Skip to main content

Unemployment And National Security

December 9, 2011

For too long, the Nigeria government has restricted security matters to its security agencies and has carried on as if continued spending on these institutions could guarantee security of life and property in the country.

For too long, the Nigeria government has restricted security matters to its security agencies and has carried on as if continued spending on these institutions could guarantee security of life and property in the country.

Sadly, that kind of thinking is now anachronistic and has been replaced with a more human-centric view of security. The old/realist view of security derives from the Cold War era which views security as primarily the possession of a strong military power to ensure law and order in the society. Proponents of this realist thinking, such as, Stephen Walts and Hans Morgenthau sees threats to state security essentially in the realm of the military and security forces. Thus to prevent threats to the peace and security of the state, there is need for heavy military armament as a means of deterrence and to ensure victory where offensive and defensive operations become inevitable. 

Happenings around the world have continued to show that security could not be divorced from developmental issues. Poverty, hunger, joblessness, diseases and exploitation are the real causes of insecurity, and not the fear of external aggression. In the last two decades especially, most of the conflicts that have bedeviled states are not external in nature. They were mainly internal dynamics that could not be totally overcome by high military build-up. From the unwarranted genocide in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, to the bloody wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo DR, Sudan, and Uganda, issues of justice, inequality, oppression, ethnicity, intolerance, and poverty were responsible. The world was amazed in 1991 that without even a shot, the entire Soviet Union that had appeared and boasted of its imminent eclipsing of the United States, collapsed and disintegrated due largely to internal factors unrelated to the military. What was more, the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States and the rise of global terrorism and transnational crimes have necessitated a shift in paradigm in the conception of security.

The new conception of security now places much emphasis on human and non-military variables. National and world security is best enhanced when state leaders strive to reduce human vulnerabilities. Robert McNamara, former United States’ Defense Secretary captured the situation brilliantly in 1968 when he said that: “Security is not traditional military activity, though it may encompass it. Security is development, and without development there can be no security. A developing nation that does not in fact develop, simply cannot remain secure for the intractable reason that its own citizenry cannot shed its human nature.” For him, poverty, illiteracy, diseases, hunger, and hopelessness lead to extremism, upheavals, and internal unrest. Before long, these problems are exported to other countries.

That is was why, after the September 11 and other terrorist attacks on Western cities, the US and other developed countries renewed interest in the use of foreign aid, this time as a potential deterrent to terrorism.  These countries were also instrumental to the launching of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals which include halving poverty in the world by 2015, improving literacy, women's rights, maternal and child health and environmental quality, and combating AIDS and other diseases.

In Nigeria, national unemployment rate, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, is 23.9%. Raw figure of unemployed youths is now in the range of 30 – 35 million. It is no wonder that Nigeria continues to battle with insecurity in the form of robbery, ethnic/youth militancy, kidnapping, and of recent terrorism. These criminals have always exposed the underbelly of our security agencies. Even with the best soldiers and policemen in the world, there is no way the country could maintain security with such a high unemployment figure. The way we approach economic issues in Nigeria shows that we do not understood what security means and are not yet ready to tackle the problem.

Luckily however, the high unemployment rate and events in other places are now forcing our leaders to pay attention to the issue of job creation. President Jonathan recently admitted pointedly at a PDP rally in Lokoja, Kogi State that it will not be long before youths stage a revolution if elected public officials do not initiate policies that will create Jobs. Former President Obasanjo amplified this position when he said that the grinding poverty and allied economic hardship caused by under-employment, job loss and unemployment across the country will lead to a popular revolt in the mould of the Arab spring revolution in the near future.

Now, it is obvious that large scale jobs are not created by the government but by the private sector. The revolution in the telecommunications sector has not only created over 20, 000 direct jobs but millions of others indirectly.  Other sectors that have great potentials to create millions of jobs are the agricultural, power, and petroleum downstream sectors. Already, government is taking agriculture seriously and the CBN is encouraging banks to finance agricultural investments.

On the issue of petroleum subsidy, rather than allow some oil marketers and importers pocket the entire money made from the sale of crude oil in the name of subsidy, we must take the painful option of removing the subsidy now. The subsidy regime is highly beneficial to some companies and as long as it stays, refineries would not be allowed to work and private investors cannot put their money in such ventures. Removal of subsidy will most certainly lead to massive private investments in refineries that will ultimately create millions of jobs. This will also free up money for investments in other critical sectors of the economy which will also boost job creation.  Even with the subsidy, fuel only sales for N65.00 in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt are few other state capitals. The majority of Nigerians don’t buy fuel for N65.00. A sad discovery is that since these importers re-export the fuel meant for domestic consumption to our neighbouring countries (where petrol is more expensive) after collecting the subsidy money.

We may temporarily have to pay more for fuel, but the moment private refineries come on full stream and competition heats on in the industry, just like it is happening in the telecoms industry now, prices will crash. What we must not do is to fight the war of the fuel importers only for them to continue to enjoy the resources of the country through phony subsidy payments. We must rise up to support policies that will create jobs in the economy.