Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has again called on the Federal Government to sell off the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its refineries.
Abubakar, who was President Muhammadu Buhari’s main opponent in the 2019 presidential election, repeated the call on Sunday as part of his recommendations for defusing Nigeria’s high unemployment time bomb.
His statement was in reaction to a report from Bloomberg Business on Saturday that Nigeria will soon have the highest unemployment rate in the world. The country has a current unemployment rate of 33.3 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
NBS said 23.2 million or one in three working age Nigerians have no jobs or trade. This is the highest unemployment rate in Nigeria in at least 13 years and the second-highest in the world.
In his statement on Sunday, Abubakar said the Bloomberg report had proven him right on the state of the economy.
He said, “I have never felt so bad at being proven right, as I am by the report from Bloomberg Business on Saturday, March 27, 2021 that Nigeria is to emerge as the nation with the highest unemployment rate on earth, at just over 33%.
“We warned about this, but repeated warnings by myself and other patriots were scorned. And now this.
“How did Nigeria get here? We got here by abandoning the people-centred leadership and free trade and deregulatory policies of the Obasanjo years (which saw us maintain an almost single digit unemployment rate), and implementing discreditted command and control policies that have led to massive capital flight from Nigeria.
“And even with the paucity of funds, we continue to ramp up government involvement in sectors that ought to be left to the private sector, with the latest being the ill advised $1.5 billion so called rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery that has failed to turn a profit for years.”
The former Vice President said government must realise that the insecurity Nigeria is facing is the result of youth unemployment.
“Idleness is the worst feature of unemployment because it channels the energy of our youth away from production, and towards destruction, and that is why Nigeria is now the third most terrorised nation on earth,” he said.
He suggested that stipend be given to every family monthly to cater for academic needs of their wards.
“In 2020, I recommended that to immediately and drastically bring down youth unemployment, every family in Nigeria with at least one school age child, and earning less than $800 per annum should receive a monthly stipend of 5,000 Naira from the government via their BVN and NIN on the condition that they verifiably keep their children in school.
“My recommendation still stands, and stands even stronger now that we have crossed the rubicon in youth unemployment.
“If we can get the 13.5 million out of school Nigerian children into school, we will turn the corner in one generation. If we do not do this, then the floodgates of unemployment will be further opened next year, and in the years to come,” Abubakar said.
He also said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as well as the country’s refineries should be privatised.
“As a nation, we are better off privatising our refineries and the NNPC through the time-tested LNG model in which the FG owns 49% equity and the private sector 51%.
“Recall that in 20 years ending 2020, the NLNG had delivered $18.3 billion dividends to government irrespective of taxes and other benefit accruals to the country.”
He said the privatisation will not only free the government of needless spendings, but also ” clean up the infrastructure mess in the petroleum downstream sector.”
While commending the Federal Government’s Special Public Works initiative that seeks to employ 774,000 youths, he said, “We must then incorporate those youth who are above school age into a massive public works programme. There was talk of 774,000 Special Public Works jobs for the youth, which was to have started in January of 2021. This is a commendable step, but it must be done with proper agenda, rather than propaganda.”