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Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo - Does Every Nigerian Really Count?
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Wednesday, 14 January 2015 06:20

Does Every Nigerian Really Count? Featured

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Those of us who live in Nigeria might have seen the massive billboard belonging to the All Progressives Congress party (APC) with the campaign promise: 3 Million Jobs will be generated by the party annually if elected. It is signed off with the hashtag #EveryNigerianCounts

Having read the beautifully written manifesto that can be found on its website, I am yet to find the sections that show how this quantum leap in job creation will be achieved.  To its credit, the APC’s Christmas 2014 message stated that the party “will accomplish this through public works programs and shifting the economy towards value added services”. If voted into office in 2015, an APC government should have created a whopping 12 Million jobs in just 4 years! But before we give the APC credit for an intention, let’s look at some facts.

A few days ago, President Jonathan was quoted as pledging to create 2 million jobs annually up from the 1.6 Million jobs his government claimed to have created in 2014. However, some have questioned the credibility of this claim on the grounds that they are yet to identify such lucky persons in their own localities.

I decided to do a little research to separate fact from myth. I started from the website of the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Its 1st and 2nd Quarter 2014 Job Creation Survey Report states that the NBS employs the internationally accepted definition of a job i.e. “a job is a task or piece of work (legally done) that is done especially to be paid”. The NBS states that “it does not consider how much is paid and whether or not this is sufficient. It also does not consider whether the job fully utilizes the employees’ full qualifications or time”.

The report states, “in Q1 of 2014, a total of 240,871 jobs were created, which increased by 18,482 jobs or 7.67% in the second quarter, to reach a total of 259,353 jobs created. The total number of jobs created in the first half of 2014 was therefore 500,224. Relative to the first half of 2013, this was a decrease by 151,851 jobs or 30.36%”. In another report, “Selected Tables from Job Creation and Employment Survey 3rd Quarter 2014”, it is stated that 349,343 jobs were created during this period. This brings the total jobs created in the first three quarters of 2014 to 849,567. Except the number of jobs created in the last quarter of 2014 is at least the same as that created in the first three quarters of 2014, it remains to be seen how 1.6 Million jobs were created in 2014. Don’t take my word for it; go read up these reports. In all the NBS website has job creation reports from Q3 2012 to Q3 2014 totaling 2,826,542 jobs created in 2 years. The NBS must be commended for having an updated website with rich, helpful data that will assist organizations to make better and informed decisions.

However, what these reports do not capture is the number of jobs that were lost during the period under review.  It is virtually impossible for an economy to add jobs without losing some jobs. At the end a more important index is the net job gain/loss (number of jobs created minus number of jobs lost).  Take the case of the United States of America. Every month, the business community looks forward to the monthly job reports released by the United States Department of Labor. The reports contain both the number of jobs that were created and those that were lost during the corresponding period.  As at July 2014, reports has it that under Obama the US economy added 9.425 million jobs and lost 4.887 million, for a net gain of 4.538 million jobs. Likewise, Nigeria’s job report needs to reflect the job losses (if any) for the same period.

For the APC to meet its target of 3 million jobs a year, it will have to add an extra 250,000 new jobs monthly. That is a very tall order and it remains to be seen how the party intends to make this happen.

That the economic indices for 2015 are dire is saying the least. Falling oil prices have made a mess of our budget. Expectedly, the fall in public spending will adversely affect the private sector. Lending rates are rising. Banks will struggle to pay back offshore loans they took when the economy was better. The cost of doing business will rise and downsizing is more likely. Boko Haram insurgency now affects a landmass, the size of Belgium (accordingly to Amnesty International).

Our naira remains devalued and my illiterate economic mind tells me that this year the dollar might exchange for up to N250 per dollar in the black market. Whoever wins the presidential elections has his job clearly cut out. I will not be surprised if by the end of 2015, the government in power gives a bucket full of reasons why it could not achieve its job creation promise. A contracting economy would need the highest level of prudence to turn the fortunes of the nation around. This is perhaps one of the essential qualities we need in any elected leader.

Any government that lacks the courage to tackle corruption head on will not achieve its avowed job creation targets.

Such targets will not be met by a comatose educational system that cannot urgently produce competent and skilled graduates en masse. There is nothing in any of the manifestos I have read that suggests to me that education will experience a significant improvement at any level this year.

Two Chinese proverbs are worth remembering: talk is cheap” and “talk does not cook rice”.  Any job creation target can be met and exceeded. President Obama took office in the midst of the global economic meltdown. Slowly but steadily, the job creation numbers have experienced consistent growth. To reverse the state of unemployment in Nigeria, we urgently need servant leadership. That way the hashtag #EveryNigerianCounts will be authentic, believable and credible!

P.S: This article was also published in the 14th of January 2015 edition of the Punch Newspapers. Click to Read

Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo

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