The none availability of government jobs in Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State, have forced many residents into menial jobs in order to eke a living, writes Jeff Amechi
Left to them, they would have preferred to engage in something more meaningful. But since what they desire in terms of good jobs are not readily available, residents in Ebonyi State have hit the major streets and roads in the capital, Abakaliki, to seek ways of eking a livelihood no matter how menial the jobs are.
At first glance, it is apparent that some major roads and streets such as Akpofe Street along Old Enugu Road; Kpirikpiri opposite stadium; Ogoja Road by Vanco junction; Water Works Road opposite Mr. Biggs; the main gate of the permanent site of the Ebonyi State University, Ezzamgbo; the rice mill at Onuebonyi junction; and Speri-in-deo roundabout, have been taken over by the job seekers who come out each day in the morning to make ends meet.
It is a common sight to see mostly women, men and young people between the ages of 18 and 65 years with their shovels, tubs, head pans, hoes, and cutlasses, along with other equipment waiting along these major roads patiently for potential customers.
Enquiries by this reporter showed that these people collect as little as between N500 and N2, 000 a day for services such as bricklaying, working on the farms of wealthy farmers, cutting grass, cleaning of houses, as well as other available menial jobs.
The men always carry hoes, cutlasses, shovels and pick axes ready to do any kind of job be it farming, digging or even construction works.
One of the labourers, Mr. Okafor Nwenyim, a native of Umuezeokoha in Ezza North local Government Area, lamented that the situation has called for more efforts to look for any job that comes their way, adding that he hardly makes money to put food on the table for his family.
“We are suffering in the village and that is why I told my family to wait for me so that I will see if I can get money to feed them. My family is in the village and I came here to know if I can make some money to feed them. Here, as you can see, has not even helped matters as we at times stay here from morning till night without anybody coming to engage our services because there seems to be a general problem in the economy of the state,” he said.
He pointed out that in the past many people were building houses and doing other contract works, but now it seems there is hardship everywhere in the land.
“We used to get jobs anywhere there was building construction going on because that time people were empowered by the state government and when people build houses we enjoy from it as we work for them to make our own money,” he said.
He blamed the persistent poverty they faced on paucity of fund occasioned by lack of employment now leaving the youths with no other option than to engage in menial jobs to survive.
Also, Mr. Daniel Nwibo, a university graduate in Psychology, who rides Okada for a living, lamented that since his graduation, he has been finding it difficult to secure a job in the state.
“I was among the people who applied for the recent employment in the state Civil Service Commission and also applied in Federal teaching hospital Abakaliki but thousands of applicants’ returned up and that is to tell you the level of unemployment in the state. We cannot go into stealing or armed robbery, that is why I have said let me be doing this little work and wait on God to answer my prayers, but my greatest problem now is that the state government who obviously cannot give us jobs also does not want us to go freely on the roads as they have constituted manhunt against us on dual carriageways,” he lamented.
Also speaking, Mrs. Nwusulor Monica said that their hope only comes from God as they stay some days in vain without any respite coming their way, making them to return home without money.
“Not every day that we come here that we get a job, at times we go home empty handed; for instance, we have been here today since morning, but no work. Some of our members have left to their different places out of frustration,” she stressed.
it was also gathered that some shrewd businessmen are exploiting the opportunity by coming out late to engage the services of the people when they are tired of waiting and are ready to accept any amount.
According to Miss Ifeoma Nkwuda, who sells food at Akpofe Street, some people have cashed in on that to get the services of the indigent workers almost free by coming to engage them when they are already frustrated.
Her words: “Some people will come when they know that these people are already tired and willing to accept even peanuts to ask for their services as some of them willingly accept to collect as little as N500 just to keep food on their table.”
When contacted, the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and Orientation Hon. Chike Onwe however, dismissed the claims of the menial job seekers, arguing that the state government has taken bold steps to create jobs to the people of the state especially to the youths in the areas of agriculture.
Onwe said: “when you talk about hunger anybody can be hungry depends on the extent of hunger but when you see people by the road side waiting for work to do, it doesn’t mean poverty or unemployment. Those people if you give them some other things to do, they still abandon it and go for that kind of work. We have three types of labour, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour.
“Every society allows that and every society needs those three roles. For instance, semi-skilled can become skilled by improving on their abilities yet the semi-skilled can be needed because they are act as intermediary between the skilled and unskilled, they should have the know-how and if you pay them small amount they can get the job done. So, the existence of those skills doesn’t not repeat or mean poverty, but what government is doing is to create enabling environment for them to improve on their skills and for people to strive. Then, in the area of agriculture, the revolution that is going on in agriculture is something else, the training of youths in modern farming and disbursement of agricultural loan to farmers. The construction of modern rice processing plant at cluster in Izi, Ikwo and Osoedda will help in creation of jobs,” he stated.