Governments must work hard to turn the dreary economic environment around

We doubt if anybody was surprised that Nigeria’s Misery Index rose from 59.4 in December 2021 to 62.79 by July 2022. Not only does this represent an almost six per cent jump, but it also indicates that within a period of just seven months (December 2021 and July 2022) the index worsened by almost 81 basis points each month. This should be disturbing for all stakeholders in the country and the authorities must begin to find solution to what could engender a national upheaval.  

Even if we question some of the criteria, as some countries that are obviously in more precarious conditions were left out, the report fits into what is increasingly becoming a ranking routine: Africa’s largest economy is either leading the world or almost doing so on the negative side of growth and human development indices. Today, Nigeria has the greatest number of citizens living in extreme poverty with inflation rate officially confirmed to have risen to 19.6 per cent, the highest in 17 years.   

According to Steve Hanke, an economist at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, United States who developed the index to assess the degree of hardships faced by citizens in their country, it is “the sum of the unemployment, inflation and bank lending rates, minus the percentage change in real GDP per capita. Higher readings on the first three elements are ‘bad’ and make people more miserable.” And as the index rightly explained, the country’s misery ranking is laid at the foot of the economy and the unemployment crisis.   

Figures available paint a dire situation of millions of adults and youths roaming the streets looking for work but finding none. Indeed, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC) has reported a consistent pattern of worsening situation of inflation and unemployment in the country. Perhaps more dangerous is the fact that about 60 per cent of that army of idle citizens is peopled by those between the ages of 15 and 35. Many of them, university graduates, are not only miserable but condemned to the street corner.      

The clear and present danger of such a high level of idleness among young persons are already manifest in the high level of strife and crimes in virtually every corner of the country. Whereas the multitude of violent outbursts might have religious and ethnic colorations and undertones, it is also a notorious fact that most of the people in the fields and trenches of war are youths who if otherwise meaningfully engaged would have been unavailable for those worthless anti-social endeavours. Worse still is that there is no evidence to suggest that the authorities in Abuja and the 36 states appreciate the gravity of the situation as there are no clear-cut plans to deal with the problem.   

We call on government at all levels to begin to find a creative way of tackling this challenge before it becomes unmanageable. The economic recovery plan of the federal government must prioritise youth employment and formulate policies to reduce it to the barest minimum. The economic empowerment programmes specifically targeted at young persons should also be reviewed and appropriate measures taken to improve and make them more efficient to achieve their objectives.  

Beyond the foregoing, there is the urgent need to realign the nation’s educational curriculum with the needs of the economy. It has been said with some measure of justification that many of the school leavers are actually unemployable having regards to their training and skills. It has become necessary therefore that our educational training curriculum at all levels must incorporate skills acquisition and entrepreneurial development so that graduates leave school with the capacity to create wealth and jobs rather than seeking jobs.  

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