By Emmanuel Onwubiko and Queen Onwughalu
Something very unusual in Abuja happened on Monday June 19th 2017.
This incident has to do with a young man in his early thirties who was so well dressed that he successfully mingled with other business executives and government officials at a particular five star hotel in the central business district of Abuja.
But the clean dress of this smiling young man was only a façade because right inside this man was a groundswell of worries and poverty- induced anxiety.
He sat very close to us during the tea break but apparently wasn’t allowed to partake in it because he couldn’t produce his official invitation.
This young man looked at us and gestured to us that he hadn’t eaten since the last 24 hours.
But we told him that we have just few cash to buy fuel for the car but that if he wouldn’t mind eating the remainder of the food of one of us but he gladly jumped at our offer and before you could say Jack, this guy had swallowed all the meals we passed on to him from one of us.
This scenario is a testament to the crude reality of the effects of economic recession and unemployment. On daily basis in our official function as human rights defenders, we come in contact with a variety of young person searching for sustainable means of livelihoods.
At the last count, our Non-governmental organization has built a data base of curriculum vitae of hundreds of young persons who drop them off every day in our office looking for openings of any kind for them to be gainfully employed. Few years back, we were compelled to write to the then Labour and Employment minister Chief Emeka Wogu to ask that he set up a functional data bank of genuinely unemployed youth in Nigeria and he assured us that his office will actualize this aspiration. But as we write this joint article we can report that no such project is in place even when it was once a component of one of the annual budgetary projections. A data bank of jobless youth is critical because scientific statistics helps in proper placement of job seekers in their appropriate places when vacancies exists in both the public and private sectors. Then entered the economic recession which means that unemployment has ballooned out of control.
Youth unemployment in Nigeria is indeed a time bomb that is ticking and threatening to explode with devastating consequences if no deliberate but workable actions are adopted by all and sundry to reverse the trend.
But is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Is there the faintest possibility that officials of government that run the economy can confidently overcome these challenges?
Well, the statistician general of Nigeria Dr. Yemi Kale and the finance minister Mrs. Kemi Adeosun seems to be singing contradictory tunes on the question of when exactly the current economic recession will end.
The end of economic recession could significantly signpost the beginning of good development for millions of our unemployed youth because once the productive sector becomes vibrant it means that more hands would be constructively engaged. But we don’t seem to know when this blistering monster of economic recession would end.
Whilst the director General of the National Bureau of Statistics Dr. Kale is of the view that recession would abate by next year, the minister of finance Mrs. Adeosun appears to be more interested in the political angle of the response to the question by optimistically saying it will end soon.
Optimism alone doesn’t solve economic recession or depression. Be that as it may, it seems the Finance minister is anchoring her optimism on the year 2017 budgetary projections.
Incidentally, the major government agencies that are expected to stimulate youth employment have just been allocated appreciable quantum of capital budget but the problem is with the implementation going by the often known tradition whereby capital budget of most ministries often witness a little less than fifteen percent implementation profile yearly.
The minister of budget and National planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma of the current government recently published a citizen budget guideline for the just signed 2017 budget which we received directly from his office.
From this booklet, the following cheering news are contained: the Niger Delta Development Commission would receive N64 billion from the statutory transfer, the universal basic education gets N95.18billion,Science/Tech-N41 .7b;Youth/Sports-N5.44;Defense ;N139.29b;Education-N151.92b; Health -N55.61; Interior-N63.76b; Social Intervention-N150b; Agriculture-N103.79b; Water Resources-N104.24;MITI-N81.73b ;Transport-N241.71b;Works,Power/Housing-N553.71b. We will return to these specifics shortly.
First, we make haste to emphatically state that unfortunately, the Federal government plans to proceed with the privatization of such publicly owned assets such as the liquefied Natural gas (LNG) and the Nigerian national petroleum Corporation. LNG is unarguably Nigeria’s best run public enterprise.
This move may create unemployment and may end up in the transfer of our national assets to few privileged individuals with connections to the powers-that-be..
We say this because in the citizens’ guidelines to the current budget given to us, an information shows that already government has earmarked N35 billion as revenue expected from sales of government property and privatization proceeds.
You may then wonder how cheap these refineries and other national assets are about to be sold away. This is sad and pathetic, if you ask us.
There is however nothing to show what government intends to do to re-invest this paltry proceeds into other productive ventures that could create job opportunities for our large army of jobless youth.
This is because in the same 2017 budget this government is going cap in hands to foreign lenders to borrow. A total of N1.66 trillion is budgeted for debt servicing.
We know that this debt servicing and selling off of national assets are two items that would benefit the cronies of government officials and contractors who usually sponsor candidates for elections.
We say so because if you read through a particular item in the book on economics edited by Simon Cox, it will become clearer that selling off national assets at the long run may not necessarily create employment opportunities for those who need these lifesaving openings amongst the vibrant young population.
In the book titled: “Economics: making sense of the modern economic”, the writer argued thus: “A fashionable strand of skepticism argues that governments have surrendered their power to capitalism- that the world’s biggest companies are nowadays more powerful than many of the world’s government.”
“Democracy is a sham. Profits rule, not people. These claims are patent nonsense. On the other hand, there is no question that companies would run the world for profit if they could. What stop them is not governments, powerful as they may be, but markets”, they submitted.