Insight

Graduate unemployment: Seeking better living through scrap metal

The Nigerian university system annually turns out thousands of graduates in various discipline into the labour market, but among these very few are lucky to find the ever elusive jobs. Why millions of graduates across the country are still waiting for white colar jobs and a few who are connected to the powers that be have gotten jobs, many have resorted to doing odd jobs after waiting in vain just to stay afloat and keep their heads above water.

One of such young graduates trying to eke out a living through legitimate means, no matter how undignifying is Nweke Makojo Nwali. Nwali, 31, from Ukawu, Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State studied Philosophy and Religion at the Ebonyi State University (EBSU). He graduated in 2014. Since his graduation, he has been looking for a white colar job, but to no avail.

He even tried his hands in politics and worked for some prominent politicians in the state thinking that he will get help from them and change his fortune, but that too has not yielded much result. While many of those he worked with for the politicians were able to get jobs, he was not so lucky, as he could not find a job for himself. Dismayed and discouraged, he decided to move to Abuja, the nation’s capital to hustle and there he started selling fairly used clothes and was able to raise some money and returned to Ebonyi State.

As a Philosopher, Nwali thought of what to do with the little money he raised from selling the fairly used clothes and decided to go into scrap business. Scrap business is one business that people, especially graduates will not like to venture into, but Nwali had a different view of it and decided to engage in it.

He started moving from one dustbin to another, house to house and open places to pick scraps, sell and make money to meet his economic needs. From the scrap business, he was able to raise money to buy forms for his Masters Degree programme. Today, Nwali is studying Peace and Conflict Resolution at National Open University for his Masters Degree, while also continuing with his scrap business.

He said his desire is to immediately commence with his PhD programme after the Masters Degree. According to him, this he must achieve before he clocks 35. Apart from furthering his education, he also pays his siblings’ school fees from his scrap business. New Telegraph spotted him in his dumpsite at Onueke-Ezzama-Oshiri- Ohaozara road looking tattered. He said he is not ashamed looking like a mad man as a graduate and that all he cares about is how to earn a living. “People feel ashamed to venture into this business, people don’t have any regard for this business. Some people brag; I am a graduate, I will not do this, I will not do that.

For me, I always tell some of my guys that comes around me that the worst I can do is to take my bath and start hanging around, going from one politician’s house to another looking for daily bread, whereas I know what to do to make my money. Anything that I make my money from is the only thing that gives me joy, I don’t feel ashamed of this business, I am proud of it and I can enter anywhere and buy my goods.

“If you are a graduate, don’t think that you have arrived. If you depend on your certificate, you will not make it. Waiting for jobs is as good as wasting your time. If you are a graduate or aspiring to be, if you are a corps member, go and learn a trade, look for what to do to sustain yourself, don’t wait for jobs as a graduate and that is what I always tell my friends.

I dress like a mad man and I don’t care, all I need is how to make my money. If I come back, I will take my bath and chill for the day,” he stated. According to him, he was living with somebody before he started the business, now he has been able to rent his own apartment and furnished it to his taste, because the business is giving him what he wants. “I was living with somebody, but I have been able to rent my own apartment and furnished it to my taste.

I have also been able to be paying my siblings school fees through this business. It has not been easy, but there is nothing like being determined in life, being determined to make it. Since government is not helping matters, I have to help myself and do everything possible to achieve my aim, at least before I will clock 35, I will do everything possible to have my PhD despite all odds. With this my business, I am expecting to have my PhD and that is my dream. “I take care of my mum with this business. I am not yet married, but I am hoping to get married by God’s grace through this business.

I am making my plans and hustling towards it, because I will not say that the cash is there, but all I need is to double my hustle because it is the gain that I will make that I will be able to do that. I need a helper, somebody that will be able to fetch water for me to take my bath and give me food after hustling. Not when I come back from work, I will be doing these things.

“My expectation in this business in the next five years is if God is on my side, I will be able to raise money and build my house and produce at least three graduates in my family and that is my prayer. All I need is money to be running this business effectively.

If I get money, I will be able to be loading to company direct. I am not loading to company direct, I load and sell to my friends because expenses to company is very high. “What led me into this business is the way I was maltreated in politics by people I have worked for. I have worked with so many politicians that I wouldn’t like mentioning their names, so that they will not feel that I am insulting them. I even lived in Abuja with one for months and till I left there in Abuja, he couldn’t do anything for me until I came back to Ebonyi State.

“I joined politics again in 2018 and did everything possible to make sure I make it through politics, but it seems as nothing is going well. Its every day you come to their compounds and if you want to go home, they will give you N500, sometimes N1,000. N1000 cannot help me or help my siblings.

I have my younger ones I am training in secondary schools and the one I am paying his school fees in College of Education, Ikwo. So, this is where I make my money. If I go out, I hustle everyday. So, it is very tough, but at least, I can beat my chest that I can feed myself and feed my younger ones. We are six in the family,” he said. Nwali described the business as very lucrative, but requires enough capital, adding that his major challenge was lack of capital and called on government to support him to be able to make the required gains in the business. “I started this business after my graduation in 2014.

In 2015/2016, I ran out of cash and travelled to Abuja. I stayed in Abuja and came back 2020 December. I was selling 2nd hand clothes in Abuja and from it I was able to raise money. I decided to invest in this scraps business since it is going better than the second hand clothing business. I started this scraps business again in February this year and this is the third term I am loading market to sell. It is going very well. “My major challenge in this business is finance. At least, I have gone to many of my friends to lend me money to be paying them 5% interest every month. But each time I got to them, they will be making jest of me.

So, it seems as if my life depends on them, so I withdrew from going to beg money from them. I have gone to several of my friends, my political lords, people that I worked for and met them for assistance, but to no avail, to the extent that the little land I purchased back then at Ishieke which I used as collateral which they didn’t even accept, I decided that I will not sell the place, because we have suffered a lot and it is what I got when I graduated from the university and I cannot dispose it carelessly to anybody.

“This work is very hard and the only thing I always do is that each day I finish working, I take drugs. After working without taking medication, you will not be able to wake up. If you wake up in the morning, all your body will be paining you. It is a every tedious work, especially me that doesn’t stay in one place, I run up and down everyday and I carry iron, it’s a very big challenge, but I don’t have option than to be taking the risk and be getting what I want. “The business is a very lucrative one if you are determined to do it, but people don’t see value in it. I served somebody for three years and six months in this business, before I went to the University.

I served at Ogun State, I served my master there and that is why I have passion in the business and I couldn’t leave it. It is a business that if you start with N1million, in a year you will make double of that money if you actually know what you are doing. “This business is a business that you must be friendly with people to run.

In Onueke here where I am based, I am friendly with people. You must be friendly with people in this type of business, because it is like they are giving you food and for somebody to call you to come and buy market, such a person loves you.

So, I make friends with people, I associate with them just to make sure I get what I want. If you are hot tempered and you can’t control it, you can’t get customers. You only get customers by being friendly to people and everybody. “I have customers everywhere; I have in Uburu, I have in Ukwu, I have in different places, people that buy market for me. I go to many of them, I share money to them, they buy market for me and here in my dumpsite, people bring market for them to buy. So, that’s how I buy. At times, people call me in different locations and I pick my bike and go and buy from them.”

The story of Nwali is the same with that of 32-year-old Enyi Michael, a native of Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. Michael, a father of two, studied Physics and Chemistry at the prestigious Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State and also graduated in 2014.

He has searched for a white colar job since then, but has not been able to secure any, he then decided to go into the selling of foodstuffs, like beans, rice, groundnut and melon, he buys in bags and sell to his customers in retail. But when it appears the business was not giving him what he wanted, he decided to join Nwali in the scrap metal business with the aim of making some money to boost his foodstuff business. Michael, who lamented the high rate of unemployment in the country, blamed Nigerian leaders for graduates’ woes. “Our leaders are not doing us well, they are not helping us at all.

Somebody will suffer and become a graduate and such a person will not get job. What is happening in Nigeria today is very bad, they no longer give our graduates job unless you are their relatives or you have money to pay to be given jobs. They are part of the problems we have today.

If they will change their bad attitude, graduates unemployment will be reduced.” He advised graduates to stop being idle and find something to do. “My advice to graduates today is to find something doing, they should stop waiting for white colar jobs that are very scarce now. They should find something doing, because God may from it bless them, graduates should stop depending on government jobs which are now limited.

“Being idle is not good, our youths should find something doing even if it is Agriculture. I am a farmer as you see me and I have been doing well in it too. Instead of a person to be idle, it is better such a person finds something doing because if you don’t do that, you may start stealing, from stealing to other crimes.

“We have graduated from different universities without jobs and that is why we resolved that we will not be idle since government is not remembering us, we resolved that we must be doing something instead of engaging in crimes the way some youths have done which has landed them in trouble, though some of them are succeeding in their crimes, it is better one finds something doing than being idle which is very dangerous. “Time has gone when you depend on white colar jobs.

If you depend on it, it will not come unless you are connected or ready to pay any amount they ask you to bring to give you job when there is employment opportunities,” he stated. He described the business as capital intensive, risky, but a good business and explained that lack of good capital has been his major challenge in the business. “This business is good though there are many risks in it. People use the fact that we are in their place to intimidate and harass us. We have been severally intimidated and harassed. There was a time they took us to the police station that we were buying stolen things, but at the end, we were vindicated and released.

“I am a graduate; I studied Physics and Chemistry at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. I graduated in 2014 and since then, I have been looking for job. This is why I decided to be doing this scrap business to be helping myself instead of being idle or engaging into crimes. “This business requires enough capital and if I see money, I will expand it, because if you put good capital in your business, you will be making gains.

But, lack of good capital is the greatest challenge I have in this business. This business looks very dirty and common, but requires enough capital, it is something you must have at least N1million for a start,” Michael stated. Unlike Nwali and Michael, Anyigor Ifeanyichukwu, 27, is an O’ level holder, he is also in the same line of business. He serves as the manager of Nwali’s scrap business hoping that one day luck will smile on him to become a manager of his own. He said he has looked for jobs with his O’level certificate for many years and has not been able to get one Rather than being idle or engaging in crimes, he chose to join the scrap business.

He said he started in January this year and has been doing well in it. He described the lack of capital as the major challenge facing scrap business in the country and called on government at all levels to support youths who engage in meaningful ventures with capital to excel in life. “I started this business in January this year, I started it because of lack of job in Nigeria today. I have looked for jobs in many places without getting any. I even travelled to Abuja with my friend to look for job, but we didn’t find any. We decided to come down to our state, Ebonyi to look for something to do and here we are today doing scrap business and I am not ashamed of doing this business. “There is hand of God in this business, God is blessing the work of our hands. We have been doing well in it, feeding ourselves, family members and solving our other problems.

The only challenge we have in this business is lack of capital, we don’t have enough capital. We need capital in this business to boost it,” said. He however decried the incessant harassment by policemen on those along the business. “Policemen have been harassing and intimidating us and it is another challenge we face in this business. There was a time they came and said we bought stolen items and we were arrested. On the way, they released us and collected the sum of N22,000 from us and dumped us on the road.

“We buy motorcycles that have documents, we buy them as scraps. We don’t buy any item that does not have document, but policemen keep disturbing us here, extorting money from us. This is one of the major challenges we are having in this job,” he opined.

Speaking on the challenges of youth unemployment, a cleric, Rev. Paul Udogu said lack of employment for graduates have led to many graduates engaging in social vices such as 419 or yahoo yahoo scam, kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, as according to him, an idle finger is the workshop of the devil.

He called on the Federal Government to fulfil its millions of job promised to the people of the country when it was campaigning to take over power in 2015. Udogu, an Anglican Bishop of Afikpo Diocese, Ebonyi State in his Presidential Address/Bishop’s charge during the 5th synod of the church held at its Cathedral in Afikpo, Afikpo North Local Government Area of the state, said, “yearly, our tertiary institutions are graduating thousands of students without the government making any plan to absorb them into the labour force.

“Many brilliant youths/graduates are unemployed. This has led to many of them engaging in social vices such as ‘419’ or yahoo yahoo business, kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, because an idle finger is the workshop of the devil. “We are yet to see the millions of job this present government promised Nigerians during the electioneering campaign. The #EndSARS protest by our youths has come and gone, yet our government has refused to learn lessons from that.

“The money our corrupt politicians and leaders are stealing and enriching foreign countries with is enough to build industries and establish companies and services that can engage our youths. Civil society, private sectors and religious organisation like church should collaborate with the government to create jobs for our teeming youths,” he stated.

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