3million Jobs in 300 Days

Aniebo NwamuPresident Jonathan set up the Steve Oronsaye panel to design a template for reducing the workforce, apparently because recurrent expenditure was consuming about 74 per cent of the federal government’s budget. Almost three years after the panel’s report was submitted, none of its recommendations has been implemented, apparently because it would not be “politically correct” to sack workers. One would therefore rightly regard the president’s directive to the “Jobs Board” he inaugurated on Wednesday to create 3million jobs within the next one year as a contradiction.
The “Jobs Board”, composed of members of the president’s cabinet (Vice-president Namadi Sambo is the chairman) and some businessmen, would do well to tell the president the home truth: Government fails because, often, it diagnoses problems wrongly. It’s not the number of civil and public servants in the country that has created the problem; it’s the civil servants’ unproductivity. If the civil service were a social security scheme, it would be understandable. But workers ought to produce more than what they are paid. In Nigeria’s case, however, they are idlers, gossips, thieves and armed robbers. They work only for their pockets.
Three weeks ago, this column discussed some of the ways jobs could be created by a government that is sincere. [“Helping The Poor To Help Themselves”, August 24] What I left out then is that stable power supply alone can create 5million new jobs instantly. Speed trains – the types that travel 600km to 700km per hour in Europe – can also create up to a million jobs per year and decongest cities like Lagos, Onitsha, Aba, Abuja and Port Harcourt; in fact, I would prefer to work in Abuja but not live in the city if I could see a train that makes the trip from my village in 40 minutes. Also, a successful war on corruption would free up funds that could create upwards of 1million jobs each year. If the state and federal governments stopped awarding contracts today and did all their jobs by direct labour, at least 2million jobs would be created instantly. The possibilities are endless.
Any of those ways would be more satisfying than the one produced by the GSM revolution. I remember Obasanjo and his acolytes used to gloat about creating jobs through the GSM, as if they invented the technology. And where are the jobs the GSM created here? Mainly jobs done by the girls we see sitting under umbrellas and selling recharge cards and SIM cards. Most of them make less than N5, 000 in a month.
I am not a member of the “Jobs Board”. But I have a simple formula that could create at least 3million new jobs within the next 10 months in Nigeria. This space is not enough to discuss the minute details of my proposal. But, in brief, I suggest that, to create a productive civil service that would be self-sustaining, we need to start a new agency that would, within the next five years, swallow up the current civil servants both at the state and federal levels. Let’s call it “Fatherland Service” (FS); it would be driven by information and communication technology (ICT) in a country where there are now more than 60million users of smartphones.
FS aims to divide the country into 150, 000 units – the same number of units that INEC is now creating. Call them 150, 000 mini-governments, if you like. Each has an average of 500 eligible voters or 1, 200 residents. For a start, FS hires 20 workers per unit to accommodate the required 3million jobs. What this means is that every resident within the unit is known by one or more of our 20 employees.
To get a job in FS, the applicant must:
*live within his/her unit
*obtain the national identity card and voter card in the unit
*own a smartphone with internet service
*possess a minimum educational qualification of GCE.
Our 20 men and women must be responsible for maintaining law and order and, therefore, account for any crime committed in their area. Using the smartphone, each is required to send daily reports to a central data base or server where another set of employees work 24 hours daily – processing information and giving the right information to the relevant authorities. This means that soldiers, policemen and other security agents to be hired must satisfy the above requirements also. Two soldiers each, for instance, will translate to 300, 000 jobs; three armed policemen will equal 450, 000 jobs. Two SSS/Civil Defence operatives in each unit will make up 300, 000 jobs. And so on and so forth… Are the shortfalls in these agencies now becoming evident?
With such solid presence in all nooks and crannies of the country, FS would also organise all elections and censuses. There would no longer be any need for INEC ad-hoc staff or security operatives during elections. They would send the results instantly from the polling units. With this arrangement, some N200 -300billion usually spent by INEC and SIECs each year is saved.
Their jobs are not limited to security and elections. Some are, in addition, farmers (who have or lease farmlands), road marshals, tax collectors, health workers and personnel managers. Remember: there are 20 workers per unit. In the second and perhaps third tier of the FS organogram, only a few workers are left to coordinate the work done in the units.
If such a corporation/service were to be in place today, would there be Boko Haram? Would armed robbers operate freely? No. It would be easy to identify and pick up criminals of every description – robbers, kidnappers, terrorists, rapists, drug addicts and thieves – within a short time. We wouldn’t be wasting money on “security”, INEC, ghost workers and unproductive agencies. Leaders would find the country very easy to lead.
That is not all. Cities would be decongested and house rents would plummet. It would no longer be a case of having all federal MDAs in Maitama, Wuse and Garki of Abuja. Every worker would live and work within his/her unit – within trekking distance. A policeman from Akwa Ibom would no longer be asked to go and fight terrorists in Sambisa forest. A mono-lingual security operative born in Nsukka would not be posted to Sokoto where people speak Hausa or Fulfulde. The attraction for one person keeping 10 cars would no longer be there; not everyone would even need a car.
This idea is not utopic. It can work perfectly if there is political will. I know sceptics would ask: how would the jobs be funded? I bet it won’t be another set of GSM jobs or SURE-P jobs. It will be a public-private partnership (PPP) with all checks and balances, thanks to ICT. If we create 3million jobs with each employee receiving an average of N50, 000 per month, that translates to N150billion per month or N1.8trillion per year – much less than what the federal government now spends on security alone or what politicians will spend on electioneering between now and February. It is not equal to what the 36 states and Abuja pay their employees for doing nothing. Don’t forget that FS can later increase salaries by 300 per cent, because it can make the money three times over.
Nigeria is one country bedevilled by deadwood in its public service. Give them one idea and they would give you 20 reasons it won’t work. Yet, they have no workable ideas of their own, except how to loot the public treasury undetected. That’s why we are where we are.
Those who wish to transform the country must take tough decisions. Whether we like it or not, ideas still rule the world.

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