Economic objectives (I)

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Continued from  last week

THIRDLY, it would eliminate the ugly and irritating phenomena of available vacancies in a given area being filled by outsiders whilst the sons of the soil remain unemployed or underemployed, and of excesses of industrial activities or vacant jobs in one State or parts of it, whilst there are large numbers of unemployed and underemployed persons in other states or parts of them. Fourthly, having regard to their peculiar resources, all the states in the Federation would, in reality, enjoy a sense of economic, as well as of political coordinateness.

When all these have been done, the third cause of involuntary unemployment remains-that of immobility or misdirected mobility of labour. The way to overcome this obstacle is to facilitate a reasonable measure of geographical and horizontal mobility. For instance, posts of all categories in the civil and public services of the Federal Government, at its headquarters, or in federally-owned projects of strategic importance like the ECN, P&T, DIe, Kainji Dam, Security Printing, Nigerian National Shipping Lines, the Railways, etc., will have to be filled by Nigerians whatever their places of origin, in strict accordance with qualifications and merits; the higher administrative, executive, and professional posts in the services of the Federal Government, other than those of strategic importance, located in any state should, other things, being equal, be filled by the natives of the state; but if for the time being other things are not equal, then, until they are equal, such posts should be open to all Nigerians, irrespective of their places of origin.

On the other hand, all posts, below the higher administrative, executive, and professional levels, in the services of the Federal Government, other than those of strategic importance, located in any state, should be filled by natives of the state; and whenever there are vacant jobs of any kind waiting to be filled in one state, and there are unemployed or under-employed persons in another state, able, ready, and willing to fill those vacancies, they should, in the national interest, be moved from the latter to the former with the utmost possible despatch. Such movement as this may be temporary or permanent; it would all depend on the nature of the employment and the surrounding circumstances.

If all these courses of action are followed; if the monetary institution, recommended earlier on, is established; if the national planning commission. which I am proposing later, is instituted; and granting the kind of training and discipline which I am also proposing later on, it should be quite possible and feasible to introduce and maintain a policy of full employment in the people’s republic of Nigeria.

 

  1. Unemployment Relief

If, as declared by the UNITED NATIONS, under its UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, the right to work is one of the fundamental human rights; and if, as we have correctly argued above, it is the duty of the Governments of Nigeria to provide employment for all their citizens who are able and willing to work, then the case for the payment of unemployment relief allowances to such persons, during the period of their involuntary unemployment or enforced idleness, has been made, and it is unnecessary to elaborate it further. But, there are two brief additional points which must be made. Once full employment is accepted as a policy of action, it would

(1) be an act of unfairness and injustice to leave the unemployed persons destitute and uncared for, and without decent means of livelihood, during the period of their involuntary unemployment; and

(2) encourage remissness, on the part of the government, in the pursuit of the policy, if the payment of unemployment relief allowances is not enjoined upon it. In other words, the payment of these allowances would be a constant reminder to the government that it has a duty to every citizen to provide him with work.

 

  1. National Minimum Wage

The case for the introduction of a national minimum wage compatible with a national minimum standard of living has been sufficiently made under Section I above. Some important considerations, however, remain. It must be admitted that, having regard to their present modes of operation, the incomes of self- employed persons, such as farmers, nomadic cattle-rearers, and petty traders, will be difficult to ascertain; and even if they were ascertained, it would be more difficult still, in the existing circumstance, for the government directly to raise such incomes if they fell below the statutory national minimum wage. What do we then do?

In regard to petty traders, the only course open to the Government is to rely on the multiplier effect of its investment policy, which is designed to ensure full employment and accelerate the country’s development on all fronts, to take care of them. Concerning the other two groups, however, a more positive and direct approach must be adopted. These groups of people should be organised by the government into viable units of producer, marketing, and consumer cooperatives. In the case of farmers, contiguous land-holdings may be consolidated into viable estates, or, where necessary, an adequate area of land may be compulsorily acquired for the same purpose. As regards nomadic cattle-rearers, cattle ranches will have to be established for their resettlement as cooperators. All these would naturally present some difficulties, financial, technical, and sociological. But they can and must be overcome, if a decent minimum standard of living is to be assured to the persons concerned. As self-employed producer, marketing, and consumer co-operators, a minimum income can be assured to our farmers and cattle-rearers. In the early stages, the provision of capital, technical know-how, management, and supervision would be the responsibility of the government. In due course, these co-operators would be sufficiently trained to take over the complete management and supervision of their estates and ranches, and of all the operations connected with their activities.

To be continued

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