Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and the second largest economy in the continent with a population of over 150 million is endowed with diverse and infinite human, material and capital resources; but years of corruption, civil war, military rules and mismanagement coupled with years of negligence and adverse policies have hindered economic growth in the country. Although, unemployment is now a global phenomenon, but due to the aforementioned reasons, available resources in the country have been left underutilized to yield maximum economic benefits. This had led to widespread unemployment and poverty, youth restiveness, militancy, insurgency and kidnapping.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria unemployment rate was recorded at 12.1 percent in first quarter of 2016, up from 10.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, reaching the highest since December of 2009. Realistically, 80% of Nigerian youths are unemployed with secondary school leavers mostly found among unemployed rural population accounting for about half of this figure, while Universities and Polytechnic graduates make up the overall figure.
What seems to be more worrisome is the fact that the nation’s Universities and Polytechnics continue to churn out more than 150,000 graduates both Bachelor’s degrees and Higher National Diploma annually and job creation has been inadequate to keep pace with the expanding working age population. Recently, the Nigerian Police put up an advertisement for recruitment to fill 10,000 vacancies, but over 1 million Nigerians applied!
The age-long craze for white collar job is still a fad among the youths. Rural-urban migration in search of the Golden Fleece has also continued unabated. Similarly, poorly skilled individuals are replete in all sectors of the nation’s economy and to address this, acquisition of vocational skills have been identified as tools for moulding employable individuals as unemployed individuals need more skills than they already have to find new jobs.
With a population of over 20 million, Lagos State is burdened with the provision of essential infrastructural facilities including employment for the ever growing army of the unemployed. Although, unemployment is a national challenge, but the metropolitan nature of the state adds to the uniqueness of its situation as it has to provide jobs for the skilled and the unskilled members of the communities.
Governments at both federal and states levels had attempted to tackle unemployment, but all efforts at creating jobs for the growing army of the unemployed have yielded little or no result. This is because Government alone cannot shoulder this problem.
It is, therefore, in order to proffer solutions to the lingering crisis of unemployment that the administration of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode in Lagos state is renewing efforts to promote entrepreneurial spirit among Lagos residents. This, indeed, is the main idea behind the establishment of the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment in June, 2015.
The Ministry is vested with the responsibility of promoting and sustaining entrepreneurship and employment through the effective use of wealth creation strategies and resources by collaborating with all stakeholders. The Ministry’s activities are geared towards creating employment through the creation of enabling environment for the expansion of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the State.
In fulfillment of one of his campaign promises and in seeking to redefine solutions to generic challenges of unemployment and wealth creation, the State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, on 5th January, 2016 signed the state Employment Trust Fund into Law and also set up a N25 billion (Twenty Five billion naira) Employment Trust Fund. The initiative, which has been applauded by all, is set up to bridge the deficit skill and policy gaps, as well as tackles inadequate financing. It provides financial support to residents for job and wealth creation and also gives equal opportunities to all citizens, as part of his all inclusive governance model in the state.
It is a known fact that Nigerian youths, particularly, University and Polytechnic graduates usually lust after white collar jobs, but the prevalent unemployment situation in the country has redirected their focus towards embracing self employment. Hence, in order to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of Lagosians, the Employment Fund is to be disbursed to residents with innovative ideas that can translate into viable businesses which will promote self employment as well as the creation of employers of labour. And for the next four years, the Government will commit N6.25 billion annually to loan given out with moderate interest rate of 3% per annum.
Skill acquisition programme is an integral part of the Ambode administration’s wealth creation strategy in the state. The objective of the programme is to empower Lagos residents to be economically independent and self reliant. This, of course, is the trend in nations of South-East Asia, where apart from western education; people are given various trainings in areas of proven competence. Today, the results are there for all to see as most South-East Asian nations are today industrial giants and developed economies.
One vital strategy employed in achieving this is the construction of skill acquisition centres where both long and short term vocational training programmes are carried out in various fields such as fashion designing, Hairdressing and Barbing, Catering and Hotel Management, Textiles Design and Bead Making, Tiles Laying and Interlocking Stone Production, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Installation and Repairs, Shoe Making and Production, Vulcanizing and Wheel Balancing and Alignment, Cane Furniture Production, Screen Printing and Lithography among others. Through this initiative, thousands of Lagosians, especially the youths, have been trained in various vocations.
Any society that fails to invest in its people does so at its own peril. It is to avert such an unpleasant situation that informed the massive investment of government limited resources in wealth creation ventures such as skill acquisition centres where the people could acquire skills as well as relevant technical trainings that will empower them to become employers of labour.
A major policy thrust of the Ambode administration is wealth creation and this is actually borne out of genuine desire to empower the people through various plans and programmes. Thus far, the impact of the various wealth creation agenda of the administration is steadily being felt. For instance, the pilot empowerment initiative that was done in partnership with the private sector is already serving as a catalyst being projected to bring about over 2000 business start-ups and over 8,500 jobs by the Year 2020.
With more of such collaborative ventures, poverty, no doubt, would soon become history in the state.