Questioning NBS’ Job Statistics

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Workers protesting non-payment of their entitlements in Abuja, recently.

Recently, a statistics was released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) wherein it stated that Rivers State has the highest rate of unemployment with 41. 82 percent, Akwa Ibom second with 36. 58 percent, Bayelsa third with 30. percent, Imo State fourth with 29.47 percent and Kaduna State fifth with 28. 96 percent.
According to the  NBS, the country’s unemployment rate rose from 14.2% to 18.8% in 2017. It also said that Nigeria’s labour population increased from 83.9 million in the second quarter to 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017, a difference of 1.2 million in additional workforce.
NBS statistics throw up many questions. First, what are the indices that the NBS relied upon  to reach the  statistics released to the public?  How come three South-South States and one South-East State emerged with  the highest unemployment rates between 28.8 percent to 42 percent when the National Average is 18 percent?
Could it be that Rivers and the other four States have higher population of qualified persons with WAEC certificates and university degrees who are yet to be employed?  In other words, do we have a greater percentage of unemployed persons in Rivers State than in Lagos State?
Despite the fact that Lagos State has the highest population of qualified Nigerians from all States resident there, it has a lower unemployment rate than small Bayelsa State.
What research methodology was adopted by the NBS to reach these intriguing statistics where the national average is at variance with component statistics  from specific States?
How did the NBS generate data in all the States that led to the outcome? Were State agencies involved and to what extent were the unemployed involved in the generation  of these data?
Going by the NBS unemployment statistics, it means that  there are  more percentage of unemployed persons in Rivers State than in Kano, Borno, Yobe, Taraba, Adamawa, Jigawa, Gombe, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger States. The world would gladly want to know the process used in arriving  at this  conclusion.
A search through online repeatedly to see the processes used by the NBS produced no result. The fact that unemployment is a major challenge across the country is  known to all.
However, this fact should not be the premise  for the concoction  of statistics, without  verifiable processes. In this internet age, any process adopted to reach any conclusion  must be transparent, so that political interpretations  are not thrown up . More so,  that we have a Federal Government that is allergic to the truth and wants to undo component opposition States.
Although the outcome of the report and the grading of the States remains questionable until the processes and research methods are clearly defined, there is an aspect of the report that makes sense.
A newspaper quoted  the NBS report thus: “ Graduates tend to prefer fewer in supply white collar jobs rather than often rural, seasonal and low skilled and lower paying blue-collar jobs that are more in supply. The unemployment rate increased from 14.2% in Q4 2016 to 16.2% in Q2 2017 and 18.8% in Q3 2017. The number of people within the labor force who are unemployed or underemployed increased from 13.6 million and 17.7 million respectively in Q2 2017, to 15.9 million and 18.0 million in Q3 20173.”
In Rivers State for instance, Governor Wike has created close to 100, 000 white and blue collar jobs through his consistent roll-out of projects  over the last three years. Obviously, those  who prepared this report made no attempt  to factor in these jobs into their  report.
A report from a body like the NBS must of necessity be informative and educative. The report  must  not be sensational and a flippant attempt for political failures to glory in momentary orgasm of worthless statistical masturbation.
In the last three years, over 200 roads have been delivered, while another close to 200 roads are progressing satisfactorily across the State. In the completed and on-going project sites, workers were/are employed in their thousands.
Over 200 primary, junior secondary and senior secondary schools were reconstructed and rehabilitated within the period under review.  More than 50 hospitals and health centres are being reconstructed and rehabilitated  across the State.  These projects all have enormous  job components.
There is also the on-going construction of restaurants and cinemas at the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park, the ongoing construction of Mile One Market, Bonny/Bille/Nembe Jetty and National Industrial Court, rehabilitation of Appeal Court and the Produce House, amongst others.
Also under construction is GreenGas LNG Facility by Grenville Oil and Gas Limited in Rumuji Community of Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State. This  new N140 billion project will add value to the economy of the country.
The first phase of the project is almost  on stream, providing about 3,500 direct jobs. It will provide in the short-term over 40,000 indirect jobs across the country.
Chairman of Greenville Oil and Gas Limited , owners of GreenGas LNG Facility, Eddy Van Den Broeke said:”We are in Rivers State to form a partnership with the State government for necessary economic growth “.
The first phase of this project covers 42 hectares and the pipeline architecture will cover different parts of the country, setting off a chain of investment opportunities. At present, hundreds of indigenes and other Nigerians are working at the project site.
This project throws up 750 trucks that  will be loading from the facility, while it will generate 150 megawatts of electricity to serve Rivers State and Nigeria. This explanation captures  the job component of this project.
The NBS unemployment statistics failed to situate the place of thousands of jobs being created daily at project sites in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa.  Perhaps the aloofness of the data gathering process denied it the very foundation of credibility. Sitting in air-conditioned offices to compose key reports, destroys  the premise for growth  in a modern world, where accurate data is paramount.
It is no longer news that Bill Gates, the Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, faulted the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery And Growth Plan (ERGP). This despised ERGP was  built around statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics  which misled the Federal Government to generate economic policies that don’t meet the needs of Nigerians.
It is true that Nigeria is facing an unemployment crisis induced by the recession witnessed under the APC-led Federal Government. However, unemployment statistics must be transparent, generated from the field, centred on development  and less politically-based.
It will be naive to imagine that Moneyline with Nancy on AIT threw up the controversial NBS Statistics Graphic six months after it was released,   for purely developmental purposes.  Remember, Nancy always shouts the slogan…”be the ‘change’ you want to see”.  We all know the owners of ‘change’ and how much ‘change’ they have brought to bear on the country. Unemployment premised on recession is one of the them.
Be that as it may, the Rivers State Government continues to work for improvement of employment opportunities, despite the harsh economic realities.
The State Executive Council has approved the setting up of a technology hub to bring the State up to speed in the internet age and generate countless information technology jobs for the youths.
The State government has also developed  a Rivers State Jobs (RivJobs) Portal to help create employment opportunities for qualified Rivers youths. The interractive portal will create a platform for qualified Rivers youths to interface with employers and get placements.
Beyond rolling out statistics that excites failing politicians in different States, it is  important for the  NBS to firmly establish principles upon which their numbers are derived.  Otherwise, we shall continue to question the veracity of data released by the NBS which is enmeshed in falsehood and national treachery.
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant on Electronic Media to Rivers State Governor.

 

Simeon Nwakaudu