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Unemployment and death of job seekers

Robert Obioha

Similarly, one female applicant collapsed at the venue of the exercise in Edo State but later died in a hospital. In Jigawa State, a male applicant died on his way to the venue of the exercise while in Niger State, two persons reportedly died due to stampede. Several others were reportedly injured in various venues of the recruitment test in all parts of the country.

Reports had it that over six million Nigerians applied for the 5,000 Immigration vacancies nationwide, out of which over half a million was short-listed for the test that turned tragic. All applicants were charged N1,000 each as processing fee. Many Nigerians are asking why poor job seekers would be charged application fees in the first instance by a government agency.

This is, indeed, not the best of times for the Comptroller-General of NIS, David Parradang and Abba Moro, following the deaths that trailed the recruitment exercise organized under his watch. Already some activists have petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan calling for the sack of the Plateau-State born Immigration boss, who took over not quite long ago from the erstwhile NIS boss, Mrs. Rose Uzoma and the Benue State-born Minister, Moro. Both Parradang and Moro would have tough time explaining why the avoidable tragedy occurred. There are other ways of conducting job tests without any such incident. The NIS as a para-military agency should have been on top of the situation being adept at crowd control and crisis management.

It is a pity that NIS has been ridden with corruption in its recruitment exercises. Besides the 2013 botched exercise which was cancelled on alleged corruption practices by top government officials and those of NIS, it is not in contention that past NIS recruitment exercises had followed the same pattern of corruption and nepotism. Recruitments into Customs and Prisons are not spared of such sharp practices either. Those that attended the exercise may not be those that will eventually clinch the job. I was a victim of such use of improper influence and abuse of privilege in the 1986 recruitment exercise. Those that did not attend the exercise ended up getting the job while those that attended and were eminently qualified were left in the lurch. In fact, getting job in Nigeria these days depends largely on who you know rather than expertise and mother luck.

The Immigration tragedy has reinforced the notion of worthlessness of life in Nigeria. The life of any Nigerian can be taken at will and nobody cares including the government.

The NIS tragedy epitomizes our collective national tragedy. That millions of applicants queued up for half a million jobs dramatizes the hopelessness of job seekers in Nigeria and the magnitude of unemployment in the country. The high level of unemployment in the country should worry President Goodluck Jonathan, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other power-holding political parties in the country. The PDP should not share the blame of youth joblessness alone; other political parties should take the blame also. If all the political parties have workable and enduring job creation initiatives, the rate of unemployment in the country would not be as high as it is presently.

The high level of unemployment, especially among the youths, cannot be explained. The nation is still among top oil producing and exporting countries in the world. This is a country where millions of dollars of oil money are yet to be accounted for. This is a country where legislators reportedly earn jumbo salaries and outrageous allowances and where political office holders have unlimited access to the state and national tills and where official corruption is rife and even tolerated.

Nigeria is a country of contradictions. On one level, there are people with so much wealth (very few in number) and on the other, there are many impoverished populace eking a living at less than one US dollar per day. While the stupendous rich are mainly politicians and their business partners, the majority poor are the workers, the peasants and the army of unemployed Nigerian youths and women.

Current government strategies at job creation are not working. Both SURE-P and YOU-WIN are elitist and limiting in their job-creation drives. These are incapable of creating the anticipated millions of jobs. Pity enough; the beneficiaries are relatives and friends of Nigerian politicians. Those outside the political orbit are excluded from such job creation exercises. Government at all levels, federal, state and councils should urgently embark on pragmatic job-creation projects if the current joblessness is to be curbed to a manageable level. If not, the unemployment situation is a time bomb that would soon explode. Only time will reveal its devastating consequences. Those that looted Nigerian patrimony should embark on ventures that would create mass jobs like in manufacturing industries and agriculture. They should stop building uninhabitable housing estates, universities, hotels, super markets and filling stations. Those that stash such loots abroad should repatriate them home now and help in the job creation ventures.

The NIS tragedy should be investigated and those responsible for the incident duly sanctioned. Government agencies, especially, Customs, Immigration and Prisons should evolve credible and fair methods of job recruitment. The current methodology that led to untimely and avoidable deaths is reprehensible. No government can watch while its youthful population is decimated through unwholesome job recruitment exercise.

The signal emanating from the Immigration job test tragedy is that Nigeria has a volatile unemployment situation in its hand. It must do something urgently to ameliorate the situation. This is not time for preachments or blame-game. It is time for concerted action against unemployment in all its ramifications. It is also time to consider some allowance for the unemployed.


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