By Hopo Reuben
Globally, unemployment is a major issue that governments are confronted with. In Nigeria, the unemployment situation is quite startling.
According to a recent World Bank statistics, youth unemployment rate in Nigeria is 38 per cent, but realistically, 80 per cent of Nigerian youths are unemployed with secondary school graduates mostly found among unemployed rural population accounting for about half of this figure, while Universities and Polytechnic graduates make up the figure.
What seems to be more worrisome is the fact that the nation’s universities and polytechnics continue to churn out more than 150,000 graduates annually and available jobs remain inadequate to keep pace with the ever expanding army of job seekers.
Highlights of the unemployment and underemployment watch for first quarter of 2015 further underscore the pitiable unemployment circumstances in the country. The report states that a total of 17.7 million people between ages 15 and 65 either unemployed or underemployed in the labour force in Q1 2015.
The report further asserts that the number of unemployed people (861,110 people) in the first quarter 2015 was more than the number of employed people within the same period (504,596 persons).
This terrifying unemployment trend in the country has become a recurrent decimal of sort. According to the Bureau of Statistics, in 2009, unemployment figure was about 20 per cent (about 30 million) in the country, but this figure did not take account of about 40 million other Nigerian youths captured in World Bank statistics in 2009.
It thus implies that if Nigeria’s population is 140 million, then 50 per cent of Nigerians are unemployed, or worse still, at least 71 per cent of Nigerian youths are unemployed. This is particularly disturbing and counterproductive because at least 70 per cent of the population of this country are youths.
Being the commercial nerve center of the country and an urban center where everyone is desirous of visiting for possible job prospects and other such opportunities, Lagos State no doubt, have a complex unemployment challenge.
It is in order to frontally tackle this challenge and ensure that the trend is drastically reversed, that the Lagos State Government under the leadership of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has come up with several job creation strategies.
In order to sufficiently demonstrate the desire of his administration to confront unemployment in the State, one of the earliest tasks of Governor Ambode upon inauguration was the creation of the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, Office of Overseas Affairs and Investments (also known as Lagos Global), Office of Civic Engagement as well as the realignment of Arts and Culture with the Ministry of Tourism.
The main goal of this process is to creatively use these new establishments to fashion out ways of creating job opportunities for Lagos residents.
One of is such initiatives is tagged Equal Opportunity for all in a competitive environment which cuts across the five divisions of the state. It is to sensitize Lagosians about job opportunities in the state and the various skills needed to be suitable for such.
Another is an empowerment scheme that is being done in partnership with stakeholders both in the public and private sectors. The main objective is to enhance the employ-ability and entrepreneurship capability of the youth in particular and everyone in general. It is equally meant to harmonize government’s efforts in reducing graduate unemployment.
The pilot effort, which was done in partnership with a faith based organisation is already serving as a catalyst to bring about over 2000 business start-ups and over 8,500 jobs by the Year 2020.
The programme offers a wide range of courses covering 21 ICT Special ICT certificate aligned courses, 58 other ICT as well as 7 employ-ability training programmes.
The creation of the N25 billion Lagos State Employment Trust Fund is, perhaps, one of the most daring moves by any state government in the country to bluntly address unemployment. It is a strategic plan to make an annual contribution of N6.25 billion for four years by which time the fund would have reached the projected N25 billion mark.
Recently, Governor Ambode through the state’s employment trust fund distributed over one billion naira as loans to 705 resident Nigerians ranging from a minimum of N30, 000.00 to maximum of N500, 000.00 on the condition that these beneficiaries would create more businesses with the prospect of employing more people.
Similarly, through the platform of the Office of Overseas Affairs and Investments, the State has attracted more Direct Foreign Investments (DFI) to Lagos state than any other period in the history of the State.
One of such was from a technological firm called Main One Infrastructure Investments which has thus far provided 3, 000 jobs in Lagos State. More of such are already on ground and more Lagosians are being employed.
In same spirit, Governor Ambode was in Nairobi, Kenya in February to woo more foreign investors.
Also, young and old talented artistes are being promoted in the state through the platform of T. H. E.S.E. which is an acronym for Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment and Sporting Excellence.
The 2016 One Lagos Fiesta (OLF) brought together, perhaps, the greatest collection of artistes in the country at five different locations viz- a -viz at Agege, Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu and Lagos Island.
Some of the artistes that performed at the event include King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Queen Salawa Abeni, Dr. Adewale Ayuba, Sir Shina Peters, Harunna Ishola Jnr, Tiwa Savage, Phyno, Falz, Olamide, Dr. Sid, Olu maintain, Big Sheff and a host of others.
The 2016 OLF enabled the entertainment and tourism sectors to receive extensive momentum for growth courtesy high demand for related services and products during and after the event.
The event also produced about 10,000 direct and indirect jobs for different skilled people areas such as lightening, engineering, decoration, carpentry, welding, painting, catering, advertising etc.
Also, the state government emphasis on sports promotion has led to the creation of more jobs for folks in sports related ventures.
The Access Bank Lagos Marathon has run for two consecutive years and has become a huge platform for those in sports business and other related fields to earn a decent living. Equally, lots of Lagosians are being empowered through the various skills acquisition centres in the State.
The state government is also promoting micro- small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which are very essential to tackling unemployment as well as promotion of a strong economy.
Additionally, the state public service has employed teachers and public servants in diverse fields who are now contributing their quota to the growth and development of the State.
Reuben Hopo is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos State.