The prediction by the World Bank that Nigeria crucially had to create millions of jobs to avert imminent bust requires a composite approach to better the economy frantically. The release further advised the country to establish at least 30 million jobs by 2030 to prevent the unfortunate augury from being fulfilled. Don’t forget, 2030 is only 10 years away.
The implication is that the economy must generate 3 million jobs annually for 10 years. But how is that possible when statistics have revealed that about 19 million Nigerians enrolled in the labour market within the last five years while only 3.5 million jobs were created within the same period, leaving a shortfall of 15.5 million jobless Nigerians? Also, the unemployment rate has quadrupled in the last four years attaining an all-high 23 per cent.
From the foregoing, it is explicit that there have been consistent job losses. Very few manufacturing activities happened while service providers only managed to employ a few people all due to an asperous business climate. Agriculture, the largest employer of labour, has lost attraction largely because of the activities of insurgents and bandits in some parts of the north. The prolonged herdsmen/farmers’ clash never bolstered matters.
As unemployment advances, population growth edges faster. While the population grows at 2.6 per cent annually, the economy progresses at a paltry 2 per cent. With a low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $397 billion, Nigeria’s population expansion has been projected to hit about 401.3 million by 2050.
Of course, this is portentous because it will exert enormous pressure on the economy, the job market and social infrastructure. As employment declines, extreme penury is on the rage. If the projection that unemployment figures will rise to 23.5 per cent this year is anything to go by, then we must anticipate a time bomb.
I believe the situation would have ameliorated if we operated a social welfare scheme. Rather, in the face of dwindling economy and increasing poverty, all what Nigerians can get are mere promises and at best ill-defined and rudderless social benefit schemes like “Trader Moni,” “Market Moni”, and “Farmer Moni” that disburse soft loans without collaterals.
The impact of the schemes is hardly perceptible. They have failed to prevent Nigerians from sliding into poverty every single minute of the day. Sadly, the number of extremely poor Nigerians has recently moved from 91.50 million to 94.4 million, fuelling speculations that a populist revolt may happen sooner than later.
Following the frightening figures, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. But how will he go about it when there are no sustainable policies to create massive jobs? On the other hand, State governments have never helped matters either as they have failed to reduce unemployment.
What do we expect? After all, this is what occurs when a country decides to practice a lopsided, “feeding bottle” federalism. A report by BudgIT (an NGO) stated that 33 States are heavily dependent on monthly allocations from Abuja and therefore cannot survive by themselves. Any wonder the States are unable to boost activities needed to generate employment.
While the States are irredeemably dependent, Nigeria heavily relies on other countries for survival thus financing jobs in those nations. This situation is clearly against sound economic practices. How does one explain a development where we import virtually everything including fuel that should be taken for granted by virtue of our role as a leading crude oil producer? Since oil constitutes more than 90 per cent of our exports, the economy is usually left to the vagaries of crude prices in the international market.
Truth is Nigeria can never get its economy right till it gets its political structure correctly. An economy that energises States to go cap in hand to Abuja every month cannot inspire growth and development. The present sharing system only breeds parasitism, indolence, graft, joblessness and poverty. To reverse this ugly trend, fiscal federalism is the answer to a structure that gives impetus to uncompetitiveness. Let States drive the economy, not the centre.
We must look at what has worked best in other climes to create jobs by focusing on sectors that have the highest potentials. Resolving the current power crisis is the beginning point. Then the private sector should be empowered to lead the way. Finally, we must always understand that the agricultural and manufacturing sectors hold great capacity for job creation.