A former Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has called on the federal government to sell off the country’s petroleum company and its refineries, saying the country is better off privatising the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) through the time-tested LNG model in which the federal government owns 49% equity and the private sector having 51%.
The 2019 presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) repeated the call on Sunday as part of his recommendations for averting Nigeria’s high unemployment explosion.
Abubakar’s comments were in reaction to a report from Bloomberg Business on Saturday that Nigeria will soon have the highest unemployment rate on Earth, with an over 33 per cent rate.
Earlier, the country’s Bureau of Statistics had said Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose to 33.3 per cent in the final quarter of last year, indicating that 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.
“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%,” Mr Abubakar said in a statement on Sunday.
“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 discredited 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 Nigeria must realise that the insecurity plaguing the country 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.”
“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 5000 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.”
“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 free the government of needless spendings, and will also “clean up the infrastructural mess in the petroleum downstream sector.”
Commending the federal government’s Special Public Works initiative that seeks to employ 774,000 youths, Abubakar said the initiative must be done without propaganda.
“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 a proper agenda, rather than propaganda.”
By Abel Ejikeme