By: Abdulmalik Adetola
Undoubtedly, the repercussions of unemployment extend far beyond economic woes, delving into issues that pose a grave threat to a nation’s security. In Nigeria, where endemic poverty persists and the government grapples with addressing unemployment, every corner of the country has become a breeding ground for heinous crimes. Poverty and unemployment serve as both mirrors reflecting and catalysts precipitating a multitude of contemporary societal challenges. Chief among them is the surge in crime, which has, regrettably, become the only means of survival for some Nigerians.
The scarcity of job opportunities has left a substantial portion of the population vulnerable to social unrest. Consequently, many unemployed individuals resort to criminal activities, offering their services as enforcers and assassins to those in need. The prevailing insecurity, characterized by political violence, ethnic-religious conflicts, banditry, robbery, kidnapping, and the scourge of terrorism, can unequivocally be traced back to the root causes of unemployment and poverty.
“While Nigeria stands as the sixth-largest producer of crude oil, amassing over $800 billion in revenue over the last 58 years, more than 80% of its population still resides below the grim poverty line of $1 per day. This stark economic disparity sets the stage for a disheartening surge in crime rates.
With millions grappling with unemployment or underemployment, it’s evident that this fertile ground is ripe for heinous crimes, particularly among the youth. A recent release of statistics by Statista reveals that Nigeria’s crime rate is nearing a staggering 70%, with the potential to rise even higher.
Studies on radicalization in Northern Nigeria have shed light on the pivotal role played by economic and social factors. Terrorist organizations like Boko Haram exploit these circumstances by offering financial incentives to recruit new members.
The surging unrest and unemployment statistics undeniably exhibit a profound correlation between inactivity and insecurity. The nation’s security crisis gravitates towards states with unemployment rates surpassing the national average.
Banditry and terrorism have emerged as consequences of corruption, wealth inequality, and inadequate policy implementation to foster employment opportunities. In Nigeria, the term “bandits” refers to armed rural gangs engaging in robbery, abduction, and extortion. Up to 30,000 criminals operate in over 100 gangs in the northwest alone, some with as many as 2,000 fighters—roughly the equivalent of two battalions of the Nigerian army.
Most of these bandits are youths resorting to kidnapping for financial gain. Effective job creation policies could deter these young minds from turning to crime. Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) reveals an alarming trend, with 18 abduction events targeting students in Northern Nigeria between January 2018 and April 2021. ACLED also reports that bandits were responsible for over 2,600 civilian deaths in 2021, a 250% increase from the previous year, dwarfing the civilian deaths attributed to Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province.