Problems Within The Finance Industry In 2008 Have Been Attributed Youth Crime Reduction Through Enterprise Development

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Youth Crime Reduction Through Enterprise Development

In 2008 alone, the country lost $20.7 billion in oil profits due to terrorist violence in the oil-rich but volatile Niger Delta region. A report by the President’s Technical Committee to the Nigerian government attributed economic losses to armed militant activities in oil installations resulting in shutdowns and spills. The conflict has significantly hampered oil exports – the country’s main revenue earner – from 2.6 million barrels in 2006 to the current figure of 1.78 million barrels. The humanitarian component of this economic tragedy is even more terrifying: at least 1,000 people have died and 300 more have been taken hostage, including 44 foreign oil workers and traders.

The Nigerian government considers four of the nine states in the Delta region to be conflict zones, and travel by foreigners to these places is strictly restricted. Covering an area of ​​70,000 square kilometers, the mainstay of the country’s economy, accounts for 85% of the state’s revenue. The armed insurgency in the region traces its roots to a perceived feeling of neglect by both the oil companies and the national government, a feeling borne out by empirical evidence. Despite its strategic and economic importance, human development indicators for the Niger Delta region lag far behind the national average. Furthermore, pollution from oil and gas exploration has destroyed local livelihoods, such as fishing, and brought domestic disease, malnutrition and high mortality rates, in addition to serious environmental impacts.

Localization symptoms in the Niger Delta are only part of the problem. Despite spending billions on the national treasury, poverty remains. Successive government policies over the last century have failed to engage the vast majority of Nigerians; 76 million of which are officially classified below the poverty line, while 35% of the population lives in staggering poverty.

Yet poverty carries an inevitable social toll, and for poor people, crime is often an easy step from deprivation. Although reliable independent data is hard to come by, Nigeria has a high unemployment rate that adds thousands of new graduates to the list of unemployed every year. The country’s leading newspaper ‘This Day’ reported in a September 2007 story that Nigerian youths make up half of the population, 95% of whom are unemployed. By the government’s own admission, over 70% of the population was unemployed that year. This figure has been reduced to less than 29%, which is consistent with recent independent World Bank findings. Yet even at this rate, over 40 million Nigerians are currently unemployed. Notably, effective policy changes since 1999 have done little to alleviate the situation, mainly due to a lack of focus on capital-intensive enterprises that created fewer employment opportunities. Extreme infrastructure shortages worsened the situation, forcing hundreds of factories and informal sector industries to lay off workers.

As a result, youth crime continues to rise due to decades of underinvestment in the social sector, coupled with weak poverty-alleviation and ineffective unemployment-elimination initiatives. Over the years, the country’s billions in annual oil revenue raised the bar for its economic and social aspirations, resulting in an environment of criminal tendencies.

For a nation with millions of unemployed youth, the net result has been a rise in violent crimes, including frequent robberies, assaults, robberies, carjackings, extortions and kidnappings by individuals and gangs. Fraud is a particularly large criminal sub-sector here. In fact the US State Department specifically warns travelers to Nigeria to beware of innovative scams on the Internet that pose the risk of both financial loss and personal danger.

After years of political and social turmoil, the accumulation of petty crimes has turned Nigeria into an established transit point on drug routes to Europe and North America. Due to its strategic location, the country has become a center of extreme economic corruption and criminal activities. Since 1999, however, a new climate of cooperation with international law-enforcement agencies has resulted in a substantial crackdown on syndicated criminal activities across the country. A notable achievement in this regard is the national initiative against drug money laundering, which resulted in the removal of Nigeria from the list of non-cooperative countries of the Financial Action Task Force in 2006. However, the country’s commitment to combating economic crimes continues to be monitored.

A mixture of poverty, inflation and unemployment in Nigeria has created a situation where gainful employment opportunities are scarce, and crime is often a means of survival. The same applies to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa where legitimate opportunities are shrinking. Across Nigeria, most cases are property crimes, related to survival – theft, armed robbery, fraud etc. The inherent flaws in the criminal justice system only add to the problem. Addressing law and order is difficult due to the existence of a tripartite criminal justice system consisting of the Criminal Code, the Penal Code (based on Islamic injunctions) and customary law, some of which are informal and unwritten.

Youth crime is currently the biggest obstacle to Nigeria’s rapid economic development. One of the government’s key priorities in terms of long-term development goals is to mobilize its substantial youth population to lead the enterprise revolution. Nigeria’s emerging leadership has awakened to the urgency of implementing basic initiatives, at least in terms of creating new jobs for sustainable and inclusive growth. For Nigeria, entrepreneurship development is a social as well as an economic imperative. As part of any concerted government effort in this regard, the following aspects require critical consideration:

* In contesting Nigeria’s troubled past, maintaining political stability and the right to democratic institutions is critical to the success of any meaningful youth revitalization initiative.

* Improvement in per capita income, standard of living and related human development index through implementation of informed social and economic policy changes.

* Effective poverty alleviation programs that focus on enterprise development as a practical means to legitimate prosperity. Mobilization of youth manpower to promote rapid entrepreneurship development in rural and urban areas alike.

* Comprehensive reform of the education system to properly address local realities. Focus on vocational and skill development programs that translate into practical employment opportunities.

* Rehabilitation programs for Niger Delta militants and other criminal elements that focus on equipping them with practical skills and leveraging their economic potential.

For a country beset by staggering problems, piecemeal measures may not be effective in the long run. Hopefully, Nigeria has at least begun to take positive steps.

In June this year, President UM Yar’Adua’s government announced an amnesty for insurgents in the Niger Delta region. The declaration acknowledged that militancy arose out of the inability of the state to meet the aspirations of the local people and the need for sustainable development in Delta states. It added that most of the fighters are “able-bodied youths whose energies can be harnessed for the development of the Niger Delta and the nation at large”.

As is the case with seemingly complex problems, Nigeria’s youth crime problem has its own solution!

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