Opinion: Unemployment, discrimination and rising crime rate

Labour Minister, Chris Ngige

By Abubakar Abdulmusawwir

A United Nations report on Nigeria’s Common Country Analysis in 2016 revealed that she was one of the poorest countries in the world with over 80 million or 64 per cent of her population living below poverty line.

Youth unemployment, at 42 per cent, is paving the way for poverty, crime and terrorism. But nothing much has been done to address this problem that is capable of destroying the society and everything that Nigerians have laboured for.

The earlier the Federal Government realised that unemployment and discrimination compel the people into committing crime to meet their basic human needs, the better for all.

In the last seven years, government spent more than $9bn to fight crime and terrorism, if the government can pump half of this sum of money in seven years into businesses and sectors that can create jobs, the crime rate will fall and in no distant time, terrorism will be a thing of the past.

An insurgent group is using financial incentives to recruit members. Such incentives breed loyalty and encourage people to spy on their communities and provide information on security activities in return for cash rewards. Many of the people are doing so because they have lost their sense of reasoning due to hunger and poverty.

Hunger and poverty affect the functioning of the part of the human brain that determines decision-making, hinder its ability to think correctly, make people to see nothing wrong in spying on their communities if they can get cash to buy food for their sustenance. Our policymakers have forgotten the people at the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder; they only remember them when election approaches. These people that are languishing in our towns are those that are being used for all nefarious activities and recruited for insurgency. This pool of ignored youths would later become assassins, armed robbers, kidnappers and terrorists.

Many Nigerians have stopped looking for jobs because there are no more job opportunities. Some invested a lot in their education to the point of selling their assets and graduated with good results, yet they are still languishing around, and the pain of unemployment has started affecting their well-being and sense of reasoning.

Unemployment affects people’s lives in many ways. It affects their well-being and weakens their emotion and their ability to think straight. Unemployed and underemployed people are more likely to think about and plan a crime than people who are gainfully employed.

It is important to note that small African countries like Mauritius, which has no exploitable natural resources, is not battling unemployment on a large scale. Nigeria has all that a country needs to prosper and we can end our problems by diversifying our economy. In addition to our abundant natural resources, we have a population that is large enough to support businesses.

As it is now, agriculture contributes about 17 per cent of our GDP and provides jobs to about 30 per cent of the population.

If we can revamp our agriculture, what we will get from it can earn us more than what we are earning from oil and employ more than 60 per cent of the population. In Nigeria, our problem is not only unemployment, but also discrimination in the workplace. In most cases, good jobs are given to only children of business tycoons and politically exposed Nigerians. It has become a practice that class A jobs are for class A people, while the hoi polloi go for vulnerable employment opportunities.

Discriminating against someone is as good as telling him to resort to violence or any form of illegality to get what is due him, since he cannot not get it through due process.

Discrimination is like a disease and it affects the economy of any country; it deprives a country from getting the services of its intellectuals. It is the main source of inequality in the non-neoclassical view.

The 2014 Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment scam is one of the ugly cases that we will always remember. About 6.5 million people applied for 4,000 vacant positions and each of the applicants had to pay N1,000 before they could apply for the job, unknown to them that they were applying for a ticket to their graves.  At least 16 job seekers died while many, including pregnant women, sustained various degrees of injuries.

Employment discrimination is not even being discussed in Nigeria because it is the order of the day. This problem needs to be addressed urgently and a lot more still needs to be done. The level of poverty and hardship in Nigeria is unacceptable. Unfettered access to a decent job for all is the only way to combat poverty and its ripple effects on the society. The sooner our government realised that the crime rate rises and falls with unemployment and take adequate measures to curb it, the better for the country. Punch

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