Latest Headlines

The Unemployment Challenge 

The Unemployment Challenge 

Festus Akanbi

Ordinarily, the ovation is usually loudest at the point of entry of every new administration. This is partly because the new government comes with lots of promises (real or imagined), including the hope of righting the wrongs of its predecessors, which must have been humbled by the twin factor of performance and the stark reality of governance.

With less than a week to the expiration of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, Nigerians have continued to take stock of the eight-year tenure vis-a-vis the state of the nation’s business and economy in 2015 when it took over from former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

Critics of the administration are quick to point at issues like the alarming rate of Nigerian debt, the frightening spike in the inflation rate, the abysmal performance of the power sector, the rising unemployment rate, and the attendant rising poverty, among others.

 Rising Unemployment Rate

Today, a high percentage of Nigerian youths are still roaming the streets without jobs. The unreliability of the power sector is said to have killed many initiatives as the cost of running generators has ballooned in the past eight years.

One of the president’s key campaign promises in 2015 was to tackle the high unemployment rate and poverty in the country, partly by creating three million jobs annually. Analysts said going by this promise, he should have created 24 million jobs by now.

However, the current unemployment data and poverty level in the country have clearly shown that the government has failed to fulfill these two fundamental promises and today, the number of Nigerians living below the poverty line has risen to 133 million.

Available data from relevant institutions showed that more Nigerians have lost their jobs while others became poorer under the outgoing administration compared to the situation in 2015 as the unemployment rate jumped from 4.31per cent in 2015 to 41per cent in 2023.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, while defending the administration, said President Buhari created seven million jobs since assuming office in 2015 through one of the Social Investment Programmes (SIP), the N-Power programme, which began in 2016. The SIP formed one of the campaign promises of the APC.

The programme is divided into four major categories—Home Grown School Feeding Programme for public primary schools; Conditional Cash Transfer to less privileged; N-Power for unemployed graduates and Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP) to encourage market women, artisans, and traders.

However, the recent figures reeled out by the nation’s statistical agencies showed the modest achievements that the outgoing administration has been alluding to have paled to insignificance considering the pathetic employment situation in the country today.

In what has been described as evidence of frustration, President Buhari during a live TV interview last year advised Nigerian youths not to rely on the federal government to provide jobs, rather they should put their ‘hard-earned degree’ to use by identifying problems and creating jobs.

“I wish when they go to school and earn their degree they don’t do it thinking the government must give them jobs, you get educated and you are certainly better than an illiterate even in identifying personal problems,” he said.

The Statistics

Within the eight years of the outgoing administration, the nation’s debt profile has risen considerably, as budgetary proposals have been designed considerably around debts.

According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s debt profile stood at N12.12 trillion as of June 2015, shortly after President Buhari took office.  However, Nigeria’s total public debt was N46.25 trillion as of April 2023 and this excludes another estimated N27.55 trillion ‘Ways and Means’ loans from the Central Bank and additional debt envisaged in the 2023 annual budgets of states and the federal government. Economic analysts said the national debt is likely to hit above N77 trillion by the end of 2023 and is arguably unsustainable at current Tax/Revenue to GDP and Debt service payments ratios and expenditure patterns.

The movement of the inflation rate was equally disappointing. For instance, Nigeria’s inflation rate for 2015 was 9.01per cent. In 2016, it rose to 15.68per cent, while in 2017 it was 16.52per cent. It came down marginally in 2018 to 12.09per cent, while it recorded 11.40per cent, 13.25per cent, and 16.95per cent in 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively. The inflation rate remained climbed to 21.34per cent in 2022 while the figure rose further to 22.04per cent in 2023.

The frightening figures above were bound to send a warning sign to foreign investors. That is why although in 2015, foreign investment flow was put at $3.06bn, by 2023, the figure has plunged to $462.91 million, the lowest level since 2017.

Power Sector’s Mess

Perhaps, one of the sectors where the Buhari administration shocked Nigerians was that of power. Blaming the obstacles to power privatisation on the corruption and insensitivity of his predecessors, Buhari, upon assumption of power, vowed to ramp up the electricity supply. 

However, eight years down the line, Nigeria’s businesses and individuals are still relying on generators and other power sources, which consume vast amounts of resources due to the high cost of diesel and petrol. 

Current data from the World Bank shows that only 55.4 per cent of the Nigerian population has access to electricity. Also, only 24.6 per cent of the rural population has access to electricity while 90 million citizens lack access to the national grid.

A recent report said more than 40 per cent of Nigerian households own and use generators. 

It also stated that the affected households spent approximately $14bn per year to fuel their generators as the national grid’s power supply continued to fail. According to the report, the cost of diesel and petrol used by Nigerians to generate electricity has a significant economic impact on households and businesses. This came amidst the report by the National Bureau of Statistics which disclosed that Nigerians, including companies and government agencies, paid a total of N828bn for electricity in 2022 alone. 

Two weeks ago, the failure of the much-hyped Nigeria-Germany electricity deal, expected to be implemented by Siemens re-echoed, even as the national grid collapsed again, throwing the nation into darkness.

The failure marked the 99th time the grid would crash under Buhari’s two-term administration. He had promised to raise the power performance level to 10,000 megawatts (MW) at the close of his first term in 2019.

According to data sourced from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), grid collapses in 2015 were 10. That rose to 28 in 2016 while 21 cases were recorded in 2017. NERC listed the cases in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 as 13, 11, four, and four. Last year, the grid failed seven times among others that were not captured by the commission.

The Siemens deal, which has been defended vigorously by the President’s team, should have by now, stabilised the electricity supply and unlocked, at least, 11,000MW of electricity to homes and industries.

Amidst the frustration over the failure to revamp the electricity sector, the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) had filed a lawsuit against President Buhari “over his failure to probe allegations that over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply since 1999 may have been stolen, mismanaged or diverted into private pockets.”

SERAP is arguing that “The failure to trace, find and recover the missing electricity fund is antithetical to the public interest, the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), and the country’s international obligations.”

The administration has also come under serious criticism for spending taxpayers’ money on the power sector which has already been privatised, raising concerns among economic watchers.

Speaking after a recent National Economic Council (NEC) Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai alleged that the federal government has in the past three years spent N1.7 trillion on Nigeria’s electricity.

El-Rufai, who said “the entire (electricity) sector is broken,” added that such expenditure by the Buhari administration on a privatised sector was “unsustainable.”

In what looked like a vote of no confidence in the handling of the power sector issues, the governor said, “The entire sector is broken, the tariff is an issue, and the way the privatisation was done is an issue to many. So there are many issues. What we have agreed on is that there are fundamental problems in the electronic supply industry. And that you cannot privatise industry and then over three years since privatisation, you pump in N1.7 trillion of government into it, that is not privatisation.”

 Poverty Everywhere

In the area of poverty alleviation, President Buhari had promised to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, and in July 2021, he reiterated the commitment of his government to fulfill the promise.

In June 2021, he set up a committee known as the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy (NPRGS), intended to carry out mandates that would lead to lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty as promised.

But the NBS recently announced that Nigeria had 133 million people, representing 62.9 per cent of the population living in multidimensional poverty.

Related Articles