THE National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has released new figures about the unemployment situation in Nigeria and the figures should invite concern among all Nigerians, particularly those in governments across the country, saddled with the task of managing the affairs of Nigerians for prosperity. This is because rather than the reported position of former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the country was sitting on a keg of gun powder because of the growing crisis of unemployment, it would seem that the envisaged explosion is almost here going by the new figures of unemployment coming from the official organ of government on statistics. The NBS stated that, whereas there were more than 22 million Nigerians unemployed at the end of 2014, almost two million others have been added to the number since the advent of the President Muhammadu Buhari government. The situation, to be sure, is a reflection of the economic crisis currently facing the country, which, in itself, is symptomatic of the global economic downturn and the attendant worldwide dislocations.

However, the point has to be made that Nigeria is not just facing a crisis of unemployment, as the NBS stated that the number of Nigerians sacked, underemployed or unemployed has been on the increase every month for some time now. The country is facing a situation in which rather than having employment opportunities that are not enough for the teeming unemployed, the available opportunities have indeed been reducing due to the contracting of the national economy. The Nigerian economy is today characterised by stifling employment situation, as firms are daily disengaging staff and reducing wages. With companies themselves packing up and new ones becoming a rarity, it should be clear why the unemployment situation in the country has become dire.

The consequences of the situation are more disturbing, given that there is evidence that the current situation is resulting in societal challenges and security threats. There are reports of a surge in general and property crime in the country coupled with increasing societal threat in the form of drug trafficking and usage. These are not simple issues that could be dismissed peremptorily. They touch at the core of societal stability and peace, as security is the first condition for societal continuity. It would be interesting to see how the increasing security challenge is itself further contributing to the problem of unemployment given that companies and individuals would find it difficult to continue to expand economic activities in the face of increasing crime. We note in this regard reports about the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway being under the siege of armed robbers almost every day, with this being replicated across the country. The implication is that the country may be entering the cyclical situation of unemployment feeding insecurity, even as insecurity also exacerbates the unemployment situation. This would definitely usher in heightened crisis in the country.

The government has to apprehend the full implication of the current worsening unemployment situation. Fortunately, it has talked about rejuvenating and reforming the economy in order to make it more productive and thus create many jobs. But this means that the government has to do more than talking and quickly get to grips with turning around the economy and ensuring that it starts to create employment opportunities sooner than later. The World Bank has recently stated that Nigeria would need to create between 2010 and 2030, an estimated 40 - 50 million additional jobs in order to cater to its growing population.

Yet, rather than creating new jobs, the country has been experiencing reduction in job opportunities. This suggests that there is a need for enhanced attention to the issue of the economy, particularly in relation to employment creation and generation. We would expect the government, for the sake of staving off the implosion that normally accompanies unchecked unemployment growth, to give more attention to getting Nigerians engaged productively, as this is the only way to ensure a stable and growth/development oriented society. We note, of course, that part of the efforts needed to curb insecurity would be the need to further equip the police and other security forces.

Still, we believe that the current surge in crime is not unrelated to the social situation of rising unemployment, such that the government should not just focus on a law-and-order approach alone in strengthening the police and other security agencies, but should, in addition, primarily help to reduce the unemployment figures in order to allow the police to have fewer number of crimes to cope with. The bottom line is that the crisis of unemployment is a dangerous and massive one that could damage the social fabric of any society. It is therefore in the interest of all for the government to quickly address the current growing threat of unemployment in the country by using all strategies to create employment and ensure the productive engagement of Nigerians.