The issue of unemployment in Nigeria has remained a recurring decimal and one of the most critical socioeconomic problems facing the country today. Though, a global problem, both the developed, developing, undeveloped and underdeveloped nations of the world are experiencing it. According to the International Labour Organization, ILO statistics, more than 197 million people globally are out of work, which translates to about six percent of the world’s workforce. According to the ILO, the six percent are the youths, accounting for 73.4 million unemployed. In Nigeria, the story is frightening as an estimated 60 million Nigerians are unemployed, and the World Bank Data puts the poverty level index at 46percent of the population, caused by unemployment.
While the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says that the unemployment rate increased to 23.90 per cent in 2011 from 21.10 per cent in 2010, while the unemployment rate averaged 14.60 percent from 2006 until 2011, reaching an all time high of 23.90 percent in 2011 and a record low of 5.30 per cent in 2006.And when the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announced sometime ago that 1.8 million graduates enter the employment market yearly, the magnitude of the unemployment crisis in Nigeria could not have been better imagined and there seems to be no immediate solution yet. For that huge number to enter the job market annually when a backlog of millions have no job portends grave danger for the country already traumatised by a myriad of problems.
It therefore remains a basic truism that unemployment is one of the greatest challenges facing Nigeria’s democracy today. It is against this backdrop that the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration put in place policies and programmes as well as setting up committees on Job creation which several State Governments also keyed into by initiating programmes on Job Creation. Though findings revealed that corruption, industrial decay, and neglect of the agricultural sector are among many other factors responsible for the unemployment scourge. But widespread poverty, youth restiveness, high rate of social vices and criminal activities are prevalent because of unemployment, and if not controlled, apathy, cynicism and violent revolt might become the consequent.
Thus, as a matter of urgency, government must support Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs. When the Government provides more funds to support these SMEs, more employment will be made and unemployment reduced to a barest minimum. For instance, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, through the injection of innovative ideas and introduction of new programmes, has transformed the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, MSME sector in the country. Therefore, MSMEs are engine of growth worldwide, thus the more reason for Nigeria to accord them due recognition by supporting them with funds at affordable rate.
The Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can also empower the youths who work in those companies. With the skills acquired, the workers can establish their own company and employ others also. It is not only the youths that are empowered in the companies but also the adult workers. According to Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, manufacture more than 90 percent of the products used in Nigeria. This shows that they play vital role in the nation’s economy and so if the economy is to thrive faster than it is, the SMEs which is the driver of the economy constituting more than 50 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, must not be ignored. Government should therefore reduce the huge amount of charge on SMEs so that they can enlarge their coasts. Those who are doing well in Small and Medium Enterprises should mentor others.
Aside this, unemployment can be address using the National Enterprises Development Programme, NEDEP. This is another veritable tool for poverty reduction, job creation, economic empowerment and social security through enterprise creation. This programme, anchored on the one local government, one product, OLOP, potentials are for individuals and groups to go into entrepreneurship to add value in what they are good at.
However, unemployment cannot be wiped out entirely from any nation, but can be reduced. Therefore, the real challenge is for the government to support SMEDAN to ensure total implementation of the NEDEP programme that has the capacity to reduce unemployment drastically in the country. Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, should be made to work more closely with SMEDAN in the areas of finance for MSME startup and expansion using the 220billion MSME Development Fund of the bank.
The other urgent task is for the government to revive the closed factories and import substitutes, as well as mass goods and services that Nigeria currently imports. Every imported good to Nigeria means imported unemployment and exported employment. While every locally produced good means job creation and job retention in Nigeria. According to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Olusegun Aganga, “We need to create a minimum of 1.8 million jobs annually to keep the unemployment level at 33 percent and one major method to sustain the existing jobs and to create new ones is for Nigerian citizens to support the existing and new companies through patronage’’.