14th December, 2011
In terms of public security and safety, these are really not the best of times for our dear country. There is palpable fear in the air. The general feeling of insecurity among the populace is at its lowest ebb and the fear of bombs, armed robbers and kidnappers have become the beginning of wisdom as nobody knows when and where the next catastrophe will occur.
Indeed, it has become so bad in some parts of the country that banks and other financial institutions have closed down for fear of armed robbersâ€™ attack. As the menace of militancy in the Niger Delta began to simmer down, gradually, the spate of bombings in the capital city of Abuja and other parts of Northern Nigeria has heightened the level of insecurity that has pervaded the nation in the last decades or two.
The once peaceful city of Jos has continued to be a volatile place and nobody knows when the fire on the Plateau will be doused. The untold genocide going on in the once serene city of Jos is scary.
Unfortunately, it will be an arduous task to extricate the insecurity in the land from the socio-economic challenges that we face as a nation.
Nigeriaâ€™s growing unemployment is of major concern to many analysts and economists as the figures increasingly suggest dwindling potentials. Official figures from the Bureau of Statistics puts this figure at about 20 per cent (about 30 million), but this figure still did not include about 40 million other Nigerian youths captured in World Bank statistics in 2009. By implication, it means that if Nigeriaâ€™s population is 140 million, then 50 per cent of Nigerians are unemployed or worse still, at least 71 per cent of Nigerian youths are unemployed. This is particularly disturbing and counterproductive because, at least, 70 per cent of the population of this country are youths.
Viewing this from the perceptive of the recent events in the Middle East where unemployment and poverty, among others, played a key role in the uprising, one can only conclude that Nigeriaâ€™s unemployment poses a threat to its development, security and peaceful coexistence.
The unemployment crisis in Nigeria is linked to galloping poverty and, of course, this is obvious. But to put Nigerians to work, the solution lies in a reinvention of the nature and purpose of government.
Once upon a time in this country, Nigerians were a busy people; choice jobs were selected by graduates and consequently unemployment low or at best, none existed. In Ibadan, Lagos, Onitsha, Kaduna, Enugu, Port Harcourt, there were industrial complexes where factories produced goods for both local and export purposes, while an army of workers, skilled and non-skilled, daily earn a living from these factories. The industrialisation wave of the 1970s in Nigeria was so phenomenal that government had to introduce a number of measures including the Land Use Act in order to remove obstacles in the path of industries. Companies rushed to the universities every year and later to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), camps to recruit skilled workers. Then, a certificate guaranteed a job and a better life. This was the period when education was seen as a tool of social advancement. Even artisans had jobs to do. There were expatriates in Nigeria. When Ghanaian economy failed in the late 1970s, Ghanaians trooped to Nigeria in search of jobs.
An idle mind, it is said, is the devilâ€™s workshop. The rate of employment in the country is alarming. Over 60 per cent of our youth walk the streets with nothing to do. It is obvious that the repentant militants in the Niger Delta are unemployed youth who have become disenchanted with the society they found themselves and believe the only way to partake in the sharing of the national cake is by taking to crime and violence. This is the main reason kidnapping for ransom has also become a veritable enterprise all over the country.
It is therefore imperative that enough is done to fix the economy, most especially the power sector. A survey of recently apprehended criminals in the country will reveal that most of them are unemployed artisans whose businesses have been crippled by the energy crises in the country.
The best systematic approach to reducing crime in any society is through the provision of an enabling environment for entrepreneurship to thrive and catalyse employment generation. We must begin to make things work. It is therefore not out of place to consider massive employment generation as an issue of major focus on national development and economic growth plan of the Nigerian government.
All levels of government in the country must redouble their efforts in taking off our teeming youth off the streets. Proactive steps must be taken to induce job creation initiatives that are capable of providing employment opportunities to our restless youths.
The agriculture sector is one area where governments across the country could creatively provide employment opportunities. Interestingly, the Lagos State government is already leading in this direction with its Marine Agriculture Development Programme for Accelerated Fish Production. Till date, the programme has created over 6,000 direct jobs and over 35,000 jobs indirectly to cage manufacturers, fingerlings producers, feed millers and sales, fish marketers , processors and storage amongst others with the possibility of specialization. The Ikorodu Fish Farm Estate which has been fully subscribed is currently producing at 70% of its capacity. An average of 3,000 Tones of fresh fish was produced annually from the Estate with over 400 jobs created directly and over 100,000 jobs indirectly. The Rice for Job initiative has equally successfully offered employment opportunities to over 5,000 youths that are currently engaged in rice cultivation and sales across the state. In same vein, the AGRIC-YES initiative, designed to produce first-class entrepreneurial elite farmers, is a three-phased intervention programme that has so far produced over 3,000 elite farmers in the state. Equally, through the stateâ€™s greening programme, a total number of 12,000 people are directly employed, while the cleaning exercise has generated over 6,000 jobs.
The trend and level of public insecurity in the country portend a serious threat to our nationhood. Already, some foreign countries had begun to issue travel warnings to their nationals. The big question then is, what happens to the much sought after foreign investments that may be required to kick start our economy? Nobody wants to do business in an environment where there is crime, violence, strife and political instability. Public security and safety is a necessary foundation for economic growth and social development of any society.Â Aside this, none of us is immune to the losses that may arise from the activities of these undesirable elements in our society.
However, an effective public security cannot be obtained without the active involvement, participation and support of every segment of the society because public security is the responsibility of all individuals, groups, communities, organisations and other units that constitute the state. It is a known fact, in Lagos State for instance, that despite the magnitude of government investment in public security, there are still Herculean challenges that governmentâ€™s resources alone cannot tackle. In as much as everyone in a state pursued varied interests, the pursuit of public security should, nevertheless, be the common goal of all.
The involvement and participation of individuals and non-government actors in the issue of public security is, therefore, a necessity for the actualisation of a secured society.
â€¢Sola Ogunmosunle is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.