By Obioma C. Appolos
“Nigeria must have some form of effective social protection system that targets the unemployed, children, and the aged if it ever hope to breath a fresh air of peace and development like other sane nations”, said Comrade Eustace Imoyera James, Coordinator National Trade Union Migration Network and a labour expert.
And to curtail the rising rate of social vices in Nigeria, which has been linked to unemployment and extreme poverty, the President Mohammadu Buhari-led government has been asked to pursue a heavy investment in effective social protection programmes with vigor, and make it one of the landmark achievements his administration would be remembered for.
The current administration was also told that effective social protection programmes such as unemployment benefits; as obtainable in other climes, universal free education and primary health care service are basic means through which poverty and crime can be reduced to the barest minimum in the country.
Speaking with The Labour in an interview recently, Comrade Eustace Imoyera James, Coordinator National Trade Union Migration Network and a labour expert, who said said this, added that “Extending social security to all citizens especially the unemployed youth is a cardinal objective government must take on board.”
Furthermore, James stated; “Nigeria is known to be a country with huge hunger-population of youths. As at today, there are over 81 million unemployed youths in Nigeria. This is about 63.4% of the country’s labour force. Yet, this huge number of youths have no means of any social security. No unemployment benefit or cash transfer, no bursary for those in school, no any form of social protection at all. Honestly, we are in a crisis, and government insensitivity and penury will ruin this country.”
“Whatever the case maybe, social protection/security should be institutionalized and run target-fully with all manner of seriousness in Nigeria. There is no country that is thirsty of development and growth that would not purposefully invest in its youths.
“The insensitive of those who govern Nigeria regarding the degrading level of penury many citizens suffers, and how insane many have become due to their inability to meet up with basic needs of life, as a result of the humongous job deficits in the country is so obvious. And most unfortunate is the fact that they are turning blind eyes to the looming consequences that are fast approaching. If nothing is done very fast, it would be like doom. And not even their high walls would save them.” He added.
Furthermore, Comrade James explained, “Social Protection/security is a basic pillar of decent work, and decent work is one of the means through which poverty can be eradicated. It is one of the means through which we can contend the rising poverty rate and deal with its issues, especially as it concerns security challenges and other social vices in Nigeria.”
Onward, he stated; “I am aware that the current administration say they are doing conditional cash transfer as part of it social investment, but how reaching is it? How many Nigerians are accessing it and how many states are? These are the basic questions. Like I earlier said, Nigeria has over 81 million unemployed youths. I am not sure that the people accessing the current cash transfer are up to 2million.
“But unfortunately it is being branded by the Vice President everywhere he goes. Against over 81 million unemployed youths that has no sources of income, what is 2million people, assuming up to that figure is accessing it. We are not even talking about those that are poor, just the unemployed youths.
“Yes, everybody in the country must not enjoy conditional cash transfer but if you have other social protection measures in place, for instance you have free quality accessible education, many people would not bordered about cash transfer. If you have employment being created, a person that is working doesn’t need conditional cash transfer. In fact, conditional cash transfer is not even a priority. It is not among the most burning issues when you are talking about social security or social protection for the citizens. Universal basic education, health service, housing, job creation etc, are.
“Free education is so important when talking about social protection, because as a worker, 80% of your salary goes into paying children school fees and other school expenses. So when about 80% of your earning is used for school expenditure alone, how much is left. But with quality accessible free education, you would save a huge some of your monthly pay and utilize it for other things.”