- Title: NIGERIA: Unemployment in the Niger Delta remains high, despite vast oil riches.
- Date: 6th July 2012
- Summary: PORT HARCOURT, RIVERS STATE, NIGERIA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF TRAFFIC IN PORT HARCOURT
- Embargoed: 21st July 2012 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA17AZP30GC9QOVDUSF0BPE9245
- Story Text: Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, exports some 2 million barrels of oil per day attracting huge investment from major international oil companies. But in recent years, its oil-rich Niger Delta region has been synonymous with oil spills from pipelines wrought by age and rampant vandalisation blamed on oil thieves.
Today, the region bares no signs of benefitting from decades of oil exploration in the region. Most residents remain poor and unemployed despite the huge oil and gas resources under their feet.
Thirty-four-year-old Meibi Oyeghe, a resident of Nigeria's oil rich Bayelsa state has been roaming the streets of his home town searching for employment since graduating in 2008 with a Master's Degree in Social Sciences.
In a bid to get his plight and that of other youths recognised by the authorities, a desperate and frustrated, Oyeghe embarked on a hunger strike in February this year, to protest against the high level of unemployment in the Niger Delta.
But his efforts went unnoticed, and he still doesn't have a job today.
"I was actually tired of writing applications and going for interviews, that was why I embarked on hunger strike at least, perhaps I would be able to make my case to those who call themselves leaders of our country," he said.
Oyeghe represents thousands of highly educated Nigerians in the Niger Delta who cannot find employment after leaving university.
Many university graduates have resorted to becoming street vendors in order to earn a living.
Twenty- two-year-old Owen Chukwuemeka said he graduated with a Master's degree in Political Science in 2006, but because he cannot find a job he now to sells merchandise to motorists in order to survive.
His encounter with a fake hiring firm recently left him broke and discouraged.
"They had made an advert, I went to look for employment, they said I should pay some amount of money. So after paying they said it is for an oil company, so I paid the money after the whole thing nothing came out of it, and when I went to the office, they had relocated their office," he said.
The unemployment situation in Bayelsa is mirrored in neighbouring Rivers State. At a recent job recruitment by the government in the capital Port Harcourt, thousands of university graduates turned up to fill forms for just a few posts.
Ipailibo Harry, Commissioner for Employment Generation, Rivers State said unemployment and poverty in the region was a major challenge and that government was taking necessary steps to create more jobs.
He added that with security now restored in the region, he encouraged the private sector to play a leading role in creating more jobs for the youth.
He blamed some multi-national companies operating in the region for being insensitive to local people by continuing to hire foreigners instead of qualified Nigerians who are willing to be trained.
"If you are looking for PHD (graduates) we have PHDs around here, if you are looking for Masters (graduates), we have millions of them. If you want basic graduates with first degree level we have uncountable. This is just a list to tell you this is just one local government area unemployed persons, we have about 5,500 unemployed," he said.
Harry also questioned the motives of some foreign owned companies that offered only low ranking jobs to Nigerians, while keeping the well paying top jobs for their friends and relatives.
"A Nigerian bottling company has just done this: it says sales assistants. What happens to the sales managers? What happens to the production managers? And what do they want, WAEC (West African Examination Council) or school certificate. Is this what we are qualified to be doing? When will this man grow in the company to become somebody tomorrow?" he said.
According to Nigeria's ministry of youth development, 68 million youth in the country remain unemployed today. A number of them now operate illegal and dangerous oil refineries that are hidden away in the thick mangrove forests along creeks in the delta.
Almost three years since an amnesty was agreed with 26,000 Niger Delta militants, who claimed to be fighting for the rights delta residents, the region oil theft remains a major headache and is now on the rise, authorities and oil firms say.
Although the illegal refiners only make up for a small portion of the theft, the environmental damage they do is huge. Oil spills from leaky pipes pollute vast tropical waterways.
Already large swaths of farm land and water have been contaminated and the government has reported that its losing up to 2 billion US dollars annually to crude oil thieves.
Although the government allocated a portion of the budget to regenerating the Niger Delta, many local politicians have not delivered on promised jobs, roads, schools and hospitals, as well as creating job opportunities.
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