A delegate to the National Conference, Mr. Olawale Abdulsalam has called on the state governments to invest in agriculture and for improvement in the power and education sectors in order to successfully address the unemployment situation in the country.
Abdulsalam, representing the Association of Former Speakers of State Assemblies, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, yesterday.
Abdulsalam noted that the agricultural sector alone has the capacity to reduce unemployment to the barest minimum considering the enormous resources that God had endowed the nation with.
He said to achieve the desired results, each state should determine the crops that could be grown in its environment and grow them in commercial quantity.
“If your state can grow cocoa, go into cocoa farming. If it is yam, go into yam farming. We need to go into real agriculture and let the state governments give it full support instead of depending on money from oil.
“Let us invest in agriculture; it can take millions of unemployed people off the street,” Abdulsalam said, while identifying unstable and inadequate power supply as one of the challenges fuelling unemployment and insurgency in the country.
He noted that many graduates and trained artisans could not practice their trade due to the lack of power supply.
“We have university graduates who studied mechanical engineering, civil engineering or electrical engineering but do not have the electricity to power their equipment. Even the well-trained artisans, do they have the needed electricity to work with. That is why we have so many young people engaging in `Okada' (commercial motorcycle) and tricycle business.
“Forty five per cent of those who are engaged in `Okada' business are graduates or well-trained artisans who do not have the opportunity to practice due to the power problem,” the former speaker said.
According to him, the power sector could be improved upon by tapping the abundant renewable energy potentials in the country.
“We have renewable energy sources that we can use to boost so many sectors of the economy. Hydropower is old but the latest ones are coal, wind and solar.
“South Africa has been able to generate substantial megawatts of electricity using coal energy. Nigeria has coal in Enugu, Kogi and Benue. If we develop our coal and utilise it, in the next six years we can get up to 80,000 megawatts,” he said.
He expressed optimism that once the power sector was revived, many employment opportunities would be created, thereby increasing the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“Our Kaduna Textile and several other textile industries are dead; once we have adequate power they would be revived. I was told that Kaduna Textile could employ up to 10,000 people, take that number out of unemployed Nigerians. Let this also happen in other textiles industries across the country and imagine the number of people that will be engaged,’’ he added.
On education, Abdulsalam urged governments at all levels to declare a state of emergency in the sector, right from primary to the university level.
He accused parents of contributing to the decay in the education sector by bribing teachers to pass their wards.
“The level of decay we are witnessing in the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education is also affecting the standard of education in the country and that is why most of our graduates are not employable.
“It is now left to government to declare a state of emergency in the education sector because for us to develop, education is number one priority. Once you have good education, you will have people who can be self-reliant,” he stressed.