Dara Akala, executive director of Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), has attributed the restiveness and conflict in the Niger Delta to youth unemployment.
The Niger Delta has a history of unrest and militancy; attacking oil infrastructure and kidnapping employees of oil companies for ransom.
To restore calm in the region, the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua-led administration introduced the amnesty programme in 2009.
Speaking during a recent webinar held to deliberate on how to improve skill development and access to economic opportunities in the region, Akala said governments across all levels need to combine efforts, resources and capabilities to “fight the scourge of youth unemployment and stem insecurity”.
The webinar, organised in partnership with Ford Foundation, was themed ‘Re-imagining youth skills development programme and job creation for positive impact in post-COVID-19 economy’.
“In the Niger Delta, the lack of access to economic opportunities is a cause of unemployment which in turn is a driver of conflicts and youth restiveness,” he said.
“As a matter of fact, the region records some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country. In 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, Akwa Ibom State reported the highest unemployment rate (37.7%), followed by Rivers State with (36.4%), Bayelsa state (32.6%), Abia (31.6%). This was before the advent of COVID-19.
“With a 3.4 percent economic shrink in Nigeria this year as projected by the International Monetary Fund due to COVID-19, the country’s jobless rate already at an average of 23 percent is expected to climb even higher. And the Niger Delta would not be left out of this worsening unemployment situation.”
Akala said PIND started the Niger Delta Youth Employment Pathway (NDYEP) in 2017 to develop models of job-readiness or workforce development that provide youths in the region the opportunity to secure sustainable jobs through training that prepares them with market-relevant skills.
In his remarks, Tunji Idowu, PIND deputy executive director, said the organisation is willing to partner state governments through the provision of technical support to develop the right kind of youth policies and youth employment programs that replicate or run on similar principles as NDYEP.
“Government needs to adopt a model that incorporates entrepreneurship into the curriculum of educational institutions and that links to the organized private sector to ensure that students are equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills required in the job market,” he said.
Afolabi Imuokhuede, the senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on job creation and youth employment, urged stakeholders in the region to collectively tackle the challenges of unemployment.