SENATE.GOV.NG: Sir, can you compare and contrast the procedure for getting employment in Nigeria some 25 years ago and today?
SENATOR OLUBUNMI ADETUNBI: The first thing is that 25 years ago, there were fewer graduate than we have now, I think the Universities we had in Nigeria then were about 20, and now we have over a 100 Universities with an output of a quarter of a million graduates every year. Unfortunately, the economy is not growing and creating jobs, so we have more people seeking jobs, than the jobs being created. What needs to be done differently is to try to restructure our economy for activities to grow in the non-oil sector where the absorbtic capacity for labour is the highest- in agriculture, in small and medium scale enterprise. These are areas in most economies where jobs are created, invest in. In Nigeria, small businesses are going down by the day and the bigger ones are shrinking and the only place where you have growth in our economy is the oil sector. So until we begin to see sustained growth in our agriculture and manufacturing and small businesses are deriving their activities from the primary labour market, we would continue to search for jobs.
SENATE.GOV.NG: Do you agree to forced compliance of unemployed youths to pay as much as 400,000 Naira for employment?
SENATOR OLUBUNMI ADETUNBI: That is a criminal issue that ought not to have happened in any civilized society. The fact that people are paying through the back door to get employment is the evidence of collapse of the public sector, because most of these places where these bribes are taking are in Federal government institutions. The Federal government is not supposed to collect money from Nigerians before they are employed, but on the basics of performance, credibility and qualification people are supposed to get jobs, not that jobs should be offered for sale to Nigerians; that is criminal. So the question of whether I agree or not does not arise because it’s something that ought not to do in the first place. It is an indication of the terrible state of our economy, where the youths have to raise funds to get jobs. It did not happen when I was an undergraduate because I was recruited to the Central Bank, and I don’t even know by whom because it was not on the basis of whom I knew then because there was a vacancy which I competited for and I got the job and this was in1980. It is a tragedy that what is happening is happening
SENATE.GOV.NG: What sanction do you think should be given to people caught in the act?
Sen. There are laws, that have been breached and for every law, there are rewards and punishment and I would just say let the investigation be done transparently and properly and let those who have been found guilty be faced with the recommended application of the law. We would allow the law to take its course.
SENATE.GOV.NG: Last week, there was a debate on the floor of the Senate on the ill-treatment of Nigerians abroad, what is your position on this issue?
SENATOR OLUBUNMI ADETUNBI: Where there is a law definitely there would be an offence. In those countries where Nigerians are being mistreated, the first question we should ask is what infractions have been made by those Nigerians, because I don’t think that people would be singled out for maltreatment because they are Nigerians. I think people should be ready to accept the consequences of their actions. It is unfortunate that most Nigerians leave this country with the mindset of which they are leaving a country where people breach laws without consequences, but they soon find out that it is not like that in other jurisdictions. I think it is a pointer to the attitude of the average Nigerian to law enforcement. A lot of these societies are such that there are laws, and those laws are obeyed and if you breach them, you will have to face the wrath of the law. It is unfortunate that Nigerians find themselves in these situations. I believe the solution must come from home so that we prepare Nigerians to be law abiding citizens because it is the habit you keep at home that you export abroad.
The statistics before me shows that there are 360 Nigerians serving jail terms in China. I was privileged to be in China some months ago, and I visited the Nigeria Embassy in China where I got this statistics about 89% are sentenced for drugs and the greater percentage of these people come from the South-Eastern Region. So these are realities we cannot shy away from. The attitude of Nigerians to law and to societies governed by rules is very poor and that is the attitude that goes out of the country believing that it is business as usual.
SENATE.GOV.NG: There is a saying that says inspiration as well as frustration can lead to any length. Do you subscribe that Nigerians should be oriented in the challenges of seeking “greener pastures” abroad?
SENATOR OLUBUNMI ADETUNBI: There is nothing wrong in seeking greener pastures. It is not an offence for a Nigerian to be in Diaspora, but there are acceptable behaviors in many societies. The issue is not about the rightness or wrongness of leaving the borders of this country to seek greener pastures but the issue is what is the acceptable conduct and behavior that is expected of a Nigerian whether at home or abroad.
Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi is representing Ekiti North in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.