Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The federal government has raised the alarm that the country’s unemployment rate would reach 33.5 per cent by 2020.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said this Thursday in Abuja while declaring open a two-day workshop on “Breaking the Resilience of High Unemployment Rate in the Country.”
He said that the increase in the rate of unemployment in the country was alarming.
According to him, the high unemployment rate of 23.1 per cent, and underemployment of 16.6 per cent by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of 2019 report was worrisome.
He said: “It is a worrisome status as the global poverty capital (World Bank, 2018); and concomitant high prevalence rate of crimes and criminality, including mass murders, insurgency, militancy, armed robbery, kidnappings and drug abuse, among others.
“As if this situation is not scary enough, it is projected that the unemployment rate for this country will reach 33.5 per cent by 2020, with consequences that are better imagined, if the trend is not urgently reversed.
“It is a thing of joy to note that Nigeria has not been resting on her oars over the years in terms of dedicated efforts to curb the unemployment problem.”
Ngige said that various government social intervention programmes targeted at reducing youth unemployment and eradicating poverty, have been implemented by different administrations since Nigeria gained independence.
The minister also said that available records showed that between 1972 to date, about 14 different programmes have been implemented.
He said that these programmes included the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), implemented between 1972 and 1973; the current National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), which has been ongoing since 2017, and embedded in the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020.
He noted that yet, the unemployment rate and poverty levels are on steady paths of growth, indicating high resilience against the intervention efforts.
The minister wondered why some of the intervention efforts were not yielding expected results.
“What is the government and other stakeholders not doing right? What changes are needed in the policies, plans and strategies?
“What action areas need priority attention? What roles should different stakeholders play and what other options are not being exploited?
“Why do we employ expatriates for jobs Nigerians can do or why can´t Nigerians do these jobs? Why do we have deficits in housing, water, sanitation, food, entertainment facilities, health care, and education, among others?
“How do we deploy our population of productive age to fill the skills gaps needed for our national development?
“How do we break the resilience of high unemployment rate in the country?” Ngige queried.
He said these were some of the questions that triggered new thoughts and concepts that led to series of activities that preceded the workshop.
Ngige said the workshop was aimed at presenting the outcome of some of government efforts and the commencement of another phase of the processes.
He, however, called for a collaborative mechanism that would yield desired results, while assuring that the recommendations from the workshop would receive prompt and sustained attention.
In his speech, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. William Alo, said the workshop was aimed at examining issues around the persistent high unemployment rate in Nigeria.
Alo said this was with a view to making concrete recommendations on how to tackle the menace.
“This workshop is very important to the Ministry of Labour and Employment due to the direct relevance of the theme to the ministry’s mandate.
“However, the fact remains that the consequences of high unemployment rate in Nigeria affect each and every one of us as individuals and as members of the Nigerian society.
“The objectives of this workshop are, therefore, to present the findings of the survey on how to break the resilience of high unemployment rate in Nigeria to the peer community.
“To stimulate actions towards exploiting untapped available options for massive job creations; to chart way forward on immediate next steps that would yield measurable results”.
On his part, the Country Director, International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Nigeria, Dr. Dennis Zulu, said unemployment was a major concern to the organisation, especially in Nigeria.
“So, we believe, therefore, that if Nigeria addresses the issue of unemployment, it will go a long way to address the whole problem that is faced in Africa to that extent.
“Let me say that over the years, we have recognised the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria, where it has approved various initiatives including the adoption of Employment Policy of 2017.
“This was approved by the National Executive Council that provides a blueprint for strategies as far as the creation of jobs for Nigerians are concerned.
“We have also taken note of the different programmes that have been implemented by the Office of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
“These are the N-Power programme, SURE- P programme some years ago and many other ongoing programmes, ultimately supposed to contribute to the creation of jobs for young people in Nigeria,’’ Zulu said.