Human Resource Development (HRD) has been identified by practitioners and academics to be central to economic development of nations. National Human Resource Development (NHRD) is an emerging area of study which has stirred up debates among academics as to its ‘newness’ and theoretical framework. NHRD as this area of HRD is called extends beyond the confines of work processes in an organisational setting to include effect of human capacity development on the socioeconomic conditions of countries. This area of study has been identified to be a source of community and nation building. The need for countries to stay abreast with the fast changing world has made it expedient for national governments to give support to skills acquisition and development. It is stressed that NHRD is of more importance to transitioning economies and developing countries. Nigeria adequately fits into the category of developing countries.
According to the last census conducted in 2009, Nigeria has a population of One hundred and fifty four million seven hundred and twenty nine people. This translates to forty seven per cent (47%) of West Africa’s population. It is also an indication that the country is blessed with enormous human resources required to transform its economy. Alas, Nigeria is plagued with endemic poverty where human development indices are far from encouraging. The World Bank also raises concerns on the country’s ability to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It is argued that investment in HRD can help alleviate poverty and unemployment. This is a wakeup call for the Nigerian government to chart a course for efficient and effective NHRD policies.
While it is important to acknowledge a pocket of interventions by the government to develop her human capacity, these efforts are less than adequate. The Oil and Gas industry which is the livewire of the Nigerian economy still relies on expatriates for its offshore and onshore operations. The Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), a government office which part of its responsibilities is to build the capacity needed in the petroleum sector through provision of scholarships to Nigerians to pursue Masters and Doctorate degrees in foreign and local universities, barely has enough funds to pursue its mandate. It is worth pointing out that the standards in our local universities are on a downward slope as evident in the over three- months-old strike by lecturers.
Universities are the bedrock for building human capital of every nation. This simple assertion cannot be said of our dear country. This will be a topic of discussion for another day. However, it is important to ‘remind’ the authorities that our universities are in dire straits and something urgent needs to be done. The state of our universities is reflected in the millions of unemployable youths roaming our streets. Our graduates are of the copy-and-paste generation that lack critical thinking and cognitive skills. It is not surprising that our economy is now import-driven so much so that items as mundane as toothpick are imported into the country. This reminds me of the Ajaokuta Steel and Rolling Mill that has ‘defied’ solution and now lies in a sorry state, taken over by weeds and reptiles. The company was aimed at meeting all our needs as far as aluminium and steel are concerned but the Billion-dollar plant is now a complete scrap as its design was based on obsolete Russian technology.
Vocational and technical studies should also be given adequate attention. Sometime last year, I was out on a fact-finding mission at a government Centre, National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI) to be precise, and I marvelled at the share ingenuity of some of the fabrication works displayed at the Centre. I sought to find out why the final products are not as smooth as those imported and one of the entrepreneurs retorted: “tell the government to complete Ajaokuta”. His reply hit me below the belt and it quickly got me thinking. If the Ajaokuta Steel and Rolling Mill were to be functional, our locally made aluminium and steel products can compete with any other across the globe. It means importation of aluminium roofing sheets, cutleries, grinding and block making machines etc. from China will end. Nigeria will then be an exporter of aluminium products to other African and beyond. Imagine what this will mean in terms of income and employment!
The way out of the rot we have found ourselves as a nation is to develop the potential and capacity of our human resource. A step towards this direction is by developing robust HRD policies at the national level with every stakeholder giving it the very seriousness it deserves. Implementation of the policies is as well important while I will also emphasise that this area has always been a ‘knotty’ one for other laudable policies of the government. Enough of the foot-dragging and semantics; for Nigeria to compete with other countries across the world, we need to embrace HRD in its entirety.
Connect with Bashir Mudi Baba on Twitter via handle @El_De_Bash