Sunday Magazine

Unemployment: Nigeria’s ticking time bomb

• How unemployment fuel insecurity, instability –Criminal psychologist

• ‘Job creation only solution to insecurity, crimes, secessionist agitations’

• Third of Nigeria’s 69.7 million-strong labour force unemployed –NBS


• Job seekers number’ll keep rising as population outpaces output expansion –UN


• Industrialisation, entrepreneurial drive crucial to solving unemployment crisis –PwC


The expectations of the citizens in 1999 that democracy will afford them good job opportunities with improved standard of living have currently been proved out of reach. Instead, the gap between the rich and the poor widens as the level of official corrupt practices exacerbated, leading to a number of agitations, separatist movements; violence, insurgency, kidnapping and robbery, among others, which have thrown the country into the worst set of insecurity. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports


“The poor cannot sleep, because they are hungry, and the rich cannot sleep, because the poor are awake and hungry. We are all affected by deep disparities of income and wealth because the political and economic system on which our prosperity depends cannot continue enriching some while it impoverishes others.”


These are the words of a renowned Nigerian economist and scholar, Prof. Samuel Aluko, who was then the Chairman, National Economic Intelligence Committee (1994-1999), while reflecting on the activities of the unsatisfied persons whose basic needs are being denied of them by the government, which presupposes to provide and protect them under the social contract.


According to him, the society, the rich, the poor and the government, are all affected by the activities of the poor, who are awake for lacking the means of satisfying their needs, especially food; hence seeking alternative ways to earn livelihoods and making their lives meaningful.


A situation at Ojota, Lagos, few days ago, where a motorist, Jeff Anneke, in an SUV was approached by a hungry-looking young man and demanded money from him, is a true reflection of Prof Aluko’s position, when he said the poor cannot sleep, because they are hungry, and the rich cannot sleep because of the activities


of the poor, who are hungry. Mr. Anneke was a clear picture of a rich man going about his normal business not knowing that a certain hungry man was ahead of him at the Ojota link road from the Expressway. His SUV was spotted by this hungry youth and he approached him for money.


Not the N100 kind of money but a ‘big money,’ according to the young man. The idle mind, who felt that the rich in his SUV has a hand in his deplorable situation and pounced on him aggressively to point of rejecting a thousand naira offered to him by the motorist, ordering him to give him ‘big money’ or risk wrecking of his side mirror, which he had started struggling with on seeing the N1, 000. For the rich (motorist) to have his sleep and perhaps, have his life unthreatened, he had to part with a thankless N2, 000.


Unfortunately, those who were hungrier than the tout came out while he was still struggling with the vehicle’s mirror and collected the money from him by beating him up.


The rich, who was startled by the incident, neither had any connection with the man, nor knew others, who joined him afterwards. He felt that nemesis had caught up with the man as he watched him from slowly flowing traffic being beaten by others. He added: “I felt my God had caught him for taking my money. He was greedy and wanted to spend the money alone and they beat him and took the money. This is the situation we are in today, in the country, where unemployment is promoting all manner of crimes, violence and criminality.


No one is safe. Police had to redeploy anti-traffic robbery bikers to check traffic robberies.”


A sociologist, Dr. Philip Ojora, said unemployment is a big problem in the country, especially with the youth unemployment which forms the greatest, saying that the youth who ought to spend their time on one vocation or the other, making money, if were gainfully employed now find crime as a vocation after their hearts and exuberance.


He insisted that unemployment has the answers to the widespread insecurity and violence plaguing the country today, saying that no man will watch himself being starved to death when there are alternatives and options, whether good or bad to feed his stomach.


“No matter how good and disciplined a child will be, when you starve him with food, a child with no record of stealing will steal food or your money to quench that basic need for him to be alive even when he knows that he will be mercilessly beaten. So, you don’t deny a good man all life basics and still expect him to act within blameless context. No,” he added.


A criminal psychologist, Dr. Candyfidel Okoye, said unemployment is a major condition that makes the idle minds vulnerable due to their inability to find a meaningful life, hence resorted to banditry, kidnapping, violence, robbery, terrorism, violent and peaceful demonstrations, and separatist agitations in all regions in the country to make a statement.


He argued that there is a nexus between unemployment and insecurity pervading across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, saying that when people are jobless and have no food to eat, hunger will push them into desperate moods to do anything to stay alive, which will affect even those with good employment.


“Life is meaningless to them because they never had one and they are ready to die or even kill anybody that will want to stop them from eating. You may deny them shelter; they can stay outside, under the bridge but never play with their stomach.


Even the Holy Bible said all man’s effort is for his belly. “What do you think caused the discovery and ‘looting’ of several warehouses where COVID-19 palliatives were stockpiled? Hunger is the reason if you remember how the first warehouse at Monkey Village was discovered.


If you want to deal with insecurity, first deal with unemployment. Expanding your military frontiers or expanding Correctional Service Centres can’t solve the big problem,” he said.


Sunday Telegraph learnt that one of the most legendary ideas in the history of psychology is located in an unassuming triangle divided into five sections and referred to as ‘Pyramid of Needs.’ This first saw the world in an academic journal in the United States in 1943.


The ‘Pyramid of Needs,’ was the work of a 35-year-old Jewish psychologist of Russian origin, Abraham Maslow, who had, since the start of his professional career, looked for nothing less than the meaning of life and its purpose. He suddenly saw that human beings could be said to have essentially five different kinds of needs.


He held that man started with a set of utterly non-negotiable and basic physiological needs, for food, water, warmth and rest to make life meaningful. “We have urgent safety needs for bodily security and protection from attack. But then, we start to enter the spiritual domain. We need belongingness and love.


We need friends and lovers, we need esteem and respect and lastly, an urge for self-actualisation – living according to one’s full potential and becoming who we really are,” Maslow said.


Unfortunately, these five basic needs that make life meaningful appear to be lacking among Nigerians, especially the 33.3 per cent of unemployed youths roaming about the streets and roads of Nigeria, seeking unavailable jobs while facing the worst of hunger.


“Under a democratic nation, it is assumed that the government is organised to serve the will of its citizens and, as a corollary, citizens are obliged to follow the laws and mores of the nation, as long as the government is seen to fulfill its mandate and legislation in accordance with the social contract,” said Ani- Ukwu Uche, a historian and lecturer at the University of Nigeria Nsukka.


He stated that under the social contract, Nigerians deserve good job opportunities, but the expectations of the citizens in 1999 that democracy will afford them good job opportunities with improved standard of living have been proved unrealistic, saying that the gap between the rich and the poor widens as the level of official corrupt practices exacerbated.


“While it is unarguable that unemployment and poverty are not sufficient variables in explaining heightened insecurity in the country vis-a-vis insurgencies in the northern part of the country, there exists a strong connection in unemployment, poverty and prevailing insecurity in all regions of the country,” he said.


“The experience of Muhammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia in December 2010, arising from unemployment, which later sparked off a popular uprising in Arab world dubbed ‘the Arab Spring,’ confirms this position that there is a link between poverty, unemployment and widespread disgruntlement,” he added.


He noted that the combination of Marxist, Relative-Deprivation and Frustration-Aggression theoretical frameworks for analy-sis of unemployment, poverty, Boko Haram, banditry, herdsmen killings and terrorism, insecurity in the South West, South-South and South East should be espoused.



For Mr. Odion Ebong of System Workforce, Lagos, Nigerians are hungry with no money to buy food for their family, which is the basic need of a common man, and has resulted into pockets of crime here and there with no solution.


“Insecurity has taken hold of this country due to unemployment. Sometimes, when we talk about unemployment, we forget to mention underemployment, which is as worst as unemployment because some of those underemployed are not happy with their organisations and they are always the best recruits of corruption and criminality.


“These are the people who connive with other criminals outside their company to defraud the company. Some of them use companies’ facilities to do their individual personal business.


They steal and sell companies property but these are not the reason for anyone to go into criminality.


However, the reality is that everyone does not handle challenges the same way. “Some people’s minds are vulnerable when they are faced with difficult challenges and they can do anything to get out of that situation. If we must address the insecurity situation in this country, we must first of all, deal with the cause of the insecurity which is mass unemployment for the country’s active force.


“If a mind is busy, he doesn’t have the time to think crime because he’s thinking of how to improve on his career to achieve self-fulfillment, except for those whose DNA are wired that way since there are certain crimes proven to be hereditary, especially most of the violent crimes as the criminal psychologists would say.


“But riot is the language of the unheard. With what is happening in this country, we should expect more protests, riots and demonstrations, except the issue of corruption and mass unemployment are addressed logically.

The police cannot help in this situation because they too are hungry and indulge in their own criminalities. Has cybercrime ended even with the number of cybercriminals arrested and jailed by EFCC and sister agents?”


A security expert, who currently serves in Nigeria Secret Service, spoke in a condition of anonymity, and said the only one solution to the choking problem of unemployment in the country is an urgent creation of mass jobs to absorb unemployed youths to keep them busy without involvement in any form of crimes.


“The high rate of unemployment in Nigeria is fueling an elevated level of insecurity and all manner of crimes within the country. If the government refuses to create meaningful and gainful employment for its citizens, especially the youths, recruitment of law enforcement agents to deal with insecurity would appear like horse trading,” he said.


“If the government decides to expand the four walls of the country’s correctional centres and police cells across the country, insecurity will continue to be at its highest level unless the government decides to do the needful. Jailbreaks we witnessed around the country will continue as these active forces locked up in detentions will keep on strategizing,” he warned.


“The further destruction of people’s places of livelihood which has become a common place in the country since the past few years, should be discouraged, whether by the state of Federal Government as this exercise is denying a number of citizens who are gainfully employed their right to livelihood and the society will be at the receiving end,” he added.


Sunday Telegraph learnt that while Nigerians cry for job creation to take the unemployed youths off the streets, industries, factories and businesses are dying, churning out more people into the job market and increasing the ever-rising unemployment rate in the country. Industries are dying due to cost overhead, multiple taxes, lack of infrastructures, especially electricity, which has become a jinx to the country.


Due to the ongoing demolition in the in Bayelsa State, which has rendered so many people unemployed, as well as the growing unemployment in the country, the youths in the state are now roaming around the street, going to newspaper stand to debate headlines and while doing this, some are ever ready for any kind of protest that will erupts. In Enugu State,


Sunday Telegraph learnt that one noticeable pastime of unemployed youths in the state is betting offices and viewing centres.


Aside from betting, it is also observed that some of the youths when not in betting offices, are in cyber cafés engaging in one illegal online activity or the other, such as Internet fraud otherwise called ‘Yahoo, Yahoo.’ In Ekiti State, areas like Atikankan, Odo Ado, Ojumose, Adebayo in the capital city of Ado Ekiti are the base of unemployed youths, where they loiter; engage in robbery, petty stealing and all sorts of crimes.


It was learnt that residents are often scared of passing through these areas especially in the evening or at wee hour for fear of being attacked by robbers and thugs who are in their teenage years.


In Kwara, the unemployed youths hang out in different locations within the Ilorin metropolis, particularly at the various Indian hemp smoking joints, shanties and some beer parlours in obscure areas.


This is not peculiar to the state capital alone but also the three senatorial districts of the state. It was also learnt that the youths also hang out with some unscrupulous politicians who take the advantage of their unemployment status to use them against their perceived enemies, giving them peanuts in return for dastardly services rendered.


Some of them hang around with land agents to collect illegal fees. The unemployed youth refer to themselves as professional politicians as they are ready tools to settle political scores against political enemies. They are seen in ceremonies, particularly of eminent personalities to pick pockets, tamper with parked vehicles, among other dirty activities.


According to the National Bureau of Statistics, a third of the 69.7 million-strong labour force in Nigeria either did nothing or worked for less than 20 hours a week, making them unemployed, according to the Nigerian definition.


It stated that another 15.9 million worked less than 40 hours a week, making them underemployed, insisting that less than half of Nigeria’s labour force is fully employed. A report published in NBS’ website revealed that Nigeria surpassed South Africa on a list of 82 countries whose unemployment rates are tracked by Bloomberg with Namibia leading the list with 33.4 per cent, while Nigeria followed at 33.3 per cent in the three months through December.


“That is up from 27.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, the last period for which the agency released labour-force statistics,” the statistics stated. For the United Nations, the number of people looking for jobs will keep rising as population growth continues to outpace output expansion, saying that Nigeria is expected to be the world’s third most-populous country by 2050, with over 300 million people.


However, a highlight of the country’s unemployment figure is alarming, according to the world body, leading to fear that the country under this high level of unemployment will soon be facing the worst set of insecurity despite that law enforcement agencies’ clampdown on the criminals and lawful protesters even as the United Kingdom’s government said Nigeria’s democracy may not survive till 2023 due to insecurity being fueled by youth mass unemployment.


According to the report, the number of persons in the economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years of age) during the reference period of the survey, Q4, 2020 was 122,049,400.


This is 4.3 per cent higher than the figure recorded in Q2, 2020, which was 116,871,186. The number of persons in the labour force (people within ages 15 -64, who are able and willing to work), it was gathered, was estimated to be 69,675,468.


This was 13.22 per cent less than the number of persons in Q2, 2020. Of this number, those within the age bracket of 25-34 were highest, with 20,091,695 or 28.8 per cent of the labour force. It was learnt that the total number of people in employment (people with jobs) during the reference period was 46,488,079.


Of this number, 30,572,440 were full-time employed (worked 40+ hours per week); while 15,915,639 were under-employed (working between 20-29 hours per week).


This figure is 20.6 per cent less than the people in employment in Q2, 2020. More so, the unemployment rate during the reference period, Q4, 2020 was 33.3 per cent, an increase from the 27.1 per cent recorded in Q2, 2020. The unemployment rate among rural dwellers was 34.5 per cent, up from 28.2 per cent in Q2, 2020, while urban dwellers reported a rate of 31.3 per cent up from 26.4per cent.


However, for the period under review, Q4, 2020, the unemployment rate among young people (15-34years) was 42.5 per cent up from 34.9 per cent, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group declined to 21.0 per cent from 28.2 per cent in Q2, 2020.


These rates were the highest when compared to other age groupings. Under State disaggregation, Imo State reported the highest rate of unemployment with 56.6 per cent; this was followed by Adamawa and Cross River States with 54.9 per cent and 53.7 per cent respectively.

The state with the lowest rate was Osun in the South- West with 11.7 per cent. For underemployment, the state which recorded the highest rate was Benue with 43.5 per cent, while Lagos State recorded the lowest underemployment rate, with 4.5 per cent in Q4, 2020.


Hence, a total number of 12,160,178 did not do any work in the last 7 days preceding the survey. As at December, 2020, there were about 170 higher institutions in Nigeria.


While 43 are federal universities, 48 are state and 79 are private universities as of 2020 but with 20 universities recently approved by the Federal Government, the number stands at 190 universities.


More so, the admission data released by JAMB shows that the nation’s universities admitted a total of 444,947 students; polytechnics and monotechnics, 96,423; colleges of education 69,810; and innovation enterprise institutions, 1,377 as at June 2020 An unofficial number has it that Nigerian tertiary education institutions produce over 600,000 graduates every year apart from Nigerian graduates who studied abroad who come home to compete for jobs.


This figure does not also take into consideration those undergraduates who dropped mid-way and others who didn’t go to school at all.


According to PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited (PwC), some of the factors that account for the rise in the unemployment and underemployment rates include the low level of industrialisation in the country, slow economic growth, low employability and quality of the labour force, slow implementation of the national labour policy, in addition to lack of coordinating labour policies at the subnational level.

It noted that the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria is not easy to solve, but believes there is a path forward, saying there must be a commitment to labour programmes enshrined in the NESP and the National Employment Policy. It said: “Labour programmes are not solely enough to absorb the current stock of unemployed Nigerians, let alone the new population that will join the labour force in a few years.

This is where economic reforms come to play. Fiscal labour initiatives can only complement economic reforms that promote industrialisation and the growth of MSMEs in reducing unemployment.

“Industrialisation and the entrepreneurial drive are crucial to solving the unemployment crisis in Nigeria; and again, both factors are preconditioned on the performance of the economy and government’s willingness to ease the process of doing business. “Finally, as a recommendation, improving the skills of the Nigeria labour force can reduce the unemployment rate.


This also depends on the educational institutions in Nigeria, and the quality of the curriculum, especially in the light of STEM and the fourth industrial revolution.”

However, through Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP), the Federal Government is targeting 5 million jobs through agriculture and food security programmes; 1.8 million jobs through mass housing strategy; 250, 000 jobs through solar power strategy; 774, 000 through National Public Works programmes.


Others are 1 million jobs through outsourcing services in the technology sector; safeguard 300, 000 in 100, 000 MSMEs through guarantee take off Scheme; sustain 500, 000 jobs in 50, 000 in SMEs through SME survival Funds and create 296, 000 through road construction and rehabilitation by FERMA.

Additional reports by: Pauline Onyibe, Adewumi Ademiju, Kenneth Ofoma, Muhammad Kabir, Steve Uzoechi and Olufemi Oni




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