39.4 jobless Nigerians?

39.4 jobless Nigerians?

Editorial

The COVID-19 challenge continues to plummel humanity. It has defied solution and spawned dislocations of monstrous consequences. The world economic outlook remains gloomy and other strata of life are largely prostrate.




Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo painted a grim picture of this in Abuja penultimate Thursday. He warned that a whopping 39.4milion Nigerians may lose their jobs by the end of this year, unless prompt pre-emptive measures are taken to mitigate the ruinous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vice-president, who was presenting the report of his panel, Committee on Economic Sustainability, to President Muhammadu Buhari, said the projection was predicated on the mandatory lockdowns and social distancing measures imposed by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19. These, he said, have had a negative impact on farms and factories as well as trade, transport and tourism.

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This projection may seem scary and alarmist, especially coming from the vice-president, but then, it was made with an accompanying soothing balm. Prof. Osinbajo did not just talk about the problem, his committee also proffered solutions to the challenge. Among the committee’s recommended strategies to reflate the economy and turn the coronavirus adversity to advantage is the creation of millions of direct and indirect jobs through a massive agricultural scheme under which between 20,000 and 100,000 hectares of new farmlands will be cultivated in every state of the federation. It also recommended extensive public works and road construction programme, which will focus on both major and rural roads. It proffered the initiation of a mass housing programme to deliver up to 300,000 homes annually. Under this scheme, young professional and artisans will be engaged.

These are commendable steps.

We particularly welcome the decision to create millions of jobs through a massive agricultural and road construction programmes that will engage youths in all the local government areas in the country. Although government is patently aware of the unemployment bogey and has been addressing it through social intervention schemes and other programmes, we must say that job creation is rather slow. For example, data show that between 2015 and 2018, an average of 4.8million individuals entered the labour market, but the economy was able to generate about 475,180 jobs in 2015; 187,226 in 2016 and 450,000 in 2018.

Governments at all levels should appreciate that increasing unemployment rate is a time bomb because of  its dire social consequences. Unemployment creates restive youths who in turn vent their egregious tendencies on the society. There is direct correlation between spiralling rate of unemployment and the increasing social unrest manifesting in kidnapping for ransom, armed robberies, ritual killings, rape and other villainous activities.

Steady power supply is key to job creation. But the power outlook in Nigeria is still sullen, even with the privatisation of the power sector. Although the electricity generation companies (GenCos) were said to have doubled their capacity from 4,214MW when they took over in 2013 to 8,145MW this year, only 3,98MW are currently available.  The Minister of State for Power, Mr. Goddy Jedy Agba, blamed distribution as the major problem, at a media interactive session in Abuja. It is good that  the Senate Committee on Power is already probing government’s interventions and performance in the power sector. Stakeholders must rally round and hold the bull by the horns by addressing the bottlenecks that are holding down the nation’s power potential. A stable electricity implies that Nigerians, from the domestic level through the cottage industries to the small and medium-scale concerns and mega industries, will be empowered to work and create direct and indirect jobs. All hands must be on deck to tackle the unemployment challenge frontally.



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