Kano: Caging monster of youth unemployment

unemployment
Nigeria’s most populous state, Kano knows where the shoes pinch when it comes to the issue of youth unemployment. Apart from the reality of violent conflict, which lurks when a huge army of able bodied men and women idle away with nothing to do, there is the threat in terms of high crime wave and the attendant difficulties when a large portion of the potential workforce contributes nothing, but participates in the use of common resources. Incidentally, these realities are further accentuated in a period of biting recession, when the private sector struggles to cope with the dynamics.

In the absence of a vibrant private sector to absorb young job seekers, the attention naturally turns to the government to come up with interventionist measures like youth employment and empowerment schemes, to boost entrepreneurship and create job opportunities. Accessing how Kano State is faring with such schemes, and its broad efforts at tackling unemployment was the focus of a recent parley hosted by the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED). It was agreed that while the scope of the problem of youth unemployment has gone beyond what a magic bullet from a civic agency can solve, the deliberation pointed at approaches and best practices, which if faithfully implemented could ameliorate the situation. The question was therefore asked about how fair, transparent and inclusive youth employment and empowerment schemes in the state are. For CHRICED Executive Director, Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, the current reality of youth unemployment in the country, amounts to a time bomb, which could go off at any moment. He stressed that Nigeria needs to immediately act like a country, which knows and understand that it is currently sitting on a time bomb, given the level of youth unemployment in the land.

He said: “The most fundamental human resource quagmire facing Nigeria as a nation today is the question around what becomes of its mass of teeming unemployed youth. As things stand, millions have passed through the school system, only to be stuck in the labour market. This means we have with us a generation of Nigerians that may never work in all the years of their existence.”

On the way forward therefore, the Executive Director, called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on youth unemployment, and come up with radical measures to address the problem. One idea, which could be explored by the Federal Government, he suggested, involves putting at least N1billion in each of the 774 Local Government for the creation of an industry that would begin to absorb able bodied young men and women in those Local Governments. This he said could begin the process of industrializing the country, while at the same time arrest the endless rural-urban drift that has made Nigeria’s big cities soaked with tension.

A District Head, the Haikimi of Doguwa, Alhaji Aliyu Harazumi, who chaired the conversation, said the saying has always been that youth are the leaders of tomorrow, but he lamented that the authorities are not taking the issue of unemployment serious. He noted that part of the unemployment problem comes from the fact that the youths are only interested in white collar jobs which are not available. He admonished that youths could start with small businesses, which with time and commitment could help them climb the economic ladder. Drawing parallels from the Koran, he said all the prophets that God sent didn’t rely on their followers for their source of livelihood.

Participants however, warned that there were dire consequences if nothing was done to address the high rate of joblessness among the youth. They noted that the fact that the Nigerian state now has to use its military might to confront its own young citizens who have been won into the camps of extremists and terrorists, should be enough warning.

According to the discussants, the terrorist sect, Boko Haram would not have had the hundreds of thousands of recruits it now uses to unleash terror on Nigerians, if education, skills and jobs were provided. The point was also made that other forms of criminal enterprise like the attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta would not have been confronting the Nigerian state as it is currently.

The CHRICED helmsman said: “The stark reality of the abandonment of the youth comes out in bold relief when one considers the fact that the founding fathers of groups like Boko Haram merely took advantage of young Nigerians who could see no future. Truth be told, in the face of non-existent governance, Boko Haram provided these young people who later unleashed mayhem on the country with a false sense of security.

“They succeeded in selling their hateful and blood thirsty philosophy by first filling a void that governments for decades allowed to exist. A close scrutiny of the literature on Boko Haram would reveal how the bureaucracy of the then fledging terrorist sect went as far as providing food and distributing motorcycles to win thousands of youths into their fold. Boko Haram became so sinister in its tactics that it was even using soft loans, what some may call “starter packs” to attract young people who are unemployed.”

Nonetheless, the conversation returned to how the state could ensure fair, transparent and inclusive distribution of employment and empowerment opportunities to the youth. In this regard, an advocacy document created by CHRICED titled the Draft Principles for Design and Implementation of Youth Employment and Empowerment Programmes in Kano State, was identified as a rich material, which contains the right approaches to adopt in designing and implementing such schemes. The principles espoused in the document include the legitimacy and accountability principles, which hold that resources allocated for youth employment and empowerment schemes are the public resources of the people of Kano, and that the state government and its officers hold such resources in trust for the people.

“The state government and these officers are under a political obligation to apply these resources and manage these programmes in a manner that serves the purpose of the people with the utmost effectiveness and efficiency…Arising from the foregoing, the government of Kano State and its officers responsible for these programmes are under a political obligation to render regular, transparent, and verifiable account to the people of the state on their management of these programmes and for their effectiveness in achieving their defined goals.”

Similarly, there is the programme management principles, as well as the distributive justice principles.

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