Nigeria High Unemployment Figure 'Indefensible' - Minister

He said the government-run special public works that targets paying 774,000 young people monthly stipends may have been hijacked for political patronage in many states.

The Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has said that Nigeria's 33 per cent unemployment figure is indefensible and that the situation has been compounded by the COVID-19 scourge.

He said the government-run special public works that targets paying 774,000 young people monthly stipends may have been hijacked for political patronage in many states.

He said this at the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the presidential communication team on Thursday.

Nigeria's unemployment rate translates to some 23.2 million people, the highest in at least 13 years, and the second-highest rate in the world.

"The unemployment figures are indefensible. The 33 per cent was compounded more by the COVID scourge, the whole world is reeling," Mr Keyamo said.

"So it will be very short-sighted of us as a government, very myopic, very, like wrong game approach to think that we want to live out of poverty and create employment by opening up gaps in the civil service to employ people. How many are we going to employ for the 33 per cent? That's so high.

"So we need to react more innovatively to create employment. And for us, we are working very hard to ensure that we skill up Nigerians. The way to approach employment is to skill up the populace," he added.

Mr Keyamo said the way out to encourage the small, macro small and medium scale entrepreneurs is to support their businesses, ensure that people are self-employed, skill them up.

"That's what the NPower is doing. In NPower, whether you are a graduate or not, go and learn a skill so that you can be self-employed and feed yourself.

"Those are employment we are creating; those people who are skilling up," he said.

According to him, the president is very serious about the issue of lifting 100 million people out of poverty in the next 10 years.

"He's really serious about it. So we're looking at different strategies to adopt to do that," he said.

He also described the YouWin programme, an innovative empowerment programme aimed at empowering Nigerian youth financially to establish their own businesses and to be self-reliant under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, as purely for political patronage, saying the opposition was sidelined.

Mr Keyamo was asked why the same set of people were benefiting from all government programmes under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, and he responded:

"Whilst I don't have the full facts regarding that, but I will not also in my true conscience dispute your assertion."

"I will not because I know how the political terrain operates now, where you have godfathers everywhere as they are bringing a programme of the federal government, they hand it over to what they call the leader.

"That is how it operates regrettably, I must say regrettably, any programme, in facts, they capture it like bandits here in Abuja.

"Before it leaves Abuja as it is coming out straight from villa fresh government project, is captured here and hand it over to their structures in the state," he said.

"But like I said, what we try to do in this programme, that is why perhaps I faced some resistance, all of that we put behind us. So I don't want to wake up all those signals. But we moved on at the end of the day in peace, because everybody realised that we needed to serve the Nigerian people. But that was why I designed it that way. We designed it that way to be multifactorial.

"There is no programme ever, ever before run by any government before us that you will see people who are not politicians brought into the selection process.

"I saw some opposition leaders complaining about the special public works that they didn't get enough. And the question we asked them was that while you were running your own PDP programme, did we even hear anything about it?"

According to him, some APC members said the programme should be for the APC so the party can use it to run elections.

"Before the election of 2019, many of our APC members were mad," he said.

"They were mad that this programme should be the APC so that we can use it to run elections. But the president said no, the president will just laugh despite all that, they were threatening that we are going to lose the election. PDP members were using this programme to empower their people in this state, APC had nothing to empower. Didn't the president win?

"He won, he won more people to his side by that. So for this programme, we followed the president's spirit," he said.

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