SPECIAL REPORT: Tackling youth unemployment and insecurity in Abia

Posted by Transport & Business Express | 2 August 2012 | 5,020 times

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The alarming high rate of unemployment is one of the vices plaguing Nigeria today with very adverse socio-economic implications. The worst hit by this unfortunate situation are the youth, most of whom roam the streets after their tertiary education.

In a parlous economy where a greater percentage of the employed have to indulge in several forms of corruption to make ends meet, many think the only road to survival by the unemployed is to engage in one form of criminality or the other.

This may account for why many a youth takes to stealing, armed robbery and political thuggery, while some are hired as assassins or rituals killers, to mention but a few. By so doing, they perpetuate insecurity in the land. In fact, mere congregation of a population of unemployed youth constitutes potential threat to security. Experts in psychology and criminology have posited that there is a high correlation between unemployment and insecurity.

Abia State has witnessed and suffered insecurity, with the youth perpetrating over 90 per cent of the atrocities in the clime.

Between 2007 and 2010, Abia was very unsafe as kidnappers, armed robbers and sundry criminals had free rein. They made running government affairs difficult, paralysed the economy by forcing some businesses to relocate outside the state and scared away investors, both local and foreign. The losses incurred in human, financial and material content were quantum.

To save the state from its progressive slide into doom as well as being overrun by the hoodlums, the administration of Governor Theodore Orji invested heavily in security and has continued to so invest to date by procuring equipment and providing logistics for all security agencies operating in Abia.

What is considered the biggest leap in the security efforts by the state is the rehabilitation of the Ohafia Barracks where the 14 Army Brigade is domiciled. The barracks was abandoned after the Nigerian Civil War. The presence of the military has achieved the desired result of reducing crimes to the barest minimum. The combination of forces by security agencies in Abia in their ferocious onslaught against crimes assisted in no small measure in flushing out criminals in the state.

But just as Abians were about to shout hurray, another deadly phenomenon in crime is rearing its ugly head. Oil theft, a conduit through which the state loses billions of naira monthly in revenue, is now in vogue.

Intelligence reports, Governor Orji told traditional rulers from Ukwa West and Osisioma local governments during a parley on how to curb the emerging criminal trend last July 10, reveal that those dislodged from the nefarious kidnapping trade have found a safe haven in oil theft.

The oil thieves’ stock-in-trade includes breaking pipelines, setting up illegal refineries or outright stealing of the crude. It would be recalled that rampant acts of pipelines vandalism forced the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to shut down its depot at Osisioma, near Aba, which serves as petroleum products supply route for the South East and parts of the North.

The closure of the depot, for six years, threw more than 50,000 persons, including marketers, their representatives and those engaged in providing ancillary services or trade, into the labour market.

To arrest the underdevelopment of the state occasioned by activities of criminally-minded youth, the Abia government has been firing from all cylinders, spending on security, huge resources that should have been invested in scaling-up the new impetus in infrastructural development.

The first instinct in confronting the security challenges was to match force with force, hence the huge investment in security of lives and property, which, without equivocation, is a priority of every responsible government.

But in looking for permanent solution, government is giving a human face to the fight against insecurity by designing various youth empowerment programmes aimed at keeping them busy and diverting their minds from evil.

Some of the programmes being implemented by government include recruitment of 4,500 youth into the unified local government system as well as initial distribution of 500 tricycles to youth in the 17 local government areas of the state. The sole objective of this intervention is to provide beneficiaries with a means of livelihood.

Lending its support, the Ochendo Youth Foundation, also rolled out its version of youth empowerment programmes with focus on making beneficiaries self-employed.

These programmes include donation of buses and tricycles (Keke), sewing machines, hair dryers, clippers, refrigerators and generating sets to jobless youths to assist them to set up small scale businesses; training of a number of youth from each local government on various skills as well as paying West African Examination Council (WAEC) fees for a sizeable number of bright but indigent students across the state.

Those regarded as street urchins and never-do-wells are also favoured targets of these gestures.

The foundation, a non-governmental organisation, founded and being promoted by the son of the governor, Engineer Chinedu Orji, has, through its youth empowerment scheme, put smiles on the faces of about 500 young Abians. The scheme has so far been launched in Abia South and Abia North Senatorial zones.

At the launch of the programme in Aba, Chief Chinedu Orji, who has demonstrated that he has a large heart for philanthropy and soft spot for the youth, drummed it into the consciousness of the youth that white-collar jobs were rather scarce nowadays and advised them to focus more on skills that could make them self-employed or employable.

To ensure that more females are carried along in the on-going youth empowerment in the state, the office of the wife of the governor, Chief (Mrs.) Odochi Orji, has equally embarked on skills acquisition training for girls in the fields of computer appreciation, sewing, home economics, etc.

In the oil-rich Ukwa kingdom, Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC) is rehabilitating the economy of the area through youth-based welfare programmes. The agrarian economy of the area was brought to its knee when it served as den for kidnappers who drove even the indigenes out of their fatherland and farmlands.

On monthly basis, youth from the oil-producing areas and other selected beneficiaries from across the state are given stipends to pursue their business interests with experts from the commission monitoring their progress.

Besides, the commission also pays WAEC fees of indigent students and organises quiz competitions among secondary schools in the state, among other youth-tailored programmes.

All these programmes are geared towards keeping the youth busy and shield them from the idle industry where they manufacture recruits for criminal missions and devilish political endeavours.

Any programmes aimed at improving young people’s employability prospects by preparing them for quality jobs and helping others succeed as entrepreneurs are insecurity solution-oriented.

Commendable as the Abia integrated youth empowerment programmes are, the major modification required for greater positive effect is remodelling the dwindling educational system to endow secondary school leavers with skills.

This way, those with special talents but without requisite brains to purse varsity education would venture into businesses where their skills would make them self-employed, employers of labour and wealth creators rather than going to tertiary institutions to while away precious time and fritter away their sponsors’ scarce resources. 

It is heart rending that millions of young Nigerians are unable to find decent work. At the same time, employers cite lack of skills as a major impediment to hiring youth for those jobs that do exist.

Working to fill this gap, Abia government, Ochendo Youth Foundation and few other philanthropic organisations are equipping the youth with life skills and technical know-how.

All these groups should take a step further by connecting beneficiaries of their various programmes to mentors, internships, and job placement services they need to succeed in the highly competitive 21st century labour market.

Those trained to be entrepreneurs should be equally linked to the capital needed to start new businesses.

Global and inter-state Collaborations across sectors to focus greater attention and resources on combating youth unemployment in the state are highly recommended. Cumulative effect of all these efforts, would to a large extent, help in addressing the twin problems of youth unemployment and insecurity in Abia.

According to Director-General of International Labour Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, “only through decent employment opportunities can young people get the chance to work themselves out of poverty. Focusing on youth is a must for any country.”

*Photo shows Chief Chinedu Orji, promoter of Ochendo Youth Foundation, presenting a car to a beneficiary of the group’s youth empowerment programme.

Source: TBE

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