THE WORSENING UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS AND OTHER PRESSURE POINTS
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In the last six months or so, I have been under some intense pressure from two angles. Those looking for Jobs and those asking for financial help-outright dash or soft loans to pay Children's school fees or to pay for Accomodation . It is not as if any of this is new. In my days as CEO of Pfizer/ Neimeth, I was practically a one-man employment bureau. The biggest file in my office with several volumes bore the title: JOB SEEKERS. And if I went to church or travelled home with any amount of cash, I mean any amount, I never came back with any. And that was why I was one of the early supporters of CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi's 'Cashless Lagos' campaign which later metamorphosed into ' Cashless Nigeria'.
But as I have found out, that did not help matters for long. The arrival of Mobile banks in mobile phones has worsened the situation. The excuse that I have run out of cash( which most solicitors never believed), or that the banks have closed or that it is weekend are no longer tenable. Now, No body gives you any chance to offer any excuse, lame or not, believable or not. Every request, some made close to midnight, ends with "Can I send you my account details, so you can transfer the money." You can see that I did not put a question mark(?) after the last quoted line, because the sentence on the surface may sound like a question, but in truth it was never a question. Normally, if it were a question, one should be given a chance to give a yes or no answer. But in these cases, before you can make up your mind, you receive the bank details by text..
So the reason these matters have began to cause me intense pressure is that the dimension has taken unusual and frightening turn. In the last six months or so, I get an average of six calls a day by applicants and their parents asking me or reminding me to help find jobs for their wards. I notice that the frequency of calls jumps any day I appear on Television addressing one issue or another concerning Business or the Economy. These days, I receive up to ten CVs a day, many on-line. I have found that what is really causing my pressure is that unlike in the time past, I have practically no where to turn. Governments can't pay salaries, so why ask them to employ more. The oil companies have downsized and are in conflict with the Labour Unions( PENGASAN & NUPENG) who accuse Nigerian based oil companies of sacking more workers than their counterparts in Angola & Equatorial Guinea-other oil producing countries in similar 'pot of soup' with Nigeria. We can no longer turn to the Banks. Oh the Banks, for many years provided succor for employment bureaus like me. So much has happened to the banks in the very recent time, that even the contract staff arrangement is no longer feasible. I can no longer turn to the industry which is my forte, as many are in bad shape,trimming costs to stay afloat and everybody is blaming the economy, foreign exchange shortages and the high exchange rate. Wrongly or correctly, every where you turn, everybody is blaming the depreciating Naira for the growing inflation in the economy, including tomato and groundnut sellers! Prices are going up across the board and yet many more people are getting unemployed!
But for me the most distressing part of this worsening unemployment crisis, is that it is becoming practically impossible to find space for adhoc or short term employment for Students on Industrial Training( IT or SIWES),not to talk of Pharmacists or Medical Doctors who want a place for the one year compulsory post graduation internship or Housemanship, before they can be licensed to practice. I have written to practically all my friends in the Industry several times, that many seem tired of either replying me or even taking my calls. A few months ago, out of desperation,I had to send one guy looking for a place for his industrial attachment( Banking & Finance) to my friend who has a Bureau De change( BDC). Last week he called to say that he could no longer keep the guy since there was little or no business coming in. I tried to persuade him to keep the guy, since he had just two months to go but my friend only agreed on the condition that I would pay his allowance. After that we will then settle the matter with his School,if the BDC was a proper place to do IT. Last Sunday, I met a young Dental surgeon who graduated last year and since then he has been running from pillar to post looking for a place to do his house job. When I suggested to him to try outside Lagos, I was shocked when he told me that he had been to Sokoto and Maiduguri without luck. Maiduguri ? He flabbergasted me when he told me that they were nearly 1000 applicants that queued up at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital for only a few vacancies. And not coming from that catchment area, he was not lucky. I could not easily find words to console him. And what is more troubling for him, is that if he does not find a space before the year runs out, his temporary license will expire and he would be required to go back to School and retake the qualifying exams before restarting the wild goose chase for a house job. Preposterous! This week, a widow brought her medical doctor son asking me to help him get a job. I took my pen and began to write. If such hitherto highly sought-after professionals as Medical doctors and Pharmacists who spend donkey years learning can not find jobs in Nigeria,or even a place to complete their education, I believe that we have reached a new low in the unemployment crisis.
The matter of asking for financial help has also assumed a disconcerting proportion. It is no longer just young people, but adults,often respectable individuals,many with families, who apparently have lost their jobs or whose businesses have run aground.Some are Contractors who are owed both by Public and Private Sector institutions. A few weeks ago, a respectable acquaintance of mine sent me a text message asking for money to pay his Children's fees as two of them were freshmen in Nigerian Universities. I did not know how to tell him that I could not help, so I refused to reply his text message. He then resorted to calling my line and once I was forced to pick. He began his tale of woes about how one federal Agency was owing him and they told him the delay had to do with the Treasury single account( TSA), bla bla bla. I told him that I was short on cash and that I would look around to see what to do.The next minute, he sent his account details. I immediately sent him a reply: "My brother, you know that in the past I have reacted positively to every of your requests. But now, I have too many requests on me and you know I am retired, currently living on Pay as you go, I am sorry I can not help this time".
I did not hear from him, the rest of that evening, and I felt that had settled the matter. Early the next morning, my phone began to ring off the hook. When I checked the caller, it was the same guy. I got angry. Why would this guy wake me up from sleep this early morning?,he must be crazy and inconsiderate. After my morning devotion, where I actually prayed to God to help him sort out his problem, I picked up my phone. On reviewing my text messages, I saw one from this my old time friend: "My brother Sam, when I read your text last night, it took sleep out of my eyes. God bless you". I dressed up ,sent to the bank and transferred some money to him.
I hope you can now better understand my pressure points. God please help us and revive our economy!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR