In the next 48 hours, Nigerians would bid 2017 a final goodbye. The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of the previous year. The question that readily comes to mind is; how have we, as a nation fared, in the outgoing year? If we have to give a pass mark, would we score the Mohammadu Buhari administration high in human and national development indexes? The facts speak for themselves. I will quote from the recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
‘The economically active population or working age population (persons within ages 15 and 64) increased from 108.03 million to 108.59 million, this represents a 0.5 percent increase over the previous quarter and a 3.4 percent increase when compared to Q4 (fourth quarter) 2015. In Q4 2016, the labour force population (i.e. those within the working age population willing, able and actively looking for work) increased to 81.15 million from 80.67 million in Q3 2016,representing an increase of 0.6% in the labour force during the quarter. This means about 482,689 persons from the economically active population entered the labour force during the quarter that is individuals that were able, willing and actively looking for work. The magnitude of this increase between Q3 and Q4 2016 is smaller when compared to Q2 and Q32016, which recorded an increase of 782,886 in the Labour force population. Within the reference period, the total number of persons in full time employment (did any form of work for at least 40hours) decreased by 977,876 or 1.8% when compared to the previous quarter, and decreased by1.92million or 3.5 percent when compared to Q4 of 2015, making a total of 52.58million persons in full time employment. With an economically active or working age population of 108.59 million and labour force population of 81.15 million, it means 27.44million persons within the economically active or working age population decided not to work for one reason or the other in Q4 2016, hence were not part of the labour force and cannot be considered employed.
“The number of underemployed in the labour force (those working but doing menial jobs not commensurate with their qualifications or those not engaged in fulltime work and merely working for few hours) increased by 1,109,551 or 7.0 percent, resulting in an increase in the underemployment rate from 19.7 percent (15.9 million persons) in Q3 2016 to 21.0 percent (17.03million persons) in Q4 2016. This is an increase of 1.3 percentage points between quarters 3 and 4 of 2016, and shows a steady rise in the rate since Q3 of 2015.During the reference period, the number of unemployed in the labour force, increased by 351,015 persons, resulting in an increase in the national unemployment rate to 14.2 percent in Q4 2016, slightly up from 13.9percent in Q3, 13.3 percent in Q2, 12.1 percent in Q1 2016 and 10.4 percent in Q4 2015. Accordingly, there were a total of 28.58 million persons in the Nigerian labour force in Q4 2016, that Q4 2016 unemployment report were either unemployed or underemployed compared to 27.12million in Q3, 26.06million in Q2 and24.5 million in Q1 2016”. Bottom line- many Nigerians are still unemployed, in spite of government avowed creation of jobs.
Last year, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria raised alarm that about 272 companies shutdown due to the depression in the economy. Most have relocated to other countries. There are no indications that more have not shut down since then. Many Nigerians have lost jobs as indicated by NBS. Many are hungry. The number of beggars and destitute have increased. The year was especially bad as Nigeria witnessed a lot of people committing suicide due to the economic situation, a trend which started last year.
Likewise, the roads are still in terrible conditions, some have been abandoned or in state of incompleteness. Most of the roads are yet to be completed. Work has stopped on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, as important as the road is. The same with the Oyo-Ogbomosho express road. We only hear about the progress of work on the South-East road on pages of newspaper. The power situation improved slightly, but one is not sure that this would not be a flash in the pan. In all, the government still needs to do more. Nigerians want a better deal in 2018.
Apapa gridlock, national assets and Lagos
For years now, the issue of trailers parked haphazardly on Apapa – Oshodi expressway had been in the news. In total disregard to traffic law and consideration for other road users, trailer drivers especially those who had come to lift petroleum products park at will on any spot that suits their fancy. It is a familiar sight for users of that road to see the long line of trailers forming as much as three lanes on the main expressway and leaving only the service lane for other road users. The fact that they left the service lane free was never a guarantee that the lane would remain free for too long as other motorists and hordes of workers on that axis make use of the single lane. Of course, this puts a lot of pressure on that section and within hours, people who had business in that axis get stuck in the logjam. What this does is to ensure a long line of frustrated motorists, stuck in unmoving traffic. Most of those who have offices along that axis have long abandoned them. A friend that works in a media organization on that axis said they hardly ever go to the office again.
The problem did not just start, but it has not always been this bad. I recall that former Lagos state governor and current Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, who was exasperated by the attitude of the trailer drivers, had to intervene when he was governor. Fashola took on the trailer drivers and had their vehicles impounded after issuing ultimatum to them to vacate from the Eko bridge, Ijora, Costain, Western Avenue and the Apapa-Mile 2 access roads to the wharf, as they were wont to do at the time. But that never deterred them, soon after, it was business as usual. That persisted till date and has grown worse. Threats seem not to have worked. I recall that the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) had also threatened to prosecute any vehicle found parked indiscriminately on the road. Lagos governor, Akinwumi Ambode had also visited and had set up a task force made up of security operatives to ensure free flow of traffic. The practice of saner road ethics after this had still been in the breach.
President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote had noted once that the traffic gridlock constituted a major loss to the country. He said the country was experiencing a loss of N140billion weekly adding that operations in the hinterlands were being affected. “The economy loses more than N20 billion daily and N140 billion weekly. It affects businesses across the country. All our operations in the hinterland in Ilorin, in Kano are operating at 40 per cent maximum capacity.”
Dangote’s statement thus goes to underscore the importance of Apapa ports to the Nigerian economy. It is the heart of the economy and constitutes about 60 percent of the country’s import and export access. The federal government had even gone into partnership with the Dangote group to rehabilitate the road with the works minister saying the road would be closed for a year for this to happen.