Two years ago, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, projected that by 2020, the country’s unemployment rate could get to 33.5 per cent from 23 per cent that the figure stood at the time.
True to his prediction, the latest figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics has put the figure at 33.3 per cent. For the minister to have been so precise, and the reality coming into play, it logically begs the question of what effort the Federal Government made to check the drastic slide in employment.
While it is agreed that the sudden and unexpected outbreak of a major pandemic played a role in the current figure, the fact remains that at the point the minister made his projection, nothing concrete was seen being done by government to arrest the drift. We realise that we are currently contending with the problem of insecurity.
It is, however, becoming appalling that majority of the citizenry have to battle unemployment and underemployment amid rising cost of food and other items that has seen headline inflation rise to 17.33 per cent in February.
Although the exit from recession in the fourth quarter of last year was widely celebrated, practical economic indices still point to the fact that all is not well, judging by the feelers from a larger number of Nigerians.
From the look of things, the threat of an obviously collapsing system is becoming alarming for the fact that not everyone that is working even earns the N30,000 minimum wage approved by law. The unemployment rate during the reference period represented an increase from the 27.1 per cent recorded in Q2’20.
The underemployment rate declined from 28.6 per cent in Q2’20 to 22.8 per cent. Among rural dwellers, the rate was 34.5 per cent, up from 28.2 per cent in Q2’20, while urban dwellers reported a rate of 31.3 per cent up from 26.4 per cent.
In the case of underemployment among rural dwellers, it declined to 26.9 per cent from 31.5 per cent, while the rate among urban dwellers decreased to 16.2 per cent from 23.2 per cent in Q2’20. Prior to the current unemployment alarm, the NBS had stated that the number of persons in the labour market increased from 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017 to 90.5 million in the third quarter of 2018.
The total number of people classified as unemployed increased from 17.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 20.9 million in the third quarter of 2018.
As issues bordering on the growing trend unfold, we believe that it further amplifies the failure of various government’s social intervention programmes, since Nigeria gained independence, targeted at reducing joblessness and eradicating poverty. Besides poor implementation of programmes, mis-management of resources/allocation has been identified as one of the factors responsible for growing joblessness.
More worrisome lately is the influx of bandits into large expanse of farmlands across the country. In the last three years or more, most Nigerians, especially graduates, who had taken to agriculture due to their inability to secure white collar jobs have abandoned their farms for fear of being killed by marauding Fulani herdsmen.
This could have aided the minister’s projection coming into reality. Even more disheartening is the fact that from 1972 till date, about 14 different programmes to boost employment have been implemented with no noticeable result.
They include the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), implemented between 1972 and 1973. There is also the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), with the N-Power agenda, which is ultimately supposed to contribute to the creation of jobs for young Nigerians.
Despite being on the agenda since 2017, and embedded in the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017- 2020, the unemployment rate still remains on the increase, indicating high resilience against the intervention efforts.
Ultimately, the government has neglected practical and more engaging programmes that are capable of taking the youths off the streets and getting them engaged. For instance, overlooking or undermining the entertainment industry remains one of the undoing of the current administration.
The Nigerian film industry otherwise known as Nollywood is globally recognised as the third largest film industry in the world after United States’ Hollywood and India’s Bollywood. In 2016, it surprisingly contributed about 2.3 per cent, representing N239 biliion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It is one of the priority sectors identified in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria with a planned $1billion in export revenue by 2020. Despite the potentials of the entertainment industry and its attraction for teeming Nigerian youths, the Federal Government has done nothing, other than slow down the momentum the sector gathered in the past.
Even though the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, as part of efforts to boost job creation in Nigeria, particularly among the youth, developed a Creative Industry Financing Initiative (CIFI), it has not impacted much on the industry because it is still struggling and intending beneficiaries find it difficult to access the funds.
As the situation remains a major minus to whatever effort the government believes it is making for Nigerians to have trust in its programmes, we are of the opinion that more still needs to be done if truly the welfare of the citizens matters in the calculation.