Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar says the government of President Muhammadu Buhari needs help.
In a piece entitled: ‘World’s Highest Unemployment Rate: Time To Help This Government Help Nigeria’, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in 2019, said helping the current administration amounts to Nigerians saving themselves.
He said rather listen to advice, the government reads wrong meanings to ideas and suggestions offered by its critics.
The former vice-president also linked the high crime rate to the unprecedented level of unemployment.
“I have never felt so bad at being proven right, as I am by the report from Bloomberg Business on Saturday, March 27, 2021 that Nigeria is to emerge as the nation with the highest unemployment rate on Earth, at just over 33%.
“We warned about this, but repeated warnings by myself and other patriots were scorned. And now this.
The implication of abandoning deregulatory policies of Obasanjo
“How did Nigeria get here? We got here by abandoning the people centred leadership and free trade and deregulatory policies of the Obasanjo years (which saw us maintain an almost single digit unemployment rate), and implementing discredit command and control policies that have led to massive capital flight from Nigeria.
“And with the paucity of funds, we continue to ramp up government involvement in sectors that ought to be left to private sector, with the latest being the ill advised $1.5 billion so called rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery that has failed to turn a profit for years.
“What this government must realise is that the unprecedented insecurity Nigeria is facing is the result of youth unemployment. Idleness is the worst feature of unemployment because it channels the energy of our youth away from production, and towards destruction, and that is why Nigeria is now the third most terrorised nation on Earth.
“We are at a precipice as a nation and the truth is that all stakeholders and elder statesmen have to speak up on time, while there is still a Nigeria to save. This government obviously lacks the capacity to address our current challenges, and we must help them, not because of the government, but because of our people,” he wrote.
How do we address this challenge?
Atiku, who rejected the plan of the Federal Government to spend $1.5 billion on the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery, made a case for privatisation.
“As a nation, we are better off privatising our refineries and the NNPC through the time-tested LNG model in which the FG owns 49% equity and the private sector 51%. Recall that in 20 years ending 2020, the NLNG had delivered $18.3 billion dividends to government irrespective of taxes and other benefit accruals to the country.
“This will not only free the government of needless soendings, but also clean up the infrastructure mess in the petroleum downstream sector. I say this because the fastest way to bring down a world record unemployment rate is via incentivised education. An educated citizenry are more employable and more self employable.
“Increased education has been scientifically linked with lower rates of crime and insecurity, along with lower infant and maternal mortality, and a higher lifetime income.”
774,000 Special Public Works jobs a commendable initiative
He commended the federal government over the public works scheme but said the initiative must not be abused.
“We must then incorporate those youth who are above school age into a massive public works programme. There was talk of 774,000 Special Public Works jobs for the youth, which was to have started in January of 2021.”
“This is a commendable step, but it must be done with proper agenda, rather than propaganda. Perhaps we may want to consider the Malaysian model, whereby with the exception of very few highly specialised jobs, foreign contractors are not allowed to import labour into the country. And we also need to do three things urgently to encourage capital inflow and foreign direct investment.
“First, Nigeria must move towards a single exchange rate to be determined by market forces. Secondly, the federal and state governments must reduce taxes, to make Nigeria more business friendly.
“And finally, financial and monetary institutions, like the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, must be free from the type of political influence that resulted in the prohibition of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
“In a situation where we are simultaneously the world headquarters for extreme poverty, the world capital for out of school children, and the nation with the highest unemployment rate on Earth, there is a very real and present danger that we might slip into the failed states index – God forbid!” he wrote.