President Muhammadu Buhari says the recent data reeled out by the National Bureau of Statistics show that his administration is doing well.
Buhari said this on Wednesday during a Gala Night organised by beneficiaries of the government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme held at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja.
The President followed the announcement on Wednesday by the NBS that the number of unemployed persons of working age had risen to 20.9 million.
He said that statistics from the NBS had confirmed that his administration’s policies were yielding results.
Buhari said he inherited “a broken system in the agricultural sector in 2015.”
After hearing testimonies from some rice farmers, the President said, “Seeing your faces and hearing your stories give me hope. Today, we are on track to achieving an all-inclusive economy.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, had said Buhari had ordered the Statistician-General of the NBS, Dr Yemi Kale, to change the high unemployment statistics and reflect the rising rate of employment in the agriculture sector.
Shehu said during a recent meeting with the Federal Executive Council, Kale admitted that the NBS was only focusing on the creation of white-collar jobs and not the agriculture sector and the informal sector.
“Rice Producers Association of Nigeria made the open claim and nobody has challenged them up until the time that we speak, that they had created 12 million new jobs,” Shehu had said.
Kale, however, denied ever making such a claim.
The United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade had said last month that Nigeria imported three million metric tons of rice in 2018.
The US report had said the import figure was 400,000 MT higher than the quantity of the product that was imported in 2017.
The report also stated that Nigeria’s local rice production dropped from 2016 to 2018 compared to the situation in 2015.
The report ran contrary to several claims by the Nigerian Government that local rice production had increased while importation had dropped by up to 90 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Vice Presidential Candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party in the forthcoming 2019 general elections, Mr Peter Obi, has blamed the rising unemployment rate in the country on the strategy of the Federal Government.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja on Thursday, Obi expressed sadness that a lot of ordinary Nigerians had continued to degenerate as shown by the unemployment rate released by the NBS in Abuja on Wednesday.
The NBS had on Wednesday indicated that the country’s unemployment rate had degenerated from 18.8 per cent in 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018.
Obi said that urgent steps needed to be taken in order to stop the downward trend.
He said, “They (government) are getting it wrong. If they are getting it right, the number would have been reducing. The whole approach or economic architecture is wrong. There should be areas of concentration. There are areas that you need to sincerely support which is not happening.
“In 2014, the overall unemployment and underemployment rate was 24 per cent; now it is 40 per cent. Then, the unemployment rate was 12 per cent. It moved to 18.8 per cent. Now, it has got worse. So, we need to do something aggressively to start turning things around.”
He added, “The 2019 elections will be strictly about the issues that concern the ordinary Nigerian – issues about the voiceless 87 million poor people that are living in Nigeria, issues about millions of unemployed Nigerians.
“How do we start pulling those 87 million people out of poverty and how do we start ensuring that millions of unemployed Nigerians get jobs? So, when you see that the situation is worsening, you get sad. So, for me, the first expression is sadness.
“Then, what do we do aggressively to ensure that we start turning things around? That is the issue.”
Asked to speak on the 12 million jobs that the Federal Government said had been created in rice farming, Obi said more rice farmers should reflect on higher productivity and lower prices.
He said, “You can have 15 million rice farmers but rice is still expensive. The more people that get into rice production, the more rice we produce and the more the price of rice goes up. It shows that there is a disconnect. If we have 10 million rice farmers, the price of rice should have been coming down.”
Obi added that in rice-producing nations such as Thailand, rice was not only available but also affordable.
The PDP also said the claim by Buhari that his administration was doing well, given the NBS report was incorrect and untrue.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Diran Odeyemi, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said Buhari’s government had increased poverty, unemployment, insecurity and misery in the country.
He said, “It is unfortunate that the president of a whole nation can come out in public and tell an absolute lie to citizens who are suffering the effect of his maladministration. The NBS gave an accurate figure of unemployment in Nigeria and the poverty level. And here we have a President telling an open lie.
“I urge Nigerians to respond by their Permanent Voter Cards, which is the weapon to correct the mistake of this administration and the mistake of electing the All Progressives Congress into government.
“They should elect (Abubakar) Atiku as the President who is prepared and ready to put smiles on their faces with a thorough economic plan and a system that will ensure that poverty is eradicated in the country and that youths are gainfully employed.