BY … Kate Halim and Vera Wisdom Bassey
Chidinma Ifediba is tired. She is fed up hunting for job. When she graduated from the university four years ago with a second class upper degree, she was optimistic about her career path. But all her high hopes have been dashed by the biting unemployment situation in Nigeria.
Right now, Chidinma is selling recharge cards, soft drinks and snack just to keep body and soul together. Her daily routine involves getting up at 5am to prepare her products. She then puts them in a wheelbarrow, put the drinks in a cooler with ice block and positions herself at the bus stop close to her parent’s house at Ojulelegba, Lagos.
For her customers who enjoy her daily delicacy, she’s just a young woman trying to make ends meet, but she considers herself an unfulfilled woman who has not fully realised her life’s dreams. She hopes that one day, luck will smile on her and she will get a job. Until then, she remains an accidental businesswoman.
Chidinma is not alone. She is among millions of Nigerian graduates who are unemployed after struggling to scale through the university, polytechnics and colleges of education and came out with good degrees.
Many Nigerians are used to seeing these graduates parading the streets looking for paid employments years after leaving school and observing the mandatory national youth service. No matter how hard many of them struggle, make postulations and position themselves, they seem not to be making headways as unemployment rate keeps rising in the country.
Some of these graduates have perfected the art of flooding mega churches just to get connected to their prospective employers. While some have been lucky in this regard, others still wobble in the face of unemployment.
Their family members and friends are not left out of the hunt for jobs. They keep calling, sending messages and even visiting friends and family members to see if there is an opening in their organizations.
Sometimes, people close to them would stop picking their calls or responding to their messages. They do that not because they are wicked or heartless, but because they have no jobs to offer.
Scary unemployment statistics
In March 2016, The National Bureau of Statistics released the country’s labour statistics for the fourth quarter of 2015 with the report putting the country’s unemployment rate at 10.4 per cent.
In the report, the bureau explained that the 10.4 per cent in unemployment rate for the fourth quarter was an increase of 500 basis point over the 9.9 per cent recorded in third quarter of 2015. It said as was the case in previous quarters, unemployment and underemployment was higher for women than men in the fourth quarter of 2015.
For instance, the report stated that while 12.3 per cent of women in the labour force (those between 15‐65 willing, able and actively working or searching for work) were unemployed in Q4 2015, another 22.0 per cent of women in the labour force were underemployed in Q4 2015.
On the other hand, 8.8 per cent of males were unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2015, while another 15.7 per cent of males in the labour force were underemployed during the same period.
It reported that Nigeria with an unemployment rate of 10.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015 has a better unemployment rate than in 66 countries but worse than 111 countries, including 23 African countries which have unemployment rates lower than 10.4 per cent.
The report reads in part, “Unemployment is not just a Nigerian problem. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) on whose recommendation most countries in the world unemployment methodology is based including Nigeria, states that 201 million people globally are unemployed and this may rise to 219 million by 2019.
“With eight million Nigerians technically unemployed (not including the remaining 14.4mn underemployed), this means four per cent of the world’s unemployed are Nigerians.
“If we add the number of underemployed in Nigeria in the interest of seeking full time and gainful employment for Nigerians, then Nigeria will represent about 14 per cent of global unemployment.”
Why there are many unemployed graduates
Lack of employment options and opportunities for Nigerian graduates cannot be ignored. But when severely probed, human resource experts and management consultants fire back that many of Nigerian graduates are unemployable.
Mr. Ayodele Ogunleye, a human resource personnel with one of the technology companies in Lagos stated that many unemployed graduates lack the required skill to be employed.
He said that while getting a University degree is important, it is also an essential requirement for a graduate to be able to boast of a particular skill. This is because many graduates have their certificates to show but what will make them stand out is actually developing a stronger point of acquiring a skill.
Ogunleye added that employers are obviously tired of seeing same set of individuals with same qualifications turning up for interviews whereas they are in need of individuals that can stand out.
For Mrs. Rita Ajubah, a management consultant, many graduates are unemployable because they are very impatient and concerned about making big money immediately instead of focusing on how to add value to the company that wishes to hire them.
She stated that the intensity with which these youngsters focus on their salary package leaves much to be desired, talking about work ethics. They forget that success is built over time and with hard work, perseverance, dedication and focus.
‘’They forget that these employers are out to employ graduates who are keen on learning on the job aside what they have learnt in school. Companies these days are more focused on employing people who can readily bring ideas to the table on how the company can beat the competition and not someone with low reasoning capability who won’t even be able to answer extremely trivial questions.”
Ajubah noted that graduates are expected to develop themselves so that they can be referred to as worthy and employable graduates, and not half baked graduates who cannot think outside the box.
Mr. Mark Babatope, another consultant said that sometimes, many graduates are still unemployable because of some prospective employers’ unrealistic demands. Some of the requirements leave almost no room for fresh graduates. Applicants are expected to be a particular age, possess a particular degree and even possess years of experience.
‘’How can a fresh graduate possess experience, if he or she has not been given the opportunity to prove their mettle in the first place? Nigerian employers should be kinder to fresh graduates. That is why they train these graduates following their employment or probation period just to teach them the intricacies of their new jobs.’
Desperate alternatives they explore
Many Nigerian graduates who are tired of waiting for jobs have been pushed into taking drastic steps to end their joblessness. While some of them have gone ahead to learn new skills or go for refresher courses to increase their chances of getting good jobs, others have taken desperate alternative routes to making ends meet these days.
These second set of people have taken jobs below their educational qualification just to make sure they don’t starve to death. They have kept themselves busy by engaging in unorthodox jobs and starting out businesses.
Many graduates now ride commercial motorcycles popularly known as okada just to make money even though it was the preserve of people with little or no education in the past.
Mr. Christian Bello is from Adamawa State. He is a young graduate from the University of Maiduguri. After two years of endlessly trudging the streets of his state capital in search of employment, he solicited funds from his family members to buy a motorcycle.
He said that Okada business is risky but it keeps him alive until the will of God is done and he gets a good job to take care of his three siblings who are looking up to him for moral and financial support too. He came to Lagos in search of a greener pasture but luck is yet to smile on him.
According to him, when he went for an interview, he was denied employment because he had no godfather to pursue his case. At the end of the day, he was unable to get the job even after he was interviewed. The position was reserved for someone else who knew someone in the company. That experience of over a year ago shattered his hopes of a promising tomorrow.
‘’I don’t like this job but what will I do? I am gradually becoming a full-fledged okada rider with my certificates in the house. I ply Mile 2, Maza Maza axis. I am happy earning a living but if offered a better job, I will willing accept.’’
Another graduate, John Adamu lives in Alakija, Lagos. He passed out of the university five years ago but he’s yet to a job. He also resorted to riding okada to fend for his young family as he got married last year. Even though he says that okada business does not boost his intellectual ability, he has refused to remain unemployed while waiting for a white collar jobs.
“Okada riding is not an ideal job for a graduate but we do it because of the present situation in the country. Government cannot create jobs for us. Many graduates have died on our roads in the process of this okada business but what can we do? I think it is better than being idle.’’
His case is not too different from Alice Owolabi, a graduate of the University of Ilorin. As an undergraduate, she had dreams of what she wanted to become after leaving school, a job in a bank is the most ideal, but her dreams are yet to materialize due to the unemployment problem in Nigeria.
Years after graduation, Alice trekked the length and breadth of Lagos without securing a job. Her prayers were finally answered when she got a job in one of the new generation banks. But while her dream was to work in the banking hall, Alice was employed as a cleaner.
She said, “I am managing the cleaning job since there are no jobs out there. My intention is to work in the bank as one of the key staff. It is so unfortunate I found myself as a cleaner. But I am still hopeful that God will change my situation one day.’’
For Dorcas Akinjide, a graduate of Business Education from Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, she is still dreaming. Never in her life did she ever think that she would one day end up as a commercial tricycle rider. But life played a fast one on her and she is facing it gallantly and without shame.
After her graduation, she went into the labour market with the full hopes of getting her dream jobs. But after several years of combing the streets, she gave up the search and settled for commercial tricycle business, a job mostly undertaken by men.
“I searched for a job from when I graduated in 2011without any success. When things were getting very difficult, somebody introduced commercial motorcycling to me. It looked odd to me at the beginning, but I had no option than to go for it.’’
She had first applied to a pure water company at Abule Agba for employment, but didn’t get it. Later, she applied to different schools for a teaching job without any luck. Refusing to give up, she applied for the post of a manager in a yoghourt manufacturing company in Mushin and got the job.
But her joy was short lived as the salary was nothing to write home about, she had to quit. She spent almost all her salary on transporting herself to work and after five months, she left.
She narrated that it wasn’t easy when she started riding tricycle because her friends were not in support of it. They said it belittles her to do such a job, but she was determined to make ends meet. “My friends didn’t buy the idea of driving tricycles, but I love it all the same, as long as my father gave me his support.”
In what is the first roll-out of its N500 billion social investment programme, the Nigerian government has begun taking applications online for positions in the 500,000 direct teacher jobs scheme, through an internet portal named npower.gov.ng.
While the portal went live on Saturday June 11, applications started coming in on June 12. And within 48 hours, the job portal had taken more than the figure the government was planning to employ. The 500,000 Teacher Corps, nicknamed N-Power Teach on the portal, is one of the three direct job creation and training schemes introduced by the Buhari government. Others are N-Power Knowledge, which will train 25,000 Nigerians in the area of technology, and N-Power Build, which will train another 75,000 in the areas of building services, construction, utilities, hospitality and catering, automotive vocations, aluminium and gas services. All trainees would be paid for the duration of their training.
According to a presidential statement explaining the programme, “The N-Power Teacher Corps initiative, which will engage and train 500,000 young unemployed graduates, is a paid volunteer programme of a two-year duration.
“Unemployed Nigerians selected and trained will serve in teaching, instructional, and advisory roles in primary, and secondary schools, agricultural extension systems across the country, public health and community education—covering civic and adult education.
“Besides their monthly take home pay estimated at about N23,000, the selected 500,000 graduates will also get computer devices that will contain information necessary for their specific engagement, as well as information for their continuous training and development. They get to keep the devices even after exiting the programme.
“According to the plan of the Buhari administration, the N-Power Teacher Corps programme is an invaluable opportunity for young Nigerians to make immense economic and social contributions to the nation while developing their skills. It will also help to address the problems of inadequate teachers in public schools.
“Also, persons enlisted under the scheme will gain work experience and acquire key competencies through academic and non-academic capacity building programmes intended to improve their competitiveness in the workplace. Their devices will come loaded with knowledge-oriented applications and software that will enable them acquire the skills and capacity.
“Under the N-Power Knowledge scheme, there are three aspects: Creative, Technology Software and Hardware. These three sub-divisions will train 25,000 young Nigerians in all.
“Five thousand of them would be trained in animation, graphic design, post-production, script-writing for all of those under the sub-division of N-Power Knowledge-creative category.
“The N-Power Knowledge scheme also has a technology category in two aspects: hardware and software. Ten thousand Nigerians will be trained, and equipped in the area of software development, including web designers, and another 10,000 in hardware expertise, including to repair, maintain and assemble mobile phones, tablets, computers and other devices.
“N-Power Build is therefore an accelerated training and certification (Skills to Job/Enterprise) programme that will engage and train 75,000 young unemployed Nigerians in order to build a new crop of skilled and highly competent workforce of technicians, artisans and service professionals.’’
Success stories of graduates who have made it
Dolapo Babalola is the Managing Director of Dolapo Creations, a bead making outfit. A first child from a family of six, she graduated from Tai Solarin University of Education where she studied Educational Management/Economics. And she has a Master degree in Industrial Education from the University of Ibadan.
Because of the unemployment problem in Nigeria, she launched herself into a business. With the belief that everyone is gifted and talented, and has something to offer, she started making beads. Today, she has made a name for herself and money too.
Affiong Williams is founder of Reelfruit. She didn’t wait for a good job to land on her laps. She took the bull by the horns and set up her own company amidst the challenges that plagued her humble beginning.
Her fruit processing company appeared on the scene in 2012. They process, package, and brand quality products. Their first was a range of dried nuts and fruit snack. She has managed to rise above the unemployment situation in Nigeria with her creativity and innovative business ideas.
Emeka Akano put his business flair to use on time. Together with his partner Chinedu Onyeaso, they have created a match-making service, which is now useful for all the African entrepreneurs. It is called Founder2Be. It looks like online dating – all you need is to click for having a deal. Besides, two of them also established web developing company, known as Entarado. They create effective applications and solutions for various business purposes.