Chidinma Ifediba is tired. She is fed up hunting for
job. When she graduated from the university four years ago with a
second class upper degree, she was optimistic about her career path. But
all her high hopes have been dashed by the biting unemployment
situation in Nigeria.
Right now, Chidinma is selling recharge cards, soft drinks and snack
just to keep body and soul together. Her daily routine involves getting
up at 5am to prepare her products. She then puts them in a wheelbarrow,
put the drinks in a cooler with ice block and positions herself at the
bus stop close to her parent’s house at Ojulelegba, Lagos.
For her customers who enjoy her daily delicacy, she’s just a young
woman trying to make ends meet, but she considers herself an
unfulfilled woman who has not fully realised her life’s dreams. She
hopes that one day, luck will smile on her and she will get a job. Until
then, she remains an accidental businesswoman.
Chidinma is not alone. She is among millions of Nigerian graduates
who are unemployed after struggling to scale through the university,
polytechnics and colleges of education and came out with good degrees.
Many Nigerians are used to seeing these graduates parading the
streets looking for paid employments years after leaving school and
observing the mandatory national youth service. No matter how hard many
of them struggle, make postulations and position themselves, they seem
not to be making headways as unemployment rate keeps rising in the
Some of these graduates have perfected the art of flooding mega
churches just to get connected to their prospective employers. While
some have been lucky in this regard, others still wobble in the face of
Their family members and friends are not left out of the hunt for
jobs. They keep calling, sending messages and even visiting friends and
family members to see if there is an opening in their organizations.
Sometimes, people close to them would stop picking their calls or
responding to their messages. They do that not because they are wicked
or heartless, but because they have no jobs to offer.
Scary unemployment statistics
In March 2016, The National Bureau of Statistics released the
country’s labour statistics for the fourth quarter of 2015 with the
report putting the country’s unemployment rate at 10.4 per cent.
In the report, the bureau explained that the 10.4 per cent in
unemployment rate for the fourth quarter was an increase of 500 basis
point over the 9.9 per cent recorded in third quarter of 2015. It said
as was the case in previous quarters, unemployment and underemployment
was higher for women than men in the fourth quarter of 2015.
For instance, the report stated that while 12.3 per cent of women in
the labour force (those between 15‐65 willing, able and actively working
or searching for work) were unemployed in Q4 2015, another 22.0 per
cent of women in the labour force were underemployed in Q4 2015.
On the other hand, 8.8 per cent of males were unemployed in the
fourth quarter of 2015, while another 15.7 per cent of males in the
labour force were underemployed during the same period.
It reported that Nigeria with an unemployment rate of 10.4 per cent
in the fourth quarter of 2015 has a better unemployment rate than in 66
countries but worse than 111 countries, including 23 African countries
which have unemployment rates lower than 10.4 per cent.
The report reads in part, “Unemployment is not just a Nigerian
problem. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) on whose
recommendation most countries in the world unemployment methodology is
based including Nigeria, states that 201 million people globally are
unemployed and this may rise to 219 million by 2019.
“With eight million Nigerians technically unemployed (not including
the remaining 14.4mn underemployed), this means four per cent of the
world’s unemployed are Nigerians.
“If we add the number of underemployed in Nigeria in the interest of
seeking full time and gainful employment for Nigerians, then Nigeria
will represent about 14 per cent of global unemployment.”
Why there are many unemployed graduates
Lack of employment options and opportunities for Nigerian graduates
cannot be ignored. But when severely probed, human resource experts and
management consultants fire back that many of Nigerian graduates are
Mr. Ayodele Ogunleye, a human resource personnel with one of the
technology companies in Lagos stated that many unemployed graduates
lack the required skill to be employed.
He said that while getting a University degree is important, it is
also an essential requirement for a graduate to be able to boast of a
particular skill. This is because many graduates have their certificates
to show but what will make them stand out is actually developing a
stronger point of acquiring a skill.
Ogunleye added that employers are obviously tired of seeing same set
of individuals with same qualifications turning up for interviews
whereas they are in need of individuals that can stand out.
For Mrs. Rita Ajubah, a management consultant, many graduates are
unemployable because they are very impatient and concerned about making
big money immediately instead of focusing on how to add value to the
company that wishes to hire them.
She stated that the intensity with which these youngsters focus on
their salary package leaves much to be desired, talking about work
ethics. They forget that success is built over time and with hard work,
perseverance, dedication and focus.
‘’They forget that these employers are out to employ graduates who
are keen on learning on the job aside what they have learnt in school.
Companies these days are more focused on employing people who can
readily bring ideas to the table on how the company can beat the
competition and not someone with low reasoning capability who won’t
even be able to answer extremely trivial questions.”
Ajubah noted that graduates are expected to develop themselves so
that they can be referred to as worthy and employable graduates, and
not half baked graduates who cannot think outside the box.
Mr. Mark Babatope, another consultant said that sometimes, many
graduates are still unemployable because of some prospective employers’
unrealistic demands. Some of the requirements leave almost no room for
fresh graduates. Applicants are expected to be a particular age, possess
a particular degree and even possess years of experience.
‘’How can a fresh graduate possess experience, if he or she has not
been given the opportunity to prove their mettle in the first place?
Nigerian employers should be kinder to fresh graduates. That is why
they train these graduates following their employment or probation
period just to teach them the intricacies of their new jobs.’’
Desperate alternatives they explore
Many Nigerian graduates who are tired of waiting for jobs have been
pushed into taking drastic steps to end their joblessness. While some of
them have gone ahead to learn new skills or go for refresher courses to
increase their chances of getting good jobs, others have taken
desperate alternative routes to making ends meet these days.
These second set of people have taken jobs below their educational
qualification just to make sure they don’t starve to death. They have
kept themselves busy by engaging in unorthodox jobs and starting out
Many graduates now ride commercial motorcycles popularly known as okada just to make money even though it was the preserve of people with little or no education in the past.
Mr. Christian Bello is from Adamawa State. He is a young graduate
from the University of Maiduguri. After two years of endlessly trudging
the streets of his state capital in search of employment, he solicited
funds from his family members to buy a motorcycle.
He said that Okada business is risky but it keeps him alive
until the will of God is done and he gets a good job to take care of his
three siblings who are looking up to him for moral and financial
support too. He came to Lagos in search of a greener pasture but luck is
yet to smile on him.
According to him, when he went for an interview, he was denied
employment because he had no godfather to pursue his case. At the end
of the day, he was unable to get the job even after he was interviewed.
The position was reserved for someone else who knew someone in the
company. That experience of over a year ago shattered his hopes of a
‘’I don’t like this job but what will I do? I am gradually becoming a
full-fledged okada rider with my certificates in the house. I ply Mile
2, Maza Maza axis. I am happy earning a living but if offered a better
job, I will willing accept.’’
Another graduate, John Adamu lives in Alakija, Lagos. He passed out
of the university five years ago but he’s yet to a job. He also resorted
to riding okada to fend for his young family as he got married
last year. Even though he says that okada business does not boost his
intellectual ability, he has refused to remain unemployed while waiting
for a white collar jobs.
“Okada riding is not an ideal job for a graduate but we do it because
of the present situation in the country. Government cannot create jobs
for us. Many graduates have died on our roads in the process of this okada business but what can we do? I think it is better than being idle.’’
His case is not too different from Alice Owolabi, a graduate of the
University of Ilorin. As an undergraduate, she had dreams of what she
wanted to become after leaving school, a job in a bank is the most
ideal, but her dreams are yet to materialize due to the unemployment
problem in Nigeria.
Years after graduation, Alice trekked the length and breadth of Lagos
without securing a job. Her prayers were finally answered when she got a
job in one of the new generation banks. But while her dream was to
work in the banking hall, Alice was employed as a cleaner.
She said, “I am managing the cleaning job since there are no jobs out
there. My intention is to work in the bank as one of the key staff. It
is so unfortunate I found myself as a cleaner. But I am still hopeful
that God will change my situation one day.’’
For Dorcas Akinjide, a graduate of Business Education from Adeniran
Ogunsanya College of Education, she is still dreaming. Never in her
life did she ever think that she would one day end up as a commercial
tricycle rider. But life played a fast one on her and she is facing it
gallantly and without shame.
After her graduation, she went into the labour market with the full
hopes of getting her dream jobs. But after several years of combing the
streets, she gave up the search and settled for commercial tricycle
business, a job mostly undertaken by men.
“I searched for a job from when I graduated in 2011without any
success. When things were getting very difficult, somebody introduced
commercial motorcycling to me. It looked odd to me at the beginning, but
I had no option than to go for it.’’
She had first applied to a pure water company at Abule Agba for
employment, but didn’t get it. Later, she applied to different schools
for a teaching job without any luck. Refusing to give up, she applied
for the post of a manager in a yoghourt manufacturing company in Mushin
and got the job.
But her joy was short lived as the salary was nothing to write home
about, she had to quit. She spent almost all her salary on transporting
herself to work and after five months, she left.
She narrated that it wasn’t easy when she started riding tricycle
because her friends were not in support of it. They said it belittles
her to do such a job, but she was determined to make ends meet. “My
friends didn’t buy the idea of driving tricycles, but I love it all the
same, as long as my father gave me his support.”
In what is the first roll-out of its N500 billion social investment
programme, the Nigerian government has begun taking applications online
for positions in the 500,000 direct teacher jobs scheme, through an
internet portal named npower.gov.ng.
While the portal went live on Saturday June 11, applications started
coming in on June 12. And within 48 hours, the job portal had taken more
than the figure the government was planning to employ. The 500,000
Teacher Corps, nicknamed N-Power Teach on the portal, is one of the
three direct job creation and training schemes introduced by the Buhari
government. Others are N-Power Knowledge, which will train 25,000
Nigerians in the area of technology, and N-Power Build, which will
train another 75,000 in the areas of building services, construction,
utilities, hospitality and catering, automotive vocations, aluminium
and gas services. All trainees would be paid for the duration of their
According to a presidential statement explaining the programme, “The
N-Power Teacher Corps initiative, which will engage and train 500,000
young unemployed graduates, is a paid volunteer programme of a two-year
“Unemployed Nigerians selected and trained will serve in teaching,
instructional, and advisory roles in primary, and secondary schools,
agricultural extension systems across the country, public health and
community education—covering civic and adult education.
“Besides their monthly take home pay estimated at about N23,000, the
selected 500,000 graduates will also get computer devices that will
contain information necessary for their specific engagement, as well as
information for their continuous training and development. They get to
keep the devices even after exiting the programme.
“According to the plan of the Buhari administration, the N-Power
Teacher Corps programme is an invaluable opportunity for young Nigerians
to make immense economic and social contributions to the nation while
developing their skills. It will also help to address the problems of
inadequate teachers in public schools.
“Also, persons enlisted under the scheme will gain work experience
and acquire key competencies through academic and non-academic capacity
building programmes intended to improve their competitiveness in the
workplace. Their devices will come loaded with knowledge-oriented
applications and software that will enable them acquire the skills and
“Under the N-Power Knowledge scheme, there are three aspects:
Creative, Technology Software and Hardware. These three sub-divisions
will train 25,000 young Nigerians in all.
“Five thousand of them would be trained in animation, graphic design,
post-production, script-writing for all of those under the sub-division
of N-Power Knowledge-creative category.
“The N-Power Knowledge scheme also has a technology category in two
aspects: hardware and software. Ten thousand Nigerians will be trained,
and equipped in the area of software development, including web
designers, and another 10,000 in hardware expertise, including to
repair, maintain and assemble mobile phones, tablets, computers and
“N-Power Build is therefore an accelerated training and certification
(Skills to Job/Enterprise) programme that will engage and train 75,000
young unemployed Nigerians in order to build a new crop of skilled and
highly competent workforce of technicians, artisans and service
Success stories of graduates who have made it
Dolapo Babalola is the Managing Director of Dolapo Creations, a bead making outfit. A
first child from a family of six, she graduated from Tai Solarin
University of Education where she studied Educational
Management/Economics. And she has a Master degree in Industrial
Education from the University of Ibadan.
Because of the unemployment problem in Nigeria, she launched herself
into a business. With the belief that everyone is gifted and talented,
and has something to offer, she started making beads. Today, she has
made a name for herself and money too.
Affiong Williams is founder of Reelfruit. She didn’t wait for a good
job to land on her laps. She took the bull by the horns and set up her
own company amidst the challenges that plagued her humble beginning.
Her fruit processing company appeared on the scene in 2012. They
process, package, and brand quality products. Their first was a range of
dried nuts and fruit snack. She has managed to rise above the
unemployment situation in Nigeria with her creativity and innovative
Emeka Akano put his business flair to use on time. Together with his
partner Chinedu Onyeaso, they have created a match-making service,
which is now useful for all the African entrepreneurs. It is called
Founder2Be. It looks like online dating – all you need is to click for
having a deal. Besides, two of them also established web developing
company, known as Entarado. They create effective applications and
solutions for various business purposes.