Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State does not seem to have what it takes to vigorously tackle the worrisome rising unemployment in the big oil state.
With 504,000 barrels of crude oil daily, the state remains the largest oil producer in Nigeria. But a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) ranks the state as the second-highest in rising unemployment in the country.
As a former top bank executive, it was expected that Udom will rewrite the economic history of Akwa Ibom, and make mass poverty history there. Sadly, that does not seem to be happening. The poverty situation is rather getting worse under his leadership.
The Udom administration is yet to deliver on its much-touted job creation programme by publishing those so far employed. His administration does not appear to be sincere in addressing the menace which many are seeing as a time bomb in the state.
“There is an element of truth in the statistics by NBS’’, a worried unemployed youth says, pointing out that the data agency could not have been wrong when it has consistently raised the alarm over the high level of unemployment in the state.
Analysts say it is unfortunate that Akwa Ibom as a high revenue earner from the federal account has been consecutively ranked among the states with the highest unemployment rate in the country amidst its high revenue profile.
Even civil servants are said to be complaining of poor treatment by the disappointing Udom administration. The administration is allegedly more comfortable with sycophants than those speaking truth to it.
Since 2016, the Udom administration has placed an embargo on employment into the civil service while it declared vacancies in 2018 before the general elections apparently to woo supporters in which nothing has been done since then.
NBS however, says Akwa Ibom has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country with 45.2 percent of the people unable to find jobs while the unemployment rate is 66 percent.
In a statement in Uyo, the state capital, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state describes the report as most embarrassing and depressing economic data that has ever been recorded for the state in its 33-year history coming at a time the state is the highest earner of oil revenue.
APC State Publicity Secretary, Nkereuwem Enyongekere, in his statement attributes the root causes of the “depressing and poor standard of living in the state” to the alleged mismanagement of resources and wrong priorities.
‘’The huge resources spent on erecting the 21 storey building which is even yet to be completed and the money being sunk into constructing the worship centre in Uyo have no direct bearing on the life and welfare of the people.’’
He pointed to the construction of a new Governor’s lodge in Ikoy, Lagos at an astronomical cost despite widespread protest from the people against such wasteful project as another example of projects that have no bearing on the lives of the people.
Part of the state read: These wasted resources would have been better used to create jobs through massive agribusiness value chains, rebuild, re-equip our schools, retrain our teachers and overhaul the curriculum.
“Most public schools in our state are overcrowded and dilapidated. They represent the most the most unsuitable and unconducive learning environment for our children’’, APC says.
Apparently jolted, Information and Strategy Commissioner, Ini Ememobong, in a statement says the report was unbelievable as the Udom administration has been creating jobs through the establishment of factories in the state.
The obviously embarrassed administration is querying the authenticity of the recent labour statistics of the NBS, wherein it listed Akwa Ibom as the state with the second-highest unemployment rate in the country.
The Labour Force Statistics which provides the unemployment and underemployment Report, according to the commissioner, is unbelievable and called for serious scrutiny.
He is claiming that the reality on ground in the state was in contradistinction to the Bureau’s report, and the environment the government had created for the flourishing of industries which had provided employment.
“ A juxtaposition of the said report with the reality of the existence and operation of the numerous industries in our state, the recruitment into the civil and public service, Public-Private Partnership initiatives, the award of direct Labour contracts, our airline and general aviation businesses, qualitative cash support and interest-free loans to entrepreneurs, financial and input support to farmers; the obvious conclusion will confirm that indeed the current administration has created quality jobs in an unprecedented manner.
“This reality is not attempting to deny the existence of unemployment-which is a global phenomenon worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continuing, he said as a responsible government, it will engage the data agency to ascertain the veracity of their processes and results and determine how it arrived at the sample size used in the survey, the spatial spread of the sample, and the population figure used to obtain the percentage recorded for the state.
In addition, the government intends to engage the labour office to ascertain the quality assurance mechanism employed, the temporal spread of data used in the analysis, and which agency of the government authenticated the data source.
According to him, unemployment has its permanent corollary which includes a spike in crime, increased youth restiveness, among others, but wondered how the state is declared the safest in spite of such statistics.
‘’In our state, citizens, security agencies and guests alike, agree without any doubt that we are Nigeria’s safest state. How then can a state be the safest, which has witnessed influx of industries and other economic activities, purveyed by local cum foreign investors and still be the state with the second-largest unemployment percentage?’’