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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Rising unemployment and politics of N5000 stipend

THE National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently released another disturbing rate of unemploy­ment indices in Nigeria.
 Joblessness in the nation, according to the Bureau, has risen from 7.2% in the previous quarter to 8.2% in second quarter of 2015. Since the third quarter of 2014, the rate of unemployment has risen three consecutive times. Further to that; “there were a total of 17.7 million people between ages 15 and 65 either unemployed or underemployed in the labour force in Q1 2015. With this unimpressive outlook, the situation de­mands urgent government policy direction and req­uisite interventionist strategies.

The issue of unemployment is an endemic social and economic challenge of all season in Nigeria. Governments in the past have shown visible lack of capacity to squarely contain it. Therefore, it has become a political bait thrown to the electorate in exchange of votes. It is a recurrent decimal cen­tral to numerous unfulfilled campaign promises of governments since the time one could vividly recollect. Among various campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC was, “creation of Social Welfare Programme of at least N5000 that will cater for the 25 million poorest and most vulnerable citizens upon the demonstration of children’s enrolment in school and evidence of im­munisation to help promote family stability.”

The above presidential campaign pledge and the NBS report prompted a crucial motion taxing the APC-led government to reduce the high level of unemployment in Nigeria moved by Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, (PDP Akwa Ibom North East). The motion sadly elicited unnecessary and unhealthy political rivalry between the APC and the PDP Senators. Senator Bassey who described the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria as another time bomb waiting to explode also urged the government to take bold steps aimed at bolstering entrepreneurial de­velopment and employment skills, adding that govern­ment should integrate entrepreneurship, savings and investment culture and education into the educational curriculum at appropriate levels. An additional prayer to the motion by Senator Philip Aduda (PDP, FCT) that government should commence immediate payment of N5000 President Muhammadu Buhari promised dur­ing his campaign irked most if not all the APC Sena­tors.

Consequently, Senator Babajide Omoworare (APC Osun East) raised a point of order 53 (6) of the Sen­ate Standing Rules. The Order reads: “It shall be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific question upon which the Senate had come to a conclusion dur­ing the current session except upon a substantive mo­tion for rescission.” Omoworare in his point of order rubbished the spirit and good intention of the motion and sought in the alternative that the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan be called upon to account for SURE-P funds to the admiration and support of APC Senators. What was the rationale be­hind deliberate insulation of the executive from fulfill­ing a promise made without prodding and one already at the public domain?

Five months down the line of the electoral triumphs, is it immaterial to revisit the campaign promises of the elected political office holders? Where else is the best place to nudge the executive for the fulfilment of their promises to the nation except in the legislature? The APC had aggressively done that over the past years be­fore now. It was totally niggling to link calls to inves­tigating SURE-P of the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan with the stark reality of high level of unemployment on ground. The APC should be told in clear terms that the baton of leadership of our nation is no longer with the previous administra­tion; therefore, always looking back at the errors of an old era is ridiculous. After all, much power resides with the Senate to investigate at any given time the stewardship of previous and present government it believes falls short of expectation or one which con­travenes the extant laws of Nigeria. Sadly, the Senate in the end took an anti-people decision by rejecting that motion.

The attitude of some Senators at that plenary were too infantile. They seem not to be ready to emerge out of their political diapers with the outright rejec­tion of such an important beneficial motion. Whither national interest in all these theatrics? The failure of some of these distinguished Senators to rise above primeval party sentiment confirms the enormity of dilemma confronting the nation. Truth remains sacro­sanct no matter who tells it. The fact that the motion came from an opposition party makes it imperative for APC to once in a long while unite and be on the same page with PDP in this noble cause of dealing with the plague of unemployment. Unfortunately, the baby was thrown away with the bath water. However, the statement from the APC leadership assuring the citizenry that government will not renege on its prom­ise is refreshing.

Whose interests do the Senators who objected to that motion protect? Which is important and deserves more attention: the pervasiveness of poverty in their various constituencies or the flag of a political party? It is absolutely unnecessary for some people to frus­trate the fulfillment of a promised “national welfare package” which catapulted them to their present ex­alted political positions. Nigerians should confront standards raised against honest effort at stemming the tide of unemployment and developmental strides at large. The legislature globally remains the beacon of democracy and should function as such to preserve its responsibility.

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