In contextualizing and sketching youth unemployment and poverty nexus in Nigeria, it will be useful to observe that Nigeria generates immense wealth from crude oil alone, yet the youth population has continued to wallow in abject frustration, unemployment, and poverty. Having the 6th largest deposit of gas, being the 8th largest oil producer in the world, and with over 100 tertiary institutions that churn out 200,000 graduates of various disciplines annually (Soludo, 2006:10), it is unfortunate that this abundant endowment has remained largely untapped. Between 1991 to 2006, the population of Nigeria’s youths increased from 22.5 million to 30 million. This most vulnerable segment of the nation is confronted with serious challenges, the worst of the list being the problem of unemployment, poverty, and security.
A study by ILO (2004) reveals that youth unemployment increased from 11.7% in 1993 to 14.4% in 2003. Also, it has been observed that youths make up 25% of the global working-age population, but they constitute 43.1% of the unemployed (Onuoha, 2008).
However, in democratic Nigeria, despite all efforts by the government to create jobs, especially following the introduction of NEEDS, and its counterparts at both the state and local government levels i.e. SEEDS and LEEDS, the rate of unemployment has continued unabated. This problem has continued to worsen among the youths over years due to weak political will thereby resulting in about 79% of the young Nigerians being in the statistics of the unemployed with a resultant effect on the poverty rate (Youth Position Paper, 2007). In the same measure, it has also estimated that more than 80% of Nigerian youths are unemployed, while about 10% are underemployed (Onuoba, 2008).
Thus, with a weak economy and high rate of unemployment, the poverty scourge has continued unabated. Youth poverty is a result of a high unemployment rate which is a consequence of exclusion from viable economic activities, a scenario Soludo (2006:29) termed “the dynasties of poverty”. Nigeria as a democratic nation has no doubt seriously underdeveloped the youth population. The consequence of this abject neglect of the Nigerian youths on national security and economic development is best imagined.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
That Nigeria has a long way in managing excruciating macroeconomic challenges is no longer in doubt, given the manner she has confronted the global financial and economic crisis in recent times. However, what is factual is that Nigeria is still facing a daunting socioeconomic crisis anchored on the opportunistic attitude of the new political elites, democratic legitimacy, the nexus of youths and their participation, their unemployment, and poverty as well as structures of pathologies of democracy and national security challenges in Nigeria. For instance as vividly captured by Abati (2006). “Young persons are at an impressionable age in their lives and read about thriving Governors… Ministers who have inflated contracts, and collected or given bribes… hear about Governors who dress like a woman and jump bail in foreign lands; local government chairman who go to the council only at the end of the month to share money and lawmakers in the National Assembly who collected 50m to mortgage people’s… they see all these persons who by Nigerian standards are considered successful.”
To move forward, therefore, the leaders, just as a matter of responsibility, undertake the following steps:
Firstly, for Nigeria to attain peace and general security, the need to transit from the narrower concept of National Security to a broader concept of human security cannot be over-emphasized. The role of the youth agency in this transition is very crucial and urgent.
Secondly, one of the most unfortunate aspects of life in a democratic Nigeria is the lip-service being paid to macroeconomic policies and programs that directly affect the youth.
Therefore, as we journey through the millennium, Nigerian leaders should create inclusive and responsive programs deliberately built to promote value-creation by targeting the youths as a matter of priority.
Thirdly, the need to address the unemployment and poverty plaguing the nation’s youth despite the country’s ‘wealth’ is an area seriously requiring both urgent and permanent solutions. While the government has not been sleeping over this, it is however sad to note that most of the approaches adopted so far are as usual fire brigade in nature.
Lastly, there is no doubt about the fact that history has shown severally that the nature, quality, and commitment of leadership is the most essential antidote towards sustainable economic growth and development.
Consequently, when judiciously co-opted, the Nigerian youth could make meaningful contributions. The inability of the nation to tap the potentials of her youth is due to institutionalized corruption (Abdullahi, et al, 2021) which has negated all attempts, thus destroying efforts at fighting unemployment, poverty, and social injustice, a scenario that has negated opportunities for economic reforms and the collapse of institutions, etc. In the light of this scenario, there should be a discontinuation of the current political manipulation in favor of gainful employment both by the government and the private sector towards the eradication of youth poverty and the prevailing atmosphere of alienation and dejection of the Nigerian youths.