Youth Unemployment in Nigeria - a time bomb waiting to explode

Of Nigeria’s 150 million population 40 million are unemployed. As 45% of the population is between the ages of 15 to 40 years, this means unemployment mainly affects the youth. The Nigerian ruling class is incapable of solving this problem. Only the working class can take on the task of eradicating unemployment.

With over 40 million Nigerians effectively unemployed in a population of 150 million, no doubt Nigeria has one of the highest unemployment figures in the world despite her economic potential. This situation clearly reveals its social essence when we consider it against the fact that Nigeria has 45% of her population between the ages of 15-40 years and due to the extremely low life expectancy of 45 years, only 3% of Nigerians manage to reach the ages of 60 and above. Therefore Nigerian youth are the hardest hit by this menace of unemployment. With this figure in mind, it does not require the wisdom of Solomon to clearly understand why there is so much crime, spates of kidnapping, youth unrest and most significantly, an extremely unstable social economic structure that has hitherto been bedevilling Nigeria.

How did we get here?

The IMF report on Nigeria in 2001 revealed an obvious fact, that Nigeria economy has been effectively stagnant for over 30 years. This is a fact that does not require much research, but what the IMF report did not disclose was why this has happened and how did we get ourselves in this mess. The IMF refused to reveal this because to disclose this would be to indict itself. The IMF-imposed economic programmes since 1980s hugely contributed to the crisis now bedevilling the Nigerian economy and her wellbeing. The IMF advocated and supervised the privatization of major Nigerian state owned companies and in the process over a hundred thousand jobs were lost. Nigerian Airways was completely disbanded and all the staff left in the cold. [FIGURES] Alongside this large-scale and irresponsible sale of our common properties was the mounting foreign debt. The IMF and World Bank opened their vaults for the Nigerian ruling class to keep dipping their hands into, without bothering to find out what they were using the money for. A lot of millionaires emerged within that period. As more money was being made at one end of the social spectrum, more misery and frustration was growing at the other end as workers kept losing their jobs. For over 30 years, the IMF and World Bank supervised this aggressive plundering and fully supported the creation of the economic abyss that eventually revealed itself in their guided report over 30 years later. What you sow is what you reap!

It became popular during that period – and even now we still hear it – to raise the repugnant slogan of “government has no business doing business”. With this slogan, every sector of the economy became completely paralysed. Agriculture, which used to contribute over 40% to our GDP, was neglected and transformed Nigeria to a net importer of all staple foods. The manufacturing sector was almost completely destroyed, from contributing over 33% in the 1970s to less than 1% by 2001.

Many warehouses and factories have been converted into churches. The main sector that significantly benefitted from this collapse is the religious sector. Its membership has multiplied a thousandfold as more and more people could not find an explanation to why a country so endowed with natural and human resources could find it so extremely difficult to feed her own people.

Infrastructural development became a private affair and the motive force behind everything became profit along with its associated greed. Corruption naturally became institutionalized and the state is fast approaching a failed apparatus. The massive debt accumulated rose as high as US$36billion by 1999 and over US$1.5billion were going into debt servicing alone every year. This was the amount that outstripped the budget for Health, Education and Agriculture all combined. This process eventually led to Nigeria becoming a “mono-economy” relying almost solely on crude oil. Oil became her lifeline. When the price is up, the Nigerian economy does well and when it is otherwise, she groans in pain.

Things started looking up again when the price of oil in the international market rose astronomically starting from 2003. By 2007, the price of oil was already above 100 dollars per barrel. In a society that is being run in the interest of the people, this would have been the beginning of favourable turning point for the masses. In a backward capitalist Nigeria, this favourable oil price immediately became a nightmare. The masses commenced fasting and prayer for the price to quickly fall. The Nigerian ruling class started a race for the increase in the prices of petroleum products. The price of fuel rose from 9 naira a litre in 1999 to 65 naira by 2009. What was their reason? The price of oil internationally had gone too high. Capitalism is such an inhumane system that values profit over human comfort and survival. Trillions of dollars were raked in during this period but what was all this wealth used for? Over US$12billion were paid off in debt repayment. This amount would have been enough to solve most of the major infrastructural problems of Nigeria, but “Government has no business doing business”!

What effort has been made in the past?

It is estimated that over 3 trillion naira has been spent since 2003 just to combat youth unemployment. The question is where has this money gone and why does the menace still persist? To solve the problem, the government buys a few thousand pepper grinding machines or five thousand bikes and distributes these to hungry youths numbering millions. These methods give rise to massive corruption and provide room for political patronage. This method has been used for close to 10 years now and what has it been able to deliver? Nigeria has one of the highest percentages of the informal sector of 65% and with this deceptive and clearly unworkable option being implemented by Nigeria ruling class, this informal sector will astronomically grow and further push the Nigerian economy backwards.

Genuine workers’ alternative to the scourge of unemployment

With the extent of human and natural resources Nigeria possesses, she ought not to know any poverty, let alone this extent of unemployment. A capitalist Nigeria is finding it difficult pulling Nigerian youth out of the frustration caused by unemployment simply because it is based on the profit motive. At the base of capitalism are greed and inhuman neglect of the unfortunate condition of the masses in general and the working class in particular. Only a system that values human life over greed and profit can channel the collective wealth of this country towards solving this unwanted societal menace. Only the government of the working class that is based on socialism can successfully end this catastrophe. Only a working class government will as a matter of urgency channel our wealth to build more industries and re-nationalize the already privatized companies. For as long as capitalism survives, unemployment will keep increasing, consequently crime will exacerbate, frustration will become widespread and the system will get more and more unstable. Only a system that values the living over the dead can deliver us and only a working class government can establish such a system.

Source: Workers' Alternative (Nigeria)