Unemployment time bomb – The Nation News Nigeria



Emeka OMEIHE

 

If doubts existed on the dire straits the Nigerian economy is enmeshed, indicators from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics NBS have erased all that. The emerging picture is that of a people seriously assailed by abject poverty due to widening unemployment and spiralling inflation.

For a country rated by the World Poverty Clock in 2018 as the world’s poverty capital with 86.9 million of its people living in extreme poverty, widening unemployment and spiralling inflation have had the net effect of further consigning its peoples down the last rung of the poverty ladder.

In the report by the NBS, unemployment rate rose to 33.3 per cent in three months through December 2020 as against 27.1 per cent in the second quarter of the same year. This takes Nigeria to the second position in a global list of 82 countries monitored by Bloomberg along their unemployment standing. Namibia leads in the unemployment list with 33.4 per cent while South Africa placed third after Nigeria. Additional statistics has it that unemployment in Nigeria more than quadrupled in the last five years.

The NBS also reported that inflation rose to 17.33 per cent in February from 16.47 per cent in the previous month of January representing the highest figure recorded in four years. It attributed this to continued rise in food inflation caused by increases in the prices of bread, cereals, fish, yam, vegetables, meat, and other food products.

It noted that food inflation rose to 21.79 per cent in February against 20.57 in January 2020 representing the highest point since the NBS data series began over a decade ago. As chilling as these are, they are not entirely surprising to keen observers of Nigeria’s economic trajectory. They reinforce what is already in the public domain despite attempts by the authorities to paint a different picture. And as observed, Nigeria was in 2018 rated the poverty capital of the world. The government then made spirited efforts to give a lie to the rating.

The NBS confirmed the standing of the country in the world poverty chart when in its poverty and inequality report from September 2018 to October 2019, it said 40 per cent of Nigerians live below its poverty line of N137, 430 ($381.75) per year. The indices that influenced that rating must have factored in the twin issues of unemployment and inflation as they add up to determine prevailing poverty level in a given society. But these indices are not self-accounting as they are symptoms of policy failure and mismanagement of the economy by its leaders.

Nigeria is bountifully endowed both in human and natural resources. As oil bearing country with huge foreign exchange earnings, the expectation is that its leadership would have taken advantage of it to reflate the economy and turn around the fortunes of its peoples for the better. But this has failed to happen as the productive base of the economy has remained at its lowest ebb in the face of the high number of youths that graduate from all levels of the educational system.

As usual, government functionaries may soon rise to rationalize why the nation came about the damning rating by the NBS.  Likely to feature prominently is the COVID-19 pandemic that threw the nation into recession following an earlier one in 2016. Nigeria is just exiting from its second phase. We admit that COVID-19 came with serious job losses both at home and beyond our shores.

That is not all there is to it. That cannot explain why Nigeria took the second position in the unemployment list of 82 countries monitored by Bloomberg, some of them poor and less endowed African nations. That is also incapable of accounting for the high inflationary trend- the highest in the last 10 years. COVID-19 pandemic is also severely hampered in explaining why Nigeria sank below India as a country with the most extreme poor people in the world even when the pandemic was alien to the global economy.

It is also regrettable that though Nigeria topped the list of 10 African countries in the extreme poverty index, only Ethiopia is said to be on track to meet the United Nations’ SDG of ending extreme poverty by 2030. Outside the top 10, Ghana and Mauritania are equally rated to be on track with the SDG target.

These speak much on Nigeria. They suggest that the reasons for the mess into which we are currently entangled can only be located in the actions and inactions from within our shores. Mismanagement of enormous resources endowed this country by nature, is at the centre of it all. Here the endemic corruption that afflicts all spheres of our public life comes into focus.

It is obvious from all indicators that significant progress has not been made in the fight against corruption in public places despite the fact that it represents one of the three major program thrusts of the Buhari administration. The two others are to grow the nation’s economy and stem the tide of insecurity. The level of progress to grow the economy and secure the country is a moot issue.

Unfortunately, there is little on ground to give comfort that serious war is being waged against corruption. Admittedly, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC under the former leadership of Ibrahim Magu postured at the inception of the regime as if it was serious with the anti-graft war. That is without prejudice to serious credibility issues raised against his suitability to lead that battle. Even then, in the little efforts he mounted, he was in the habit of shifting the goalposts and setting different standards for suspects. Soon, allegations of witch-hunting political opponents of the government gained traction.

Whatever modicum of credibility left of the agency petered out when the seemingly incorruptible helmsman was embroiled in serial corruption allegations leading to his arrest and detention. But the development was not entirely surprising.  The Directorate of State Services DSS had opposed the suitability of Magu on the ground of his alleged corrupt tendencies. They even supported their report with evidence.

But the president refused to listen until he was eventually embarrassed by Magu. With the battle losing steam, it is not surprising corruption has continued to thrive in public places. Mindless looting at all level of the government has deprived the government of the much needed funds to address the debilitating economic conditions of our people. This has left our youths with neither jobs nor a promising future. The ENDSARS protests were in part, spurred by hopelessness and despondency of our youths as their collective patrimony and future are squandered by a self-serving leadership.

It a vote of no-confidence in government’s social investment and job creation programs that both unemployment and inflation are at an all-time high. Much of the spiralling effects of the scorching inflation can be located at the door steps of some of the policies of the government. The price of fuel is one. Multiplicity of taxes that reduce the purchasing power of the people is another. Mounting arrears of salaries and pensions owed workers by various levels of government are also serious issues to contend with.

At the moment, fuel sells for N170 per litre. There was trepidation last week when the regulatory agency rolled out a new price regime which has been suspended. But the minister of state for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva said petrol price will be fully deregulated before the end of this year. That will definitely put the price of the product beyond the reach of many Nigerians.

With the centrality of petrol to daily economic activities, the prevailing rise in prices of goods and services did not come as a surprise. The situation will exacerbate with the touted full deregulation. Nigerians have to be alive to buy petrol. Whatever policy the government intends to come out with must have a human face.

Before then, it is vital to check the mounting regime of official corruption else monies from anticipated deregulation will still end up in private pockets. That will perpetually consign our people to a vicious cycle of debilitating poverty. We shudder at such prospects.

Source: Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics

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