With 23.2 million Nigerians said to be unemployed, according to recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country is obviously sitting on a time bomb. ABDULWAHAB ISA reports
The current surge in crime rate in the country is a reflection of joblessness within the active age group of the population. Banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killing and other heinous crimes are perpetrated majorly by idle and populous age group. The rising tide of unemployment is gradually eclipsing the social harmony, economic tranquility and peaceful coexistence, which the nation, hitherto, enjoyed. In other words, the majority of current challenges assailing Nigeria are rooted in her overwhelming unemployment situation. A recent unemployment data from the stable of the National Bureau of Statistics attests to a bulging, delicate and dire situation, which the situation has assumed. The lack of jobs adds to pressure on food price in a country battling with soaring inflation.
Unemployment at glance
NBS is Nigeria’s official source of data supply. In a recently released data for the fourth quarter 2020, NBS put Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 33.3 per cent from 27.1 per cent recorded as of Q2’20. This shows that about 23.2 million Nigerians remain unemployed. A combination of both the unemployment and underemployment rate for the reference period indicates a figure of 56.1 per cent. This means that 33.3 per cent of the labour force in Nigeria either did nothing or worked for less than 20 hours a week, making them unemployed by NBS’s definition. Notably, Nigeria is not among nations with the least, fair number of unemployed. However, the impact of COVID- 19 further tipped off the unemployment scale to an allhigh worsening level. The statistics bureau attributed the increase in unemployment rate to the aftereffect of the COVID-19 induced lockdown, which caused many organisations to reduce their workforce as a means of coping with the pandemic. Although businesses have resumed operations, they are yet to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels, indicating that some of the laid-off workers are still without work while another 1.42 million joined the group in Q4’20. A situation where a predominantly active age group of over 200 million population is jobless and idle, the economy of such a nation will not only lose cohesion, it will come under attack from all social vices. With her latest unemployment rate, Nigeria ranks 11.7 per cent on the world’s unemployment scale. Comparing the rate internationally, of 181 countries with rate published within the last two years, Nigeria currently ranks 41st country with the highest unemployment rate. Countries in relations to unemployment rating, according to NBS’s findings, are Bosnia and Herzegovinian (34.3 per cent), Namibia (33.4 per cent), and Angola (32.0 per cent) while those with the lowest rates are Qatar (0.1 per cent), Belarus (0.2 per cent), Niger (0.3 per cent) and Laos (0.6 per cent). Aggregated state by state level, Imo State recorded the highest rate of unemployment with 56.64 per cent. This was followed by Adamawa with 54.89 per cent and Cross Rivers State with 53.65 per cent. States with the lowest rates were Osun, Benue and Zamfara states with 11.65 per cent, 11.98 per cent and 12.99 per cent respectively. In the case of underemployment, Benue State recorded the highest rate with 43.52 per cent, followed by Zamfara and Jigawa states with 41.73 per cent and 41.29 per cent respectively. Combining both unemployment and underemployment, the state that recorded the highest rate was Imo with 82.5 per cent followed by Jigawa with 80 per cent. Ogun and Sokoto states recorded the lowest of the combined rates, 26.2 per cent and 33.7 per cent respectively.
Infrastructure collapse Nigeria’s
infrastructure level, one of the key ingredients, which the oil producing sector depends on, is in a parlous state. Electricity supply is in a debilitating state. Road networks are in their unpassable and terrible condition. The near end collapse of key infrastructure is a major setback responsible for either the closure or outright relocation of manufacturing outlets from Nigeria. In the 80s and early 90s, the country enjoyed maximum concentration of manufacturing outlets across the big commercial cities. In Lagos, for instance, Ilupeju Industrial Estate and Oba -Akran Industrial site were industry colonies. The manufacturing firms, clustered in their numbers, offered thousands and millions of people jobs. Today, majority of these firms have closed down. Others relocated to neighboring countries where electricity supply is guaranteed and available. Their premises have been converted to religious worship and events centers. Nigeria is reputed to have a worse road network among Africa nations. Movement of goods and persons are hampered by terrible road network. Poor road network across the country is partly responsible for high cost of items. Kidnappers have cashed in on the bad state of roads to attack commuters. The number of Nigerians kidnapped along Nigerian roads by kidnappers has become worrisome with some losing their lives in the process, while the lucky ones secure their freedom after parting with millions of naira as ransom.
Fixing broken chain
Experts have predicted that the number of people looking for jobs in Nigeria will keep rising as population growth continues to outpace output expansion. Nigeria is expected to be the world’s third mostpopulous country by 2050, with over 300 million people, according to the United Nations. The COVID-19 episode dealt a blow to an economy already in a traumatic state due to low oil price, Nigeria’s major source of revenue earning. All hopes are not lost after all. The high number of unemployed accumulated by the country today didn’t start last year nor four years ago. It was a manifestation of several years of bad leadership. Government can begin to address the unemployment challenge by investing massively on infrastructures – road, rail, power and others. A deliberate effort by government to resurrect key infrastructures will attract investors into Nigeria. Everything must be done to woo investors. The government should expand the number of skills acquisition centers in the country for mentoring of Nigerians in various skills. Some prominent Nigerians have advocated measures to rein in soaring unemployment. A former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, suggested adoption of incentivised education by paying every family with school-age children with annual income below $800 per annum N5,000 monthly stipends, among oIhers. The national leader of the All-Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, also urged the Federal Government to introduce a stimulus package as a means of arresting poverty and unemployment in the country. “It is time to put stimulus in place. This is no time for austerity. I hope you listen carefully. This is not the time to constrain the economy. This is the time to create the opportunity,” he said.
Governments, federal, state and local, must evolve deliberate, workable action plans to arrest the surging unemployment rate as leaving it unattended to means a ticking bomb waiting to explode.