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Nigeria’s GIS – SURE – P, and Youth Unemployment

In this piece Elvis – Wura Towolawi an Intern at lawyers Alert examines GIS-SURE a program the Nigeria Government rolled out in the wake of fuel price increase as a palliative to the occupy Nigeria demonstrations that broke out after the increase

Nothing dehumanizes and in-dignifies a man worse than an inability to earn a living. This is even more burdensome when he is purportedly ‘educated’, armed with degree(s); lives by the river, and yet washes his back with spittle. Such a fellow is most vulnerable to the one-eyed god of mischief; for it is said, “men are most content when employed”. And when youths are unemployed, they become discontent and thereafter, will give birth to monstrous acts of criminalities. There is no gainsaying the truth that unemployment is a scourge that has raped and ravished our youthful rank in Nigeria without repentance over decades now.

It is in a bid to roll back the blanket of unemployment and aver a disastrous spill-over and outburst by unemployed youths that the Nigeria Federal Government initiated the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS), a component of subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P); coordinated and implemented by the Federal Ministry of Finance under Dr. Okonjo Iweala. Beautiful as the GIS appears on paper it is critical to examine this programme and policy, to test its possibilities and limitations, and the way out of the morass of youthful unemployment in Nigeria.

Basically, the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) launched in October, 2012 is an intervention programme targeted at engaging 50,000 unemployed graduates in all states of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, between 18 – 40 years who must have completed the National Youth Service Corp or have been exempted. Under the Scheme, graduates will be attached to reputable private or public firms and organizations as interns where they will be mentored, upgraded and given opportunity to work and acquire new skills while sharpening existing know-how for 12 months with a monthly  stipend of N25,000 ($150).

The very essence of the Scheme is to improve the employability and work experience of graduates as well as reducing the burden of unemployment and frustration amongst youths. To achieve its aim, the Federal Ministry of Finance in partnership with registered Firms, business organization and NGOs would demand for suitable interns through an automated system of selection. Such firms/companies would have been subjected to a verification exercise in order to ascertain their capability to mentor and take on the interns. Importantly, interested organizations must have been incorporated under the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC); with a proper record of tax payment and audited accounts. To be part of the Scheme, interested graduates are required to register online, being that the selection and matching is automated; on a first come, first serve basis. To add, the interns can serve in any locality conducive for them. So much for the GIS!

Without exaggeration, the GIS is a formidable force against the tide of youth unemployment in Nigeria; being that it gives the graduate an opportunity to build on skills needed to survive and soar in a tightly competitive labour market. This advantage is visible if one probes at the root of unemployment – lack of workable skills; little or non-existent work experience and absence of work ethics etc. yet, the GIS is not without its own limitations; snags and net pulling at its feet for progress towards attaining its core goals and objectives.

First, there is the question of awareness and time-length. It’s trite that without proper information, deformation is inevitable. As one write this piece a good lump of our unemployed youths are unaware of the existence of the Scheme. If they are uninformed about the Scheme, how would they grab the opportunities it proffers? This pitiably low penetration of awareness was brought to the fore at a just concluded GIS – SURE – P. stakeholders’ sensitization forum in Makurdi, Benue State. At the event, most stakeholders (i.e companies and organizations) complained of lack of awareness about the Scheme. For a Scheme that has been around for close to a year, this is indeed regrettable. There is no alternative to this set back other than an aggressive sensitization. Youth –based bodies, religious organization and NGOs should be involved actively in disseminating the information about the Scheme.

The second limb of the problem is the time-length earmarked for the actualization of the Scheme. To my mind, 3 years is a short period of time to combat the one-eyed god of youth unemployment in a nation where over 30 percent of its working population are unemployed. It is far from feasible considering our bulging population where hundreds of thousand graduates are churn out by our universities every year. As a way of supplement to skills and learning acquired in schools, the Scheme should become legal, not just a policy that the next government would or can abandon without compunction. This will help further equip our graduates with required skills and capital to venture into the sea of employment and enterprise.

Another hurdle to the actualization of the Scheme is the corporate requirement of partners and stakeholders. It is common place in Nigeria that most business venture are not incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission. By making incorporation one of the criteria of eligibility for partners, the GIS – SURE – P coordinators have foreclosed many employers of labour from being helpful to the course. One is not unaware of the benefit of incorporation; yet it may scare away a handful of viable enterprises that would have groomed the interns in the ways of entrepreneur/venture. Well except the Federal Government is only focused on white-collar organizations which may not have enough strength to bear the burden of mentoring the interns.

Further, one observes with dismay the lackadaisical attitude of partners towards the implementation of the Scheme. Perchance, it is borne out of the insincerity of the Federal Government in the pursuit of projects in time past. But one would say that the evil of unemployment should be regarded as a collective threat to our social, cultural, economic and corporate existence. The Federal Government can not on its own wipe away the ugly trend; for every business is unsafe when there’s a horde of discontent and frustrated youths who cannot put food on their table and hold their head high for lack of employment.

Certainly, they will vent their displeasure on the society; in a community where there is only one palatial mansion in the midst of thatch houses, the mansion dweller should be wary. Therefore, partners and stakeholders should keep under latch their quip pro quo tongues askance for reward. Let them all join hands with the Federal Government to restore the battered dignity and humanity of our youths by accepting them and mentoring them to be more useful to self, society and God!

More so, one would like to observe the hide and seek functioning of the GIS – SURE – P internet portal for registration. There has been concern over the ineffective and epileptic nature of the website considering the fact that the process is automated. May it be stated here that if the project must be successful, then the website must be effectively maintained, operational and available so as to facilitate an optimal registration by the prospective interns and partners. Besides, the GIS – SURE – P must make available its domicile and contact office in every state of the Federation for trouble-shooting and queries. It must cease from being a phantom agency based in Abuja!

In all, one would commend the Federal Government, acting through the Federal Ministry of Finance for this worthwhile initiative which though interventional, would help mend the tattered ego and dignity of our army of unemployed youthful graduates strewn across the nation. It is hoped that the Scheme will not become another white-elephant project, a tool to score political points; but a concrete step towards re-equipping, sharpening and grooming our graduates for meaningful employ and enterprise. And as an incentive to partners and stakeholders, the Federal Government should make tax rebate and offer other packages that would spur them to partake whole heartedly in the Scheme.

Besides  the Scheme, perhaps as a suggestion, interest free loans should be given to interns at the end of their time to start any business venture of their competence without restricting them to corporate medication. This will help lessen the fight for job and boost confidence in our graduates to be job-creators, rather than being job-seekers. God help Nigeria…

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