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Nigeria suspends recruitment exercises over coronavirus

As parts of efforts to contain the effects of the coronavirus on the nation’s economy, the Nigerian government on Wednesday announced plans to halt recruitment exercises in the public service.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, made the decision known late Wednesday in Abuja.

Speaking with journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja late Wednesday, Mrs Ahmed said the Federal Executive Council approved different measures put in place to address the effects of the virus on the nation’s economy.

According to Mrs Ahmed, the government has resolved to stop recruitment, except for essential services such as security and health services. It has also resolved to strictly restore and comply with the Civil Service Retirement Regulations, she added.

“The other policy matters that have been discussed for implementation is for the administration to stop recruitment, except for essential services such as security and health services and to also restore and comply by the Civil Service Retirement Regulations,” she explained.

“We’ve been asked also to review the modalities for the implementation of the social investment programme and finally to review the non-essential tax waivers that we are implementing right now to cut down on out tax expenditure so that we can realise more revenue.

“These measures mean that we are going to re-engage with the National Assembly and we’ll be doing that shortly, maybe from today or tomorrow, to revise the EMTEF as well as to revise the 2020 Budget.”

Already, the situation is expected to affect the nation’s unemployment rate.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in in the third quarter of 2018, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in December 2018.

It was the last time the bureau released the unemployment report.

The statistics bureau in the report said the ‘economically active’ or working age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased from 111.1 million in Q3 2017 to 115.5 million in Q3 2018.

“The number of persons in the labour force (i.e. people who are able and willing to work) increased from 75.94 million in Q3 2015 to 80.66 million in Q3 2016 to 85.1 million in Q3, 2017 to 90.5 million in Q3, 2018,” the report said.

“The total number of people in employment (i.e with jobs) increased from 68.4 million in Q3 2015, to 68.72 million in Q3 2016, to 69.09 million in Q3 2017 and 69.54 million in Q3 2018. The total number of people in full-time employment (at least 40 hours a week) increased from 51.1 million in Q3 2017 to 51.3 million in Q3, 2018.

“The total number of people in part-time employment (or underemployment) decreased from 13.20 million in Q3 2015 to 11.19 million in Q3 2016 but increased to 18.02 million in Q3 2017 and to 18.21 million in Q3 2018.”

The report said the total number of people classified as unemployed, which means they did nothing at all or worked too few hours (under 20 hours a week) to be classified as employed increased from 17.6 million in Q4 2017 to 20.9 million in Q3 2018.

Of the 20.9 million persons classified as unemployed as at Q3 2018, 11.1 million did some form of work but far too few hours a week (under 20 hours) to be officially classified as employed while 9.7 million did absolutely nothing, the NBS said.

In May 2019, Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, disclosed that Nigeria’s unemployment rate would reach 33.5 per cent by 2020.

Ngige said at the time that the incessant increase in unemployment rate in the country was alarming.

According to him, the high unemployment rate of 23.1 per cent, and underemployment of 16.6 per cent by the National Bureau Statistics (NBS) of 2019 report was alarming.

He said: “It is a worrisome status as the global poverty capital (World Bank, 2018); and concomitant high prevalence rate of crimes and criminality, including mass murders, insurgency, militancy, armed robbery, kidnappings and drug abuse, among others.

“As if this situation is not scary enough, it is projected that the unemployment rate for this country will reach 33.5 per cent by 2020, with consequences that are better imagined, if the trend is not urgently reversed.”

Earlier in the week, a former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, said that the Nigerian economy has failed.

Mr Mimiko noted that the unemployment situation in the country speaks to the poor state of the economy.

On Tuesday, reports said the presidential economic advisory council disclosed that Nigeria would have to work hard to keep its head above the waters of economic troubles due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Doyin Salami-led council said the crisis could trigger slower growth, uncertainty, oil glut, trade imbalance, drop in foreign reserves and rise in unemployment.

The last major recruitment exercise done by the Nigerian government was carried out in February when the NNPC recruited 1,050 graduate trainees.

Oil prices fell below $25 on Wednesday, as nations across the world battle the impact of the coronavirus on their respective economies.

Since the outbreak of the virus, thousands of companies have shut down operations in China, the major parts of Europe, and the United States, raising fears of recession and unemployment.

Nigeria also confirmed five additional cases of the virus Wednesday morning.

The Nigerian economy slipped into recession in 2016, a development triggered by dwindling government revenue occasioned by the fall in oil prices in the international market and unrest in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

The recession period was characterised by harsh economic conditions, a weak currency, inflation and widespread unemployment.

The nation emerged from recession in the second quarter of 2017 after oil prices improved and relative peace was restored in the Niger Delta.

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