Sometime in 1986, the then minister for labour and productivity, then Rear Admiral Patrick Sebo Koshoni, during his ministerial press briefing announced that about one million Nigerians were unemployed.
Even at that time, the figure he gave was regarded as an under estimation of the problem of unemployment which became visible in many Nigerian homes about three years earlier.
Indeed, during the last days of the civilian presidency of President Aliyu Usman Shehu Shagari the problem grew fangs, but it was the government of military president Ibrahim Babagida that officially took steps to address the issue of unemployment especially among the youths.
The Babagida administration through his ministers of labour sought and got the assistance of the International Labour Organisation to create jobs in the informal sector. The consequence of which was the setting up of the National Directorate of Employment to create jobs in the informal sector.
Apart from this, another minister of labour in the Babagida administration, then Brigadier-General Ike Nwachukwu, during a ministerial briefing called on banks to use part of the huge profits to engage a number of young graduates. All of these efforts didn’t do much to tackle the unemployment problem as it got compounded with the high number of graduates turned out by the universities.
The influx of foreign investors into Nigeria did not stem the tide of unemployment either. Rather, it was the era in which Nigerians were subjected to the worst working conditions in the name of attracting foreign investors. Many of these so-called investors have subjected Nigerians to dehumanizing working conditions.
The Ikorodu factory fire of 2002 in which workers were roasted comes to mind. That wasn’t an isolated case. A particular company owned by the Chinese located in Ogba Lagos, had its machine chop off hands and fingers of employees and the organization has not been sanctioned in any form.
It was also an era in which the so-called “ New Generation Banks” came into business. Banks pretending to be doing business in a manner unknown to the older banks. These ‘ new generation banks’ barred their employees from trade union activities. They also do not belong to the Nigeria Bankers Employers Group or even the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).
It was and still is a culture of impunity.
Even with the pretensions to new ways of banking, they are not known to have created jobs that have been of any significant impact on the economy.