A foremost sociopolitical group in Akwa Ibom State, Akwa Ibom Liberation Movement – AILM, has frowned at attempts to politicise the recent Labor Force Statistics: Unemployment and Underemployment Report’ published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), saying it is uncharitable to use it as a yardstick to measure the performance of present state administration.
AILM, made this known during a press briefing in Uyo, yesterday. The group which commended Governor Udom Emmanuel for creating an array of job opportunities through public-private partnerships, business support schemes, agricentrepreusnhip programmes, and wondered how the agency arrived at its highly contentious conclusions on a state that has, for the past five years, been consistent in creating direct and indirect employment opportunities for it’s citizens.
According to the group’s Secretary General, Mr. Darlington Udobong, “unemployment is a global phenomenon which got worst during the Covid-19 pandemic. This problem predates the current administration as such it is uncharitable to attempt to politicise such report, given the superlative track record Governor Udom Emmanuel has in rigorously pursuing policies that stimulate economic growth, provide job opportunities and create wealth for Akwa Ibom citizens”.
While acknowledging the importance of NBS and its routine reports, the group decried attempts by mischief makers to use such statistical data, which has severally been shown not to reflect the reality on ground, to engage in fruitless debates and arguments.
“Going beyond unproductive debates on social media over NBS report, it is on record that since his emergence in 2015, Governor Udom Emmanuel has worked assiduously to put tangible projects that has greatly reduced unemployment in the state.
“So far, more than 18 industries are operating or would soon begin operation in the state, including the Jubilee Syringe factory, King Size Flour Mill, Metering Solutions Company, Ibom Agricon Rice Mill, St. Gabriel Coconut factory, Ibom Airlines and others with capacity to employ thousands directly and create indirect job opportunities for thousands more. In addition, the Ibom Deep Seaport alone has capacity to employ well over 100, 000 citizens. All these are projects handled by the Udom Emmanuel administration to tackle unemployment. ”
Udobong reasoned that since Akwa Ibom state government started its industrialisation drive, it has become a hot spot for employment seekers from all over Nigeria.
“The NBS report may also be pointing to the rate at which the state is growing. For years, the state has witnessed mass immigration of youths from across the country seeking to be gainfully employed in several industries created by the state government. In the light of this, even NBS would concede that favorable working conditions in Akwa Ibom state has led to an influx of job seekers in to the state thus increasing so called unemployment in the state while reducing the unemployment rate in their states of origin.”
He questioned the timing of release of the report as well as some variables used in assessing unemployment in states, noting that by releasing such report at this moment of nation wide uncertainty the agency is insensitive to effect its report will have on the morale of Nigerians who are at the moment battling to survive a life altering contagion. Similarly, “if one of the parameters used to calculate unemployment rate is that one ‘is seen as unemployed if you did absolutely nothing at all or did something but for less than 20 hours during the reference week’, then the report is faulty since it erroneously lumps together employees on work leave, vacation, sick leave etc, but are earning monthly salaries and refers to them as unemployed”.
The group’s Secretary General further concluded that high unemployment rate in states of the federation is prove that federal government which takes the highest chunk of the national cake has failed to create a healthy environment for businesses to thrive and inflow of foreign direct investment so that jobs can be created. He pointed to the protracted federal government projects scattered all the state including Ibom Deep Seaport, Lagos-Calabar- Uyo railway, East-west road, Calabar-Itu Road and several others which would have helped in creating employment in the state. He therefore called for true fiscal federalism where states are allowed to independently manage their resources to fund their economic growth and development.