Why 68 million Nigerians are jobless
The impact of the IMF-inspired Structural Adjustment Programme during the Babangida regime fundamentally destabilised our economy, and ultimately altered the mobility of some of our brightest intellects in favour of a migratory urge to more clement pastures abroad.
Amongst such Nigerians in the Diaspora are successful technocrats, bankers, engineers, computer gurus, surgeons and professors in some of the world’s best universities.”
In an article published on Punch on Monday, May 25, 2012, titled, “A Rebuffed Helping Hand from the Diaspora”, we narrated the experience of Toyin Dawodu, Managing Partner of Capital Investment Group in California, and also the CEO of an outfit currently testing alternative and clean energy generation.
In a paper titled ‘Stable Electricity Still a Decade Away from Nigeria”, Dawodu had observed that the country would benefit from creating an environment that is more conducive with the implementation of distributive generation with technologies that deliver power efficiently at 50 – 60 per cent less than the cost of imported diesel.
Dawodu’s more recent intervention, “Why 68 Million Nigerian Youths Do Not Have Jobs”, is also on the power debacle. A summary of that piece is as follows:
“Sixty eight million is a large number. If you are a Nigerian, you probably know someone between the ages of 15-34 looking for a job. A large number of these youths have university degrees, while many graduated two, three or four years ago. They are your children, cousins, nephews, nieces, and they all have one thing in common. No jobs. I have gone on record to say one of the major problems with Nigeria is one of strategy and execution, not creativity. We envision big things. We have lofty ideas. Yet, there seems to be a breakdown between what we want to have and what we are willing to organise ourselves in order to obtain result.
The last 30 years has prove positive that there is no way for Nigeria to manifest the brilliance, productivity and economic influence she absolutely can have without first directing consistent efforts and allocating resources toward building a power infrastructure that will support this new and improved Nigeria. Electricity should be our highest priority. Not putting this first is akin to building a house from the roof down.
Lagos State recently stated that it has graduated 30,000 skilled members of the workforce ranging in professions from fabrication and refrigeration to computing and barbing to name a few. How can these graduates possibly expect to achieve gainful employment or build businesses to create new jobs without access to adequate electricity? Why is Lagos State waiting for the Federal Government before deciding to provide electricity for its people?
A few years ago, there was quite a buzz surrounding President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to get a Facebook page. More still, when he began posting daily. He invited all of Nigeria to interact with him using Facebook as a way to engage with his public “without the trappings of office.” One of his first comments was actually to me in response to my post that I had an idea that could generate 4,000 megawatts of electricity for Nigeria. His response:
“Again, I spent time reading your comments and yesterday a youth named Toyin Dawodu indicated that he had an idea for a project that could deliver 4,000MWs of electricity. I believe in the creativity and the spirit of innovation resident in our youth and I want to give Toyin a chance to be heard. Toyin, someone from my office will make contact with you regarding your idea. I know I cannot attend to every comment or suggestion due to time constraints, but please do know that I read them and they influence my actions.”
– President Goodluck Jonathan
Judging by President Jonathan’s response, it would seem as though he was relieved to hear someone address the issue, perhaps even anxious to hear my plan. Well, it’s been more than two years since the President and I shared that exchange and I have yet to get a feedback on how we are going to implement this strategy. Nigerians were excited about his response and optimistic about all of Nigeria being electrified.
The task of delivering electricity to every state in the country is not insurmountable. Yes, it requires money. Yes, it requires resources that would otherwise go elsewhere, but powering all of Nigeria is a necessity for progress. We are not reinventing the wheel here. Nigeria has 160 million people, all sharing 4,400 megawatts of electricity. To put this in perspective, the city of Los Angeles has a population of four million people and generates 7,500 megawatts of electricity.
While Nigeria is debating whether or not power has improved on a generation of only 4,500 megawatts, China has consistently delivered over 6,000 megawatts of power generating plants per month for its people over the last five years. That’s a total of 360,000 megawatts. Even finding power in any city in Nigeria to charge a cell phone can be a challenge.
The plan I shared with President Jonathan in 2010 entailed building power plants throughout Nigeria. The power plants were to be anchored by an industrial park in each local government. Each plant would generate 5-10 megawatts, and will be completed within 12 months. Nigeria has liquid propane in abundance and it’s cheaper and cleaner than diesel. Under our plan, we can build 7,775 megawatts in months instead of trying to build one huge mega plant of 1,000 megawatts, which takes 3-5 years. In building these small power plants, we would create over 100,000 direct jobs and more than one million indirect jobs right at home that can encourage Nigerian talent to stay in Nigeria.
It’s been almost three years since the President started on his road map, yet privatisation is still in limbo. It’s been two years since the federal government gave states the ability to generate and distribute, yet only one or two states have taken advantage of this opportunity and the amount of power generated is nothing to write home about. I even shared the plan above with some state governors, but they were unable to comprehend the possibility because they have never seen it happen. When are we going to wake up?
NB: We thank Toyin Dawodu for the above piece. However, in the spirit of fair play, this page will similarly remain open if the Presidency wishes to exercise its right of reply.