Nigeria recently got a nod from the International Monetary Fund returning it to its position as Africa’s biggest economy but nothing takes away from the fact that the country is mired in a recession that has hit the populace really hard.
Earlier in the year, a lot of employers including a number of banks and telecommunication companies began to retrench workers.
Amid the industry-wide retrenchment exercise, Nigeria’s government had reacted in an unconventional way, demanding that the banks refrain from sacking workers or risk a withdrawal of their licenses.
The country is a few months down the line from that and despite a number of interventions and efforts by the government which included a program to recruit half a million unemployed Nigerians into teaching positions and even a more unconventional drive to employ some graduates as bus conductors in Lagos, unemployment figures seem to steadily be climbing.
Data from Nigeria’s bureau of statistics paint a very bleak picture but sometimes statistics seem a little removed from reality. The FIRS recruitment drive which took place recently brings the picture into sharper focus.
The FIRS, which is Nigeria’s federal tax agency, advertised for 500 positions for Nigerian graduates. According to the FIRS boss, Tunde Fowler, the agency received 700,000 applications, 2000 of whom were first class graduates. Despite the bulk of applications received, Mr. Fowler says that federal agencies are strapped for cash and the agency can therefore not apply any more workers than it can manage.
The picture of the recruitment drive is reminiscent of a 2014 recruitment drive that ended in tragedy. Nigeria’s immigration service had advertised for 4,500 jobs but 125,000 job seekers applied and about 16 young people died in the stampede that ensued as candidates rushed to take the required exams.
In this latest recruitment drive, the numbers have more than tripled. Even the Nigerian police force faced a similar situation in February when it said that it received almost a million applications for 10,000 listed positions.
With yet more companies closing down or retrenching workers, it is hard to put a positive spin on the unemployment problems in Nigeria and entrepreneurship does not seem to be the all encompassing answer either; data still projects Nigeria as one of the worst places to do business in the world.