- By Chibuike Godwin Onyendilefu
It was a friend that first told me in the late 80’s that European countries pay their unemployed citizens monthly stipends and also provide them shelter.
Even people seeking refugee status in most European countries are generally entitled to food, or money to buy food, plus shelter and medical attention.
For United Kingdom, welfare package for people captured in the social register will astound even a middle class Nigerian.
The maximum weekly rate policy for 2023/2024 are as follows:£67.20 if you are under 25 years.Up to £84.80 if you are over 25.You may need to do the maths in naira conversion for one week and then a month to fully understand this in the Nigerian sense.
Interestingly, this social policy also takes care of youngsters whose parents are not employed or youths who intend to live independent of their parents but who are yet not employed.
Mind you, this program is not just only in UK.Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland etc have long embraced this responsibility as a way of cartering for their jobless citizens.
Here in Nigeria, our major challenge is being able to manage the bubbling energies of our youths and with the latest demographic projection about Africa nay Nigeria, over 50% of our population will be youths in the next few decades and we must plan and prepare them to be useful citizens instead of acquiescing to the abnormality of regarding them as irredeemable miscreants.
Lagos State is one state that attempted to follow this welfarism policy as a way of caring for their unemployed youths, knowing its potency to reduce crime but in the face of the nonchalance of the informal sector to contribute to the tax net, it became difficult for government to raise enough from tax to really formalise this policy as a state policy.
In 1999, under Governor Tinubu, the Lamidi Adedibu informal style was allowed by government to thrive, wherein these jobless youths were given free hand to collect daily payments from Danfo , Okada and tricycle riders who would not ordinarily pay taxes to government willfully.
That pattern followed an upline arrangement where these youths will ‘extort’ this money from motorists and pass on to their overall head who pays them and returns part to government.
This was simply how Agbero became unofficially sanctioned by government who turned a blind eye to their activities.
At the moment, Agberos pervasive spread has stretched to virtually all the states in Nigeria, to become a nationwide phenomenon.
In Lagos, it has worked to curtail criminal activities by youths who we ordinarily would have termed simply as social deviants.It has also exposed the fact that our sons and daughters who we call hoodlums are humans who have been failed by societal inequalities.
How fair are we then when we call them hoodlums when actually the ineffectiveness of socio-economic and political decisions we made contributed to leading them to a life of crime?
I make bold to say that it was this realisation that led the immediate past government of Abia State under Okezie Victor Ikpeazu,Ph.D into crafting some of it’s youth centred programs which included youth inclusiveness in governance which served to curtail youth related crimes and made Abia State the safest in the entire east all through that regime.
Dr. Ikpeazu refused to see these youths as miscreants but citizens who when well regarded could start their gradual transformation to decent and law abiding citizens.
Sadly this huge benefit seem to have been truncated by recent actions of the Dr.Alex Otti led government, leading to the new wave of crime in Abia.
It is therefore expected that Dr.Alex Otti must begin to do what Dr.Ikpeazu did by also engaging some of these youths in government as assistants and special assistants.That would include emulating the social net programs of the civilised nations who have succeeded in curtailing crime through it.
It must be known that these youths though misguided but they are certainly not morons.They are not unaware of the enormous financial muscle of a governor who if he wants, could undertake for them some form of monthly stipends which such governor could fund from the state’s security vote which acrues to governors.
Enough of this misnomer of the government of Dr.Alex Otti calling our youths hoodlums simply because they are unemployed.These youths can become worthy citizens if we play our own part and allow them breath a little.
Dr.Otti must lead this challenge to restore peace in Abia.If Dr.Ikpeazu did it, he can also do it.