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Nigeria is sleepwalking into a disaster which has the potential to unleash instability, insecurity and crippling hardship. Unemployment is always a cause for concern, it is the clearest indication that the economy and policies are not working properly and a harbinger of social malaise and turmoil. Over the years we have witnessed it provoke social unrest and upheaval culminating in revolutions and the demise of the market economy. 

Nigeria have a chronic unemployment problem, aided by woeful government policy decision making and exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure.  Millions of Nigerians are woefully underemployed with productivity per person extremely low. CEIC calculates Labour Productivity Growth from quarterly Real GDP and quarterly Employment. The National Bureau of Statistics of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides Real GDP in local currency, at 2010 base prices and Employment. The data is notoriously unreliable but if measured consistently provides a broad if not precise insight to the Nigerian job market

As if that were not bad enough it is now clear the government ministers in Nigeria responsible for solving the unemployment problem seems to inhabit another universe. A universe of suspended reality and where government ministers are able to make the most outrageous claims with no chance of being held to account.

Take the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment who in a recent stakeholders meeting on job creation in Abuja unveiled a plan to create 20 million jobs in 4 sectors of the economy in the next 4 years. The good Dr Okechukwu Enalamah was short on detail save to point out he had tasked the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) to come up with a plan in so doing demonstrating his ignorance as to the statutory role of the ITF whilst freelancing for an equally poor Minister of Employment.

In tasking the ITF the Minister through his representative the Permanent Secretary Mr Sunday Akpan stated " to come up with revolutionary multi faceted job and wealth creation strategies that would be a lasting solution to the hydra headed problem". You would be forgiven for thinking that was the job of the recently 're-elected government. The ITF Director in what might pass for a game of 'Pass the parcel' pushed back by insisting job creation required the private sector participation. The Permanent Secretary is absolutelty right, yet investment requires a stable and enabling environment. 

The Minister went further to suggest that the ITF had actually " proposed pragmatic strategies that within the tenure of the next level will generate about 20 million jobs. This all off the back of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics(NBS) putting unemployment in Nigeria at 20.9 million. I think it is fair to assume that it was the NBS's number that motivated the Ministers claim which is essentially a claim to eradicate unemployment over this parliamentary session. Setting aside the illogicality of his position or the fact that the NBS numbers are almost certainly wrong, would anyone reasonable person conclude the Honourable Minister had a firm grip of his portfolio. I wished I could say that his wildly over optimistic forecast was a consequence of a deep understanding of the economy, which as Minister for Trade and Investment he should possess. However the only sensible conclusion I can draw is that since nobody will hold him to account he can make the most spurious claims with zero censure. 

Nigerian workersHe goes on in his speech to praise the successes of the Buhari administration during its first tenure, a time which unemployment jumped  by over 30%, a period where Nigeria overtook India who has a population six times larger than it, as the country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty and a time where Nigeria suffered its first recession for 3 decades. Like his fellow Minister Chris Ngige he speaks about unemployment as if he were an innocent bystander or a member of the Opposition " The number  without jobs in our country is at once scary and staggering and should be a source of worry to any administration that is committed to the welfare of Nigerians as the administration of President Muhammedu Buhari". The syncopanthy might keep him in the job but it serves the country very poorly.

Dr Okechukwu Enalamah  is by no means alone, always looking well fed and siated ministers in the Buhari administration seem bereft when it comes to joined up policy formulation. There is always an excuse, someone elses fault. I suppose it is easier to point a finger than look in the mirror. I would not be at all surprised if policy was arrived at by a combination of brainstorming and freewheeling whilst lurching from one Federal Executive Council to another without any recourse to the previous meeting. For example, the country wish to diversify the economy away from its over reliance on oil, apart from planting more yams what policies in the area of trade, education, healthcare etc do the government have? Is it not an indictment when the very minister responsible for trade and investment makes a stark admission of cluelessness. How can any investor  have any confidence when it is so patently obvious the minister himself is not up to the job







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