Of Npower, unemployment and the cost of governance in Nigeria


By Abdullah Abdulganiy

With the current realities of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria, the country is in “peculiar” mess and on the brink of collapse. The situation is getting scarier on a daily basis. A staggering number of able-bodied men, with qualifications or no qualifications, are scattered all over Nigeria joblessly wandering. I’m afraid if something urgent, drastic and viable is not done to arrest the situation, the country may soon degenerate into a full blown hotbed of criminalities. And the rate of crimes we are witnessing at present, which has outworn our security architecture, may only be a child’s play.

The realities are palpable. It does not matter whether you are measuring them quantitatively or qualitatively. We wake up to different statistics that put the country in bad light every now and then. As World Capital of Poverty. As one of the most corrupt in the world. As the home of unemployed people. And whatnot. Away from statistics, the realities are outside there for us to experience too.

Last week, the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development called for applications from unemployed Nigerian graduates and non-graduates who would be recruited into the Batch C 2020 of the Npower scheme, a social investment programme designed by the Buhari-led administration to tackle unemployment and poverty.

The portal was thrown open for registration as at 11:59 pm on Friday, 26, June 2020. As a confirmation of the endemic unemployment and poverty battling the Nigerian populace, applications were just trooping in from every nook and cranny. It was so overwhelming that the portal was even misbehaving. Visit the official social media handles of the Npower or Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, and see how a chunk of people are hooked up with them to ask one or two things about the process.

All over the social media, the subject of discussion is Npower – Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter. There came the shocker. After just 48 hours of declaring the portal open, the scheme has received over 1 million applications, according to a statement by the overseeing minister, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Faruq. This only confirms the disturbing trend of endemic unemployment and poverty in the country. By the way, the portal is still open, and many more are still struggling to register. We don’t know the number of applications that would be received in the coming days.

This reminds me of my experience during my days in school. My alma mater, the University of Ilorin had called for applications from interested and qualified persons to fill just minute vacant positions. On the day of interview, you need to see the number of people that swarmed the institution. Some from Lagos, others from Ekiti, and God-knows-where.

As a young schoolboy (I’m still a “youngy” anyways) studying Sociology, I witnessed raw the state of unemployment in Nigeria with that nasty experience. I could not have understood it better than that. That appeared to be the first time I would see a huge number of people jostling for employment opportunities. All I used to hear was statistics. I was so baffled with thoughts about the future of the country.

It was Dodley Seers, a development economist who said a country cannot endure for so long in the face of three realities: unemployment, poverty and inequality. It’s obvious that this country cannot just continue like this, without an exponential degeneration into full blown anarchy and Hobbesian state of nature. Life is short, brutish and nasty already in Nigeria. But by the time the chips are down, life will be shorter, more brutish and nastier. It, therefore, presupposes that stakeholders rise up to the occasion to salvage the country. No paperwork or lip service this time around.

In his theory, Culture of Poverty, Oscar Lewis posited that poverty, unemployment and other things associated to them are the major reasons why people engage in criminal activities. According to him, when people live in perpetual penury, it gets to a stage they develop a sub-culture which will be antithetical to laid down societal norms and principles. A succour should immediately be found for the Nigerian situation before crime becomes a dominant culture due mainly to poverty and unemployment.

I must salute the efforts of the present administration in tackling headlong the menace of unemployment and poverty with its numerous social investment programmes: Npower, Tradermoni, School Feeding Programme, among others. However, good as they are, these initiatives have not really taken Nigerians out of the twin problems of unemployment and poverty because of limited duration and funding. It, therefore, presupposes that we look inward to seek alternatives to complement the initiatives.

As a suggestion, I think it’s time to reduce the cost incurred on governance and political office holders most especially. This is a lesson we should learn from the outbreak of coronavirus. Budgets are being slashed, and frivolous projects are cut down to sustain the economy. COVID-19 has made us realise that the political elite can do without their usual flamboyant lifestyle at parties and other social gatherings. They can simply keep it short and simple. Channel the money to meaningful projects.

This, therefore, implies that the jumbo pay allotted to political office holders across levels be reviewed in order to pave the way for human capital development and other social investments that will bring about job opportunities and empowerment, in the real sense of it. Funds generated from the review should be used to support industrialisation and agriculture.

Our political officers should be ready to pay this ultimate sacrifice in the spirit of national development. Most of them did during the outbreak of coronavirus by parting away specific per cent of their salaries to be used for palliatives, and it didn’t take anything from them. Nigerians have always been in need of palliatives even before COVID-19.

I always maintain that politics is a call to service and not an avenue to enrich self. By cutting the cost used to run various political offices, politics would be made less appealing to charlatans, and serious-minded individuals can take up the stage. The corollary is that sanity will prevail in the polity.

According to a report in the Vanguard newspaper in 2015, Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid in the world. While most of them buy choice estates in expensive areas, drive exotic cars, some of their counterparts in the United States sleep in their offices because they are homeless. Jumbo pay is, however, not an exclusive of the legislature alone; members of the executive arm of government also live larger than life. From bogus allowances to estacodes and running costs. Yet, the greedy ones get kickbacks from contracts and all of that.

Most of these public office holders know they live in opulence. Ali Ndume agreed to this sometimes last week. He advised that the whopping amount used to maintain the political elite should stop if the country must know peace. Senator Sheu Sanni also proposed this long time ago, when he opened the Pandora box, disclosing the humongous allowances a Nigerian lawmaker receives per month. Getting support from most of their corrupt colleagues has been the problem. All political office holders still intend to wreathe larger. I ask, to what end? Vanity upon vanity!

Patriotic citizens should start making advocacies to the effect of reducing the cost of governance. It is achievable. We should utilise every medium possible to spread the gospel of reducing the cost of maintaining political officers. The inequality is just too pervasive and nauseating. Some politicians even throw caution and shame to the winds by flaunting their luxury lifestyles on social media while their constituents cannot afford to feed themselves.

It’s my belief that the Nigeria of our dream could be actualised. It’s never too late to mend. Let the change start from reducing the cost of governance and running the political elite. It is a legalised way of robbing the country!

Abdullah is a sociologist and researcher. Email: [email protected]. Twitter:@halarho123. Contact: 08090637356 (SMS only).


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