Several years after graduation with no prospect of employment, Nigerian graduates take to menial jobs to help them survive
| By Vincent Nzemeke | May 6, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
IN 2010, when Emeke Oliwe graduated from Delta State University, Abraka, with a second class upper degree in Industrial Chemistry, he was cocksure of landing on a dream job. Having acquired the requisite experience as an intern in a multinational firm, he was convinced that he would not stay in the labour market for too long.
But three years down the line, Oliwe is still searching for his dream job. He has crisscrossed major cities of Nigeria to write interviews and meet with potential employers from various organisations.
Frustrated by his inability to secure a good job, Oliwe now makes a living as a teacher in a private school in Kwale, Delta State, where he resides. “I had to take this teaching job to make ends meet. I have been searching for a job since I completed my NYSC in 2011. I have attended many interviews but they all end in disappointment. They promised to get back to me but they never did so,” he said.
Like Oliwe, Regina Othowo has been hunting for a job for almost half of a decade. She graduated with a second class upper degree in Statistics from the University of Lagos in 2009, and has not been able to secure a job in any organisation. Now married with two children, Othowo runs a beauty salon and sells snacks in Iyana Ipaja, Lagos. Recounting her experience in the labour market, Othowo said it was one of the most traumatic periods in her life.
“It was a frustrating experience and I don’t like to remember it. I attended more than 50 interviews in Lagos and other parts of this country and none came through. When I eventually got some offers, it was below what I expected to be paid as a graduate. I got married without a job and it remained so until I had my first child. Since I knew how to make hair, my husband suggested that I open a salon in order to support the family”.
Pathetic as their tales appear, Oliwe and Othowo represent just a fraction of Nigeria’s army of unemployed graduates roaming the streets looking for unavailable jobs. Like the duo, many of them have taken up menial jobs such as hotel attendants, sales representatives and driving just to make ends meet. Those who feel too big to do such jobs have either taken to crime or busy searching for an escape route abroad.
Anthony Efe, a 2009 graduate of the University of Calabar, said he has travelled to the major cities in Nigeria in search of a job that seems to elude him always. After three fruitless years of searching, he pitched his tent with a secondary school in Lagos, where he has risen to the rank of a vice-principal.
“I studied Computer Science but today I’m a teacher. Since I graduated I have travelled to Abuja, Port Harcourt and other cities in Nigeria in search of a job. I pass the aptitude test most times and the employers will promise to ‘get back to you’, but will never do. Although I am optimistic of getting a good job someday, I had to take this job out of frustration because I was tired of staying at home without working.”
Ifeoma Okoli is another graduate who has switched trade because of the challenges of getting a job. After graduating with a second class upper degree in Linguistics from the University of Benin, she had to take a job as a clerical staff in a local church to survive. “My pastor offered me this job after many months of searching for a job in Lagos. Although I just completed my youth service, getting a job has really been frustrating. I took this with both hands because I know people who graduated long before me who are still hunting for jobs,” Okoli said.
The unemployment tale takes an interesting twist when one considers the activities of some agents who take advantage of desperate graduates seeking employment. These agents who are scattered in various parts of the country pose as representatives of some elitist firms and lure job-seekers into parting with large sums with a promise of helping them to get a job.
Discouraged by the testimonies of their senior colleagues, some undergraduates have become apprehensive about what the future holds for them. A few of them have embraced entrepreneurship as a way of escaping the unemployment menace which is continually on the increase.
Olatunde Ogunjimi, a final year student of History at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said his parents encouraged him to learn a trade during holidays in order to become self employed after graduation.
Ogunjimi who now runs a barbing salon on campus, said he took his parents’ advice after his brother who graduated in 2009, waited more than a year to get a job in Lagos. “My father ensures that all his children learn a trade even as undergraduates. I decided to learn this trade so that when I graduate and there is no job, I can take care of myself. I am not a pessimist but the situation in this country requires that one prepares for uncertainties,” he said.
According to data released by Temi Kale, statistician-general of the Federation, there are about 20.3 million unemployed Nigerians. He said: “Nigeria’s unemployment rate is spiraling upwards, growing at 16 per cent per year. The youths of the nation are the most impacted, with a youth unemployment rate over 50 percent.”
Even though Kale explained that the unemployment rate in the country has reduced over the years, government remains concerned on the level of unemployment in the country. The data given out by Kale was supported by records from the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, which shows that a large percentage of Nigerian youths are unemployed.
As parts of the efforts to check the rise of unemployment, the federal government in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO, recently inaugurated Inter-Ministerial Committee on Job Fair to address all the identified barriers to job creation and sustainable livelihood in the country. The terms of reference for the committee includes producing an action plan for the job fair with cost and timelines and arranging venues, date, time, programme, invitees, training session, target industries, companies, schools and youths.
The committee is also expected to build and launch a web platform for entrepreneurship and job fair where employers can put online job openings and job seekers can directly register online. It is equally mandated to build a database for the teeming unemployed youths and showcase successful entrepreneurs.
Samuel Ortom, minister of state for trade and Investment, who inaugurated the committee through Olakunle Sogbola, director of Industrial Development, in Abuja, said the maiden fair was meant “to target widely unemployed youths as other programmes have divergent approach to solving unemployment in the country.” He said further: “It will support industry by creating sustainable working and knowledge sharing platforms and networks which would link the job seekers for local businesses, companies, as well as the needs and options for job seekers. It will also highlight inherent benefits for young individuals who have decided to be entrepreneurs and equally showcase the successful ones with goods and services designed to be competitive locally and globally.”