Monday, March 8, 2010

No jobs at the jobville

The huge turnout of candidates for the Nigerian Navy recruitment test held in January was the final straw; Onyema Mbakwuru’s mind was made up, to seek for greener pastures outside the country.
“For two years I have been attending (job) aptitude tests, but the crowd I saw at Ojo (Lagos centre of the test) was terrible,” he said. “More than 10, 000 people came to write the test. I saw people that left school before me looking so desperate.”
This feeling of desperation has gradually spread as more and more young school leavers find themselves caught in the expanding labour market of the country. With its strategic position as the commercial nerve centre of the nation, Lagos is home to more than its fair share of these job seeking youth.
The spectacle of thousands of candidates jostling for space at the various job recruitment tests that occur periodically in the city is one that residents are quite familiar with. And as thousands of school leavers graduate from the one year national youth service scheme every four months, the population of job seekers in Lagos swells.
In a bid to be more proactive in fighting the huge unemployment rates in the city, the Lagos state government launched a job registration website,, on February 16, 2010. During the launch, Governor Babatunde Fashola said the initiative was aimed at tackling the high unemployment figures in the state.
“The website is another opportunity for youths who are still unemployed to become self-reliant by linking up to the free website for job registration,” said Mr. Fashola, who was represented by his deputy, Sarah Sosan, during the launch of the web portal at the Lagos State Auditorium, Ikeja.
“The new reality is that, this platform will encourage and promote government policy on public-private partnership programme (PPP) and also, serve as reference point for data collections and demographic study for our wealth creation programmes.”
The hopefuls and the cynics
While some unemployed youth in the state have lauded the initiative, others have dismissed it as a weak attempt at solving the perennial unemployment problems. And most have indicated a disinterest in registering at the site; as evidenced by the less than 10,000 visitors the site has registered so far.
“Since I have heard about the site, I have been visiting (it) and have never seen any vacancy,” said Wasiu Akande, a History/International Relations graduate. “The fact is that people are desperate, and will clutch at any straws to get a job, but I don’t believe that website will really make any difference.”
Samuel Kanu disagrees; and is hinging his faith in the state government’s employment programmes. “At least Governor Fashola is doing something,” said the Sociology graduate. “In my home state (Abia), the government is doing absolutely nothing to tackle the unemployment thing.”
The entrepreneurs
The website also features an artisans’ directory page, where small scale entrepreneurs are encouraged to publish their contact details. A total of 40 entrepreneurs have registered so far.
One of the registered artisans, Idris Onisiwo, a Political Science graduate from the University of Ibadan, prefers being self employed, and is currently combining footwear production and consulting.
“My business has not really improved much, in terms of increased patronage, since I registered on the site,” he said in an email response to NEXT’s enquiries. Mr. Onisiwo also believes that the government would be doing small scale business owners like him a big favour by the “provision of grant/loans and support for entrepreneurs.”
Another entrepreneur, Tochukwu Agbo, does not feel that registering his business in the website will do him any good. His small scale fish farm is prospering, thanks to the rural settings of his Igando suburb and he does not believe the government owes him anything.
“I have been doing this (business) since 2009, and I don’t need anything from the government,” he said. “When they cannot even provide electricity, talk less of loan. I bought my own generator, source my own water, and developed my market, so I don’t think I need to register for anything.”
His disillusionment is shared by many; including Mr. Mbakwuru. “My cousin who wrote aptitude tests for years without getting a job eventually went to South Africa, did his masters, and landed a job at his first try. I am following suit; man must survive.”

Published in NEXTonSunday March 7, 2010.

No comments: