NIGERIA is a country where current political leaders are made to carry the can of sins of their predecessors. This was evident in the public reactions to the March 15, weekend tragedy in which 19 of the more than 700,000 applicants who were chasing 4,566 jobs available at the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, died at various test centres across the country. Almost all those who reacted held the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan responsible for the tragedy. They were partly correct because Abba Moro, minister of interior and David Parradang, comptroller-general, who are key officials in the Jonathan administration, bungled the recruitment exercise. There was no justification for them to have invited more than 700,000 applicants to vie for non-existent jobs except that the consultant they retained for the exercise was more interested in the fat commission that would accrue from the millions of Naira raked in from hapless applicants. As the saying goes: The more, the merrier.
Beyond that, the March 15, tragedy was a collective guilt. Everybody who had been in government at any level in the past is guilty of neglect. Some members of the National Assembly who expressed concern over the escalating unemployment rate in Nigeria and warned of an impending Nigerian version of the French revolution or the Arab spring, were in previous administrations which failed to tackle the unemployment problem they met. For instance, when we refer to statistics which puts the number of unemployed youths at more than 20.3 million or 56 percent of the youth population, this figure did not build up overnight. It was not the negligence of the Jonathan administration that caused it. It is a problem that started with past military administrations in the country because they overlooked it over the years. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is now warning President Jonathan of an impending unemployment explosion if nothing is done to avert it, ruled Nigeria for more than 12 years and there is no record to show that he tackled youth unemployment headlong.
The present federal government is fully aware of the magnitude of the problem and is tackling it in various ways. But the efforts pale into insignificance considering the number of youths who benefit from its various employment schemes such as community service scheme, subsidy re-investment programme, graduate internship scheme and youth enterprise with innovation in Nigeria, among others. Try as it would, youth unemployment will not go away as long as the more than 150 universities in Nigeria continue to turn out , every year, several thousands of graduates that the industries in particular and the private sector in general, do not need. There is therefore need for a synergy between the private sector and the universities to enable them produce the manpower the industries need.
Moreover, it now time for the federal government to take a critical look at the country’s education system. The traditional education system which produces graduates who are not marketable does not take the country anywhere. The government should borrow from the experience of the government of the United States of America which had a similar problem sometime in its history. It tackled the problem by coming out with a law that limited the number of high school leavers entering the universities and, at the same time, expanded the school of vocational education in the secondary school system to turn out students with marketable skills. Today, America is the better for it. Technicians and technologists are among the richest people in that country today. Nigeria should learn from countries which had a similar experience and how they successfully tackled it. It is a problem that demands the collective effort of all to tame. This explains why our cover story for this week is devoted to the immigration job tragedy and the various ways the Jonathan administration is dealing with youth unemployment. Vincent Nzemeke of our Abuja bureau office, has done justice to the story entitled: The Unemployment Time Bomb. Enjoy it.
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— Mar. 31, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT