sect in the country. He said if the government had focused on training them, they would not become a problem to the country today. He expressed fears that this may happen in the south if the issue is not resolved immediately. He said apart from letters to the government, his organisation had also written and even protested to the National Assembly. They were acknowledged by Senate President David Mark and that was the end as nothing has been heard of the issue till date.
He said: â€œWe donâ€™t believe in violence but we are in a country where until the ordinary man is pushed to react unexpectedly, we donâ€™t act. The federal government today loses N900 billion annually as remuneration to foreign artisans where we need less than N10 billion to train our local artisans. We will continue to fight till we are answered. You donâ€™t push people out of their country and bring in outsiders to take over their jobs.â€
Asked about the solution to the problem, he said the problem is not the leaders of the country but those who operate â€˜any government in powerâ€™ kind of policy. â€œPeople like Anthony Enahoro fought for the countryâ€™s democracy. It is now time for us to fight for the dividends. Let the local artisan work and if he is not good enough, retrain him.
As it is now, the states need at least 18,000 youths to take over the jobs of the ageing artisans in the country,â€ he added.