HIGH unemployment rate has been an issue in modern Nigeria. This has become a matter of concern to all well-meaning citizens. Any government that relegates approach towards addressing this to the background merely plays the ostrich.
How did it get to this point? A society that embraces consumption pattern, promotes wasteful culture and shuns production allows meaningful development slip from their grips with tendency for disaster. Nigeria wittingly or unwittingly did exactly that by taking to consuming habit over productive culture.
The recent dip in economy across the world due to COVID-19 pandemic has only exposed the fragile foundation many economies now tread on.
Nigeria may not be the only country caught in the wilderness of economic conundrum triggered by the pandemic but her case is worrisome given the volatility of her feature. The foreboding hanging loosely across the horizon is how to survive capitulation at this point, given that each faulty step brings the country to the precipice with crude oil price crash providing catalyst for the inevitable doom.
More worrisome is the state of all component factors contributing to her economic growth having their indices bearing down on the red zone.
The Nigerian industrial sector has been all but promising. The sowings of past poor strategic action plans are now reaped in high level poverty across the land, insecurity and widespread hopelessness.
Precious time and intellect of many youths are now more engaged in actions counterproductive to building strong prosperous society than can commend the envy of contemporary nations. Banditry, cyber crime and other unscrupulous acts make the societal order and life is lived in much fear than freedom.
The era of positive thinking in the minds of some class of Nigerians is fast fading into gloom and doom; stifling the creative ingenuity richly embedded in the people which when well utilised could transform the country in record time.
The structures that put regions in healthy production competitiveness seem to have crumbled over the years and a new culture of frivolous spending famed by ostentatious lifestyles mostly exhibited by corrupt elements has become preferred trend.
Constructive criticisms are meant to initiate reforms. Nigeria does not seem to have leveraged on this notion but spends more fortune and time dealing with damage control and seeking unwanton vengeance on critics than seeing things from the lenses of opposing views for better outcomes.
The Nigerian music crooner, Idris’ song, titled, “Nigeria Jaga -Jaga, Everything Scatter- Scatter” released in the days of former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s reign as Nigerian president, sent warning signals clear enough to illicit deep introspective reflections on where Nigeria veered-off at a time, where it is at the moment and where it is headed.
But that was not to be, resulting in dearth of critical elements that sustain growth in the system. Today, the manufacturing sector has dangerously gone comatose. Big Industries are not springing up in places as they did in 1970s down to 1980s. The resources that gave birth to their emergence are still enormous but human factors have grounded them.
The oil boom was supposed to consolidate the economic progress made within the time, using the gains to build on capital projects and invest in more rewarding ventures that would have insulated the system in a time like this.
Now that crude oil price has crashed to abysmal level with infrastructural deficit compounding the situation, COVID-19 pandemic has only come to take responsibility in system already programmed for doom.
The banking sector has blown the lid in what may usher-in torrent of job lossin an era. Access Bank recently indicated move to downsize its workforce. Considering the number of their establishments earmarked for winding down, the exercise will not only see sizeable Nigerians lose their jobs directly but numerous unaccounted compatriots indirectly affected.
Though the intervention of the Nigerian Central Bank on the issue intends to save the day for the envisaged casualties of the exercise, affected workers’ fate still hangs in the balance, given that one cannot say whether circumstances occasioning the sack have been addressed by all parties in the chain.
Bank staff are not alone in this ominous era, insinuations from the aviation industry indicate turbulence in their clime; a situation not heralding any good tidings for hapless workers in the sector across the globe. The German Airline, ‘Lufthansa’ alongside its French counterpart, ‘Air France’ are already considering drastic workforce reduction after posting heavy revenue loss due to COVID-19 over the past month.
Considering that the capacities of the aforementioned airlines in their operations and what they contribute to their economies’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Nigerian aviation counterpart is merely sitting on the fringes of time before expected implosion. The casualties would be employees and society as usual.
The questions that call for quick answers are, what would the labour market look like after likely massive layoffs by these ailing sectors? Did Nigeria not call for low capacity utilisation of her productive class with growing unemployment in the land to compound it at this critical time? Who is to blame for the rising unemployment and widening poverty level?
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have projected likely record recession ever in the next 30 years in Nigeria. What short term and long term plans can the country be said to be articulating at this moment to mitigate this bleak future in-waiting?
Truth remains that there must be survivors after coronavirus scourge. While emphasis is on fighting the pandemic, life after the scourge should also be part of the current efforts.
Nobody can accurately tell how long the world may depend on oil in driving their technology but the signs are clear that someday and soon enough, alternative to oil may take the driving seat. Would that era be an end to any hopes of prosperous Nigeria and the eventual inevitable capitulation?
Perhaps grasping the fact that expected changes cannot come when things continue to be done the same way all the time is salient at this point.
What Nigeria desperately needs now is for all stakeholders in the system to put on thinking caps and transform the country’s opportunities into positivity.
While the burden of unemployment bears heavily on government presently, risking retrenchment on basis of current fiscal contraction is more catastrophic. This option is even more curious when areas to explore and revamp the economy abound.
The government of President Muhmmadu Buhari should be commended for its decision to revamp the railway system in the country. The multiplier effect of this singular sector includes multi billion revenue accruals to the government when efficiently managed.
The much needed alternative transportation system in the country, given the current cumbersome road transportation obtainable cannot be said to be more apt.
The state of roads in the country could be measured with high accidents, loss of man hours, exposure to dangers and other associated harms which commuters experience daily and could be averted if rail alternative is available.
The number of unemployed persons that the sector could absorb when revived questions further why it had delayed till date.
The big question is, why did the system collapse in the first place? If as critical as the sector is to the economy, it was allowed to collapse, what gives government concerns aside from oil? The lip-service paid to establishing and sustaining critical sectors satirises where Nigeria currently stands today.
What not even the present administration can convincingly tell Nigerians is that processes which hitherto stalled the progress of this sector in the past have changed in any way.
From the budget appropriation, approval and implementation down to contracts award, how much have these helped in moving Nigeria forward over these years?
The fact remains that when there is rot in the system, the masses bear the brunt. Nigerian government should be more introspective on effective management of critical sectors that grow the economy than what obtains currently.
The regime of Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian government is still being flayed for frittering away 16 to 21 billion US dollars in the power sector in eight years without significant change.
That would have been a good lesson for successive governments to work with. Citizens want new direction from the existing structures in the system.
They want ease of doing business in the country which efficient transportation is a factor in the chain. Are there hopes that given the financial commitment already done by this government in the sector, the masses could heave a sigh of relief with a rail transportation choice that squarely address existing problems in system?
The good thing is that when these windows are properly harnessed and their resources pooled together, much more employment opportunities will automatically open up. Consequently, it will mull contemplation of workers’ retrenchment which rather than bring any solution, escalates the situation.
Nigeria will survive her mounting challenges despite COVID-19 addition with simplistic approach. If only they should plan ahead, diversify the economy utilising local content initiative and effectively manage available resources; the intractable unemployment challenge will be arrested.