Following report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that the total number of unemployed Nigerians has risen to 21.76 million, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has warned of grave consequences to the economy, stressing that government should urgently declare an emergency in the real sector. MAN’s warning is based on the fact that among the 21.7 million unemployed Nigerians in the latest NBS report, most of them are those working in the real sector of the economy, which has been battered by COVID- 19 with the productive capacity eroded.
The NBS’ statistics are contained in the bureau’s Labor Force Statistics website, entitled “Unemployment and Underemployment Report (Q2 2020) released in Abuja. It referred to the report as an Abridged Labour Force Survey under COVID-19 for August 2020.
The unemployment rate during the period in reference represented a 27.1 per cent rise from the 23.1 per cent recorded in the third quarter of 2018. According to the report, the total number of people in employment during the reference period is 58,527,276.
Acting Director-General of MAN, Paul Oruche, in an interview with New Telegraph in Lagos, stated that there would be further increases in unemployment rate by year end if government continues to neglect requests for packages, infrastructure, energy supply, enabling environment, provision of access to local raw materials among others in the real sector of the economy. Oruche emphatically stated that the real sector was the main driver of Nigeria’s economy, accounting for 80 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He blamed the Federal Government for putting the country’s unemployment rate into the current dire situation by not supporting the real sector of the economy enough with stimulus packages. Speaking on the stimulus package introduced by government, the Acting MAN president pointed out that there was none for the real sector apart from the intervention fund that was introduced with five per cent interest rate per annum (all inclusive) up to February 28, 2021. He explained that the term of the loan had a maximum tenor of not more than three years with, at least, one-year moratorium, fuming that manufacturing firms used the whole of the one year moratorium to wait for loan due to long processes in filling, submitting and approving the forms.
He said in developed countries such stimulus packages come in the form of grant to the SMEs. He bemoaned that firms were facing difficulties daily arising from COVID-19, which has led to sackin of workers in the manufacturing sector. Oruche said: “So many people unemployed and the contribution of these people to the economy is nil, which means our GDP is not growing as the productivity in Nigeria is very slow because most of the unemployed Nigerians are basically youths that are supposed to contribute to the growth of the GDP. “Our GDP is not where it ought to be.
If youths are employed they could contribute more to the country’s GDP. So we are losing on that aspects. “The challenges we are having now is that governments at all levels, even federal, are yet to support manufacturers with funds, because most of the agencies working on these stimulus packages are frustrating manufacturers from accessing the loans easily, and the chunk of employed workers are in manufacturing firms.
“There is need for governments at all levels to create an enabling environment for business to thrive in this country because the major chunk of employment comes from the real sector.“But the real sector operators are suffering in this country. With more employment, more investors will come in and invest and then create more jobs in the real sector.
But what do we see, the real sector is being challenged on a daily basis so government must urgently create an enabling environment for firms in this country to arrest the rising unemployment rate in the country. “Also, inefficiency in infrastructure contributed to the dwindling fortune of manufacturing sector. So if the manufacturing sector is not doing well, there is no way we won’t have continued increase in unemployment rate in Nigeria.” On the lack of access to stimulus packages from government, the acting MAN director general said: “Basically that is the truth because there is a connection between that to growth of the GDP. What government came to give us is not stimulus package; it’s what they called intervention funds. “If you apply for intervention funds, you are bound to enjoyed five per cent interest rate but after one year, it will jump to nine per cent. But in the process of securing the loan, you have used the whole of the one year and you ended up paying the nine per cent interest rate.”