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Seven years after, Buhari falters on 24 million jobs promise

By Gloria Nwafor 
06 December 2022   |   5:00 am
• NBS fails to release unemployment rate since 2020 • Ngige’s claim of seven million jobs created unlikely • NDP 2021-2025 to create 30m jobs a mirage, says Oyerinde • No honeymoon for who’ll take over from Buhari – Ojo • ‘It will require three govts to clean up this administration’s mess’ • ‘Insecurity, COVID-19, others undermine…

In 2014, Nigerian youths trooped out in large numbers to enlist for immigration jobs that did not exist. Photo: yahoo Singapore

• NBS fails to release unemployment rate since 2020
• Ngige’s claim of seven million jobs created unlikely
• NDP 2021-2025 to create 30m jobs a mirage, says Oyerinde
• No honeymoon for who’ll take over from Buhari – Ojo
• ‘It will require three govts to clean up this administration’s mess’
• ‘Insecurity, COVID-19, others undermine effort to lift 100m out of poverty’

With less than six months left to the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year administration, available data show that government has left more Nigerians poorer and unemployed than it met in 2015, despite coming to power, partly on the promise to create 24 million jobs.

President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had, in 2015, made campaign promises committing to creating three million jobs, yearly if elected into office, to tackle the high rate of unemployment in the country and lift the masses out of poverty.
But a recent report by Jobberman, in collaboration with Young Africa Works and Mastercard Foundation, shows that the number of unemployed individuals in the country has hit 23 million.

As election campaigns heighten, there are concerns by stakeholders and the electorate that the narrative and promises by presidential candidates remain the same, even as unfolding challenges portend dire times for Nigerians.
Though COVID-19 pandemic pushed many economies to the brink, leading to huge job losses and recession, Nigeria’s lingering challenges of insecurity, currency devaluation, poor accessibility to foreign exchange by the productive sector, high inflation, difficult operating environment, among others, compounded the country’s woes and outlook.

In fact, a major component of the President’s promise in 2015 was to tackle high unemployment rate. However, reality appears to be far from expectations going by the last unemployment data and poverty levels in the country, in addition to the current wave of brain drain, codenamed Japa, experienced across many sectors.
In his 2015 inauguration speech, the President said: “Unemployment, notably youth unemployment, features strongly in our party’s manifesto. We intend to attack the problem frontally through the revival of agriculture, solid minerals, and mining as well as credits to small and medium-size businesses to kick-start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure.”

Despite these commitments, major industrial firms are barely surviving to maintain decent production.
The Guardian can confirm that the unemployment rate in the country has seriously worsened when compared to when President Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015.

The rate of unemployment than in the second quarter (Q2) 2015, as released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) was 14.9 per cent, with the country’s unemployed persons put at about 6.1 million people.
Seven years later, the unemployment rate stands at 33.3 per cent. This followed the fourth quarter (Q4) report of year 2020 when the rate was last released by NBS, where about 23.18 Nigerians were jobless.

Since Q4,2020, no unemployment data has been released by NBS, a situation that has created an imbalance in the rating system, because the norm is for the bureau to release the report on a quarterly basis.
NBS, while releasing other sectoral data on schedule quarterly, has been silent on the release of the unemployment data.
In Jobberman’s report titled: ‘Unmasking the Barriers to Women’s Participation in Nigeria’s Labour Market,’ the firm stated that Nigeria’s active population was 122 million out of a total population of over 200 million.

The report further showed that 62 million of the active population are women and 60 million are men. The total number of individuals in the labour force was fixed at 70 million; 30 million women and 40 million men.
According to NBS, the labour force population covers all persons aged 15 to 64 who are willing and able to work regardless of whether or not they have a job. The employed population was fixed at 46 million; 20 million for women and 26 million for men. Individuals in informal employment were fixed at 43 million, with 18 million being women and 25 million, men.

Those in formal employment out of the active population of 122 million is a meagre three million; with less than one million for women and about 2.3 million for men. This leaves the number of unemployed Nigerians at 23 million; 12 million for women and 11 million for men.
With rising inflation, increased energy cost, COVID-19 challenges, and insecurity, among others, experts are of the view that the country’s unemployment rate may have since risen to over 40 per cent.

In Q2 of 2015, when Buhari was elected, unemployment in the age 18 – 64 bracket was 14.9 per cent and rose to 17.8 per cent in Q3.
The aggregate rate of unemployment has since then been increasing. For instance, in 2016, the unemployment rate was 12.9 per cent in Q1; 13.3 per cent in Q2; 13.9 per cent in Q3 and 14.2 per cent in Q4.
In 2017, the data showed 14.4 per cent in Q1; 16.2 per cent in Q2; 18.8 per cent in Q3 and 20.4 per cent in Q4. Similarly, in 2018, it showed 21.8 per cent in Q1; 22.7 per cent in Q2 and 23.1 per cent in Q3.

The Q4 unemployment report of 2018 was not released and the whole of 2019, as well as Q1 of 2020, until Q2 of 2020, where the data stood at 27.1 per cent and Q4 of 2020, where the highest rate was 33.3 per cent.
The then Statistician-General of NBS, Dr Yemi Kale, blamed the inability of the bureau to release unemployment data in the whole of 2019 and in some of the quarters of 2020 to paucity of funds.

Following the number of jobs promised and the reality on the ground, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, in 2017, said President Buhari created seven million jobs since assuming office in 2015, through one of the Social Investment Programmes (SIP), the N-Power programme, which began in 2016.
The SIP was part of the campaign promises of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and it has four components. They are the Home Grown School Feeding Programme for public primary schools; Conditional Cash Transfer to less privileged; N-Power for unemployed graduates and Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP), to encourage market women, artisans and traders.

However, data made available by NBS on job creation showed that 141,368 jobs were created in the Q2 of 2015, around the period when President Buhari assumed office and 475,180 jobs were created in Q3 of 2015. The total number of new employment recorded was 499,521 jobs.

In Q1 of 2016, the total number of jobs generated was 79,469. In Q2, the total number was 155,444. In Q3 of 2016, 187,226 jobs followed. This brings the total as at the Q3 of 2016 to 1,538,208.
There are no NBS statistics for Q4 of 2016 and the Q1 of 2017 so far.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that seven million jobs were created, going by the pattern since 2015. According to the methodology provided by NBS, the survey takes into account the formal, informal and public sector jobs.
The figures show that the Minister’s statement about N-power creating “millions of jobs” is incorrect as the programme has only engaged 500,000 people, even by his own claim. As for seven million jobs claimed to have been created, the claim cannot be substantiated.

While Nigeria’s economy recorded 3.4 per cent growth in 2021, the highest since 2014, growth has been sluggish in sectors that have the capacity to create jobs and lift many people out of poverty.
Reviewing the administration’s performance in terms of the economy, a Professor of Economics at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Usman Muttaka, said the last seven years have been “a mixed grill,” stating that on the exchange rate, “the naira has lost its value by about 70 per cent in the last seven years.”
Meanwhile, less than three years to 2025, efforts by the Federal Government to create about 30 million jobs through the National Development Plan (NDP) 2021-2025 may be a mirage.

The NDP, which is expected to shape the country’s development during the period, aims to tackle certain challenges and help the government’s plan of economic rejuvenation, including alleviating poverty and strengthening industrialisation.
It said by 2025, 35 million people would be lifted out of poverty, while 21 million full-time jobs are also expected to be created.
Analysts are of the view that the projections may likely not work, considering that the business environment remains unfriendly, forcing many businesses to reconsider their stakes in the country, as a result of poor production incentives.

They argued that it would require three governments to clean up the mess this administration will leave behind in 2023.
Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Adewale Oyerinde, said for a business to survive, it needs a peaceful and friendly regulatory environment.

He said of the NDP 2021 to 2025 proposed 30 million jobs, for every 10 jobs, the private sector creates eight.
He said the priorities for businesses is overcoming challenges bordering on insecurity, foreign exchange and regulatory challenges.
“Let us deal with issues that are germane to businesses to redefine our priorities. The current NDP is quite ambitious with the commitment of the private sector to contribute over N2 trillion and generate 30 million jobs before 2025. We shouldn’t build structures and create big visions that our realities cannot meet and achieve.

“From the OPS perspective, we picked three priorities – our plan is to deal with the issue of power, job creation and insecurity. Then all plans and regulations will be fed into achieving those priorities. You want the private sector to help generate 30 million jobs but what is the state of the private sector? How are we in the context of the regulators, National Assembly, fiscal and monetary policy?  How will it help to generate those 30 million jobs? If we don’t deal with the existing contradictions nothing will change,” he said.

Analysts, who queried how presidential candidates who promise to create jobs, said the promises are happening at a time when the business environment is not conducive.

According to them, production is the key to job creation and if the productivity of the private sector is low, it can lead to collapse of the economy.

National President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Tommy Okon, tackled governments that borrow manifestos from different climes, which he said in the long run gets them choked up.
He said it is not convenient to set an agenda for a developmental plan for the next government, even when government is a continuum.
He said the problem facing the country was neither policies nor programmes but about leadership, stating that if the country had quality leadership, programmes will automatically work.

“Looking at the 3Es, energy, environment and economy: Has vffering because of petite money paid to workers. If you have money you cannot save and when banks don’t have money to lend, there will be a possible spill over to the economy,” he added.
Also, a public affairs analyst, Jide Ojo, hinted on the need to hold political office holders to account. He said there was the need to interrogate them on their economic blueprint, social contract and agenda.

According to him, “it is not by saying I will provide 10 million jobs, the question should be how do you intend to do it so that we can fact-check to know if it is doable or not? This is the situation we found ourselves and there is no easy way out of it.
“I pity whoever takes over from President Buhari, as the incoming president will not have any period of honeymoon, because the decision of subsidy has to be made one way or the other since subsidy was only budgeted for in the first six months of 2023. And if we remove subsidy today, the price of PMS may be up to N400 or N500 per litre and that may lead to disruption in social services and cost of living. This is because workers will demand an increase in wages, which the government may fail to meet and that will lead to industrial action and social unrest, which will lead to loss of productivity.”

He noted that President Buhari may have suffered a tragedy of good intention when he expressed optimism that he will lift 100 million people out of poverty and unemployment in 10 years.

However, he said COVID-19 and insecurity challenges affected the implementation of those promises.For labour and law expert, Paul Omoijiade, the level of corruption and cost of governance has aggravated the unemployment situation in the country.
Noting that political appointees have been put in positions that add little or nothing to the economy, he said if leaders are able address the dysfunctionality in the economy, everything will fall in place.

To tackle the unemployment rate in the country, he said: “The agric credit guarantee scheme is also a good employer of labour. Artisans needed to be brought to the fore with the need to put in place instrumentality of international best practices. There is also a need to reinvigorate the educational sector, so that labour can be exported, as well as the need to invest in human capital development.”

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