| By Anayo Ezugwu |
THE federal government has been advised to use agriculture and youths empowerment programmes to solve the unemployment challenges facing the country. The advice was given at the first annual lecture of Freedom Online in Lagos, on Thursday, February 16, by Governor Okezie Ikeazu of Abia State, who was the guest lecturer.
According to him, Nigeria has the largest fertile land in Africa and should make use of it by involving its large population in agriculture to solve the unemployment crisis in the country. Governor Ikpeazu, who delivered the lecture entitled “Unemployment: How Do We Tame This Monster?” said irrespective of the country’s populations, the nation still depend on imported foods to feed its population.
The governor, who was represented by Ude Oko Chukwu, deputy governor of the state, said government at all levels should encourage private sector and investors by giving them tax incentives and tax holidays to enable them employ the youths. “Unemployment in Nigeria has led to many social vices that we witness in our society today and needed to be tackled by government at all levels with serious attentions.
“According to Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, NBS, 31 million Nigerians are without job as at September 2016 and 3.7 million Nigerians joined the labour market between January to September 2016. This number is alarming. Government has a leading role to play in reducing unemployment in the country.
“It is the duty of the government to make the agric sector attractive for the youths and government should begin by encouraging single digit interest rate for the youths to access capital and make land available for them.”
According to Ikpeazu, if government can resolve the issues of wrong educational policies, poor power supply, wrong government policies, corruption, unattractiveness of agriculture and difficulties in accessing loans unemployment will be a forgone issue in the country.
In his keynote lecture, Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State, said government need to make a deliberate effort to encourage industrialisation because it is very difficult to run a business in Nigeria today irrespective of size. He said that as a governor in Ogun State, he encouraged industrialisation by giving five years tax holiday to investors, which made most companies in Lagos to move their productions to the state.
“When I assumed office in 2003, I said that one thing that will destroy our nation is unemployment. In 2003, we had only 15,000 civil servants, 15,000 teachers and 12,000 civil servants at the local governments. But the tertiary institutions in the state graduate hundreds of thousands of graduates yearly.
“We encouraged those graduates to go into agriculture by giving them lands to farm and building 14 farming estates in the state. Our success then was 20 percent. I, therefore, say that we must encourage our youths to farm by creating attractive incentives for them.”
In his welcome address, Gabriel Akinadewo, managing director/editor-in-chief, Freedom Online, said the focus on how to tackle unemployment in the country was because unemployment has become a monster, threatening to consume the nation-state called Nigeria.
“In Freedom Online, we strongly believe that unemployment leads to poverty, insecurity and other social vices. Nigeria’s political, economic and social fabric is disintegrating because of this time bomb. Something urgent must be done and given the type of mono-economy we run in this country, we believe the government must lead the way so that unemployment can be reduced and eventually eradicated.”
Other dignitaries that attended the event are Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos, represented by Idiat Oluranti Adebule, deputy governor of the state; Godwin Obaseki, Edo State governor, represented by Tawio Akerele, chief of staff in the state; Dakuku Peterside, director general, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, represented by Gambo Ahmed, executive director, commercials, NIMASA, and Olabode George, member Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Board of Trustees.
Others are Ademola Osinubi, managing director, Punch Newspaper; Eric Osagie, managing director, The Sun Newspaper; Funke Egbemode, managing director, New Telegraph Newspaper; Musa Lawal, secretary, Trade Union Congress, TUC; Gani Adams, national coordinator, Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, and other represented journalists in the country.
— Feb 16, 2017 @ 19:45 GMT