There is every reason to worry about the rising unemployment rate in the country despite the assurances that the problem is being addressed through different government interventions. The unemployment figures starring Nigerians in the face are enough pointers to the gravity of the problem despite the disclosure by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that in the 4th quarter of 2014 government provided 369, 485 jobs. The undisputable fact is that more still has to be done to allay the fears of the average Nigerian.
The NBS, in its 2012 National Baseline Youth Survey Report issued in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Youths Development, stated that more than half, about 54 per cent of youth population in the country, was unemployed. The National Population Commission (NPC), in a report on its website, also raised the alarm over the rate of unemployment in the country, stating that the figure shot up from 21.1 per cent in 2010 to 23.9 per cent in 2011. Lamenting that the nation’s economic growth had not translated into job creation, especially with the new status of Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy, the NPC stressed: “Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics clearly illustrated the deep challenges in Nigeria’s labour market, where the nation’s rapid economic growth has not translated into effective job creation.”
According to the NPC report, “The NBS estimates that Nigeria’s population grew by 3.2 per cent in 2011, reflecting rapid population growth. In 2011, Nigeria’s unemployment rose to 23.9 per cent compared with 21.1 per cent in 2010(NBS, 2012).” The working population, it said, swelled by 2.1 million to 67,256,090 people, with just 51,224,115 persons employed, leaving 16,074,205 people without work. Disclosing that the lack of sufficient jobs resulted in additional 2.1 million unemployed persons in 2011, up from 1.5 million unemployed people produced in 2010, the report stated: “Unemployment was higher in the rural areas, at 25.6 per cent, than in the urban areas, where it was 17 per cent on average.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) had also expressed similar worry at the problem in its review of the Nigerian economy at 53, two years ago. In a statement by its President, Goodie Ibru, LCCI lamented that unemployment rate in the country had increased by 23.9 per cent. “Unemployment rate has risen to the frightening level of 23.9 per cent; youth unemployment is at 50 per cent; the poverty situation has been worsening, currently estimated at 67 per cent, the security challenges have not really abated,” Ibru said. He blamed the growing challenge on the inability to adequately transform the huge opportunities and potentials that abound in the country for the good of the people.
The unemployment situation in the country becomes even more worrisome when viewed against the fears raised by the Special Assistant on Sustainable Banking, CBN, Dr. Aisha Mahmood, who in her paper on Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principle delivered during the 2014 World Environment Day programme organised by the Federal Ministry of Environment in Abuja, said, “As the population is growing, the resources that we all depend on, the food, energy, water, is declining. The demand for these resources will rise exponentially by the year 2030, with the world needing about 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water.” According to Mahmood, “In Nigeria, there is the issue of youth and employment. 70 per cent of the 80 million youths in Nigeria are either unemployed or underemployed. We are all witnesses to what happened recently during the immigration recruitment exercise and this is simply because 80 per cent of the Nigerian youth are unemployed.”
Her revelation came despite the repeated figures released by the NBS indicating that the Nigerian economy had been creating millions of jobs in the past years. NBS had stated that the Nigerian economy created about 1.2 million jobs in the 2013 fiscal year alone.
We are really worried that Nigerians are beginning to doubt the credibility of the figures being bandied around by NBS because the reality on ground is quite contrary to these figures. Only two years ago, NBS raised the hopes of Nigerians to high heavens when it predicted that by 2015, only 27.2 per cent of the nation’s population would be poor. The Statistician- General of the Federation and Chief Executive Officer of NBS, Dr. Yemi Kale, who was represented by the Assistant Director, Millennium Development Goals, NBS, Mr. Iro Godwin, had raised the hope at a dialogue organised by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals to review the progress report made by Nigeria on the internationally- agreed goals. Kale had stated: “In 2004, we ran the first National Living Standard Survey and we estimated the number of Nigerians that were living below poverty line at 54.4 per cent. Between 1999 and 2015, if we divide 54.4 per cent by two to enable us draw our target, it is expected that by 2015, only 27.2 per cent of Nigeria’s population will be poor.”
With the projection by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that global unemployment would hit over 215 million by 2018, we wish to draw the attention of the government to the fact that if the unemployment war is to be won, it must start from the nation’s education sector, which must be immediately overhauled along the line of skills acquisition. The energy sector must also be looked into to offer the needed lifeline for comatose industries, as a situation where the country is struggling to generate less than 4,000 megawatts of electricity is not in any way helpful. Nigeria’s civil service must also be restructured to allow qualified youths take up vacant positions left by retired civil servants in an open, transparent and competitive manner. Vacant positions in various government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) must also be advertised and there must be a progressive shift from bottom up, allowing civil servants in MDAs to genuinely retire and make room for the younger ones instead of reserving those jobs for their cronies. While we commend the various interventions put in place by government so far to improve the situation, we call on all authorities concerned to double their efforts at creating a conducive environment for job creation in order to reverse the worrisome and mindboggling trend.