The federal government seems ready to go to great extents, including de-legitimizing institutions of the state, in order to push its own narratives. Spokesman to the president, Garba Shehu, took it a notch higher today when he flatly claimed that employment data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) are false. He then sensationally declared that even the head of the NBS, Yemi Kale, admitted same.
What he said: “The NBS chief addressed the federal cabinet last weekend and he made the admission himself that they had concentrated analysis over time on white collar jobs and they had not taken cognizance of job creation in areas of agriculture. Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) made the open claim that they have created 12 million new jobs. When he (the NBS chief) finished addressing the federal cabinet last week, the government asked the DG of the NBS, ‘go out there and tell the Nigerian public.’ You re just saying to us that Jigawa, Kebbi and Ebonyi are reporting the lowest unemployment rates in the country on account of agriculture,” Shehu said.
That was not all. Shehu accused the NBS of releasing “misleading” data on the basis of which some of the judgement has been passed. “The data has been unfair to the administration, it had ignored job creation in the areas of agriculture, and now that is being reintegrated. And Nigerians will be impressed. If we are talking about job losses, no, we have created at least 12 million new jobs in the area of agriculture.”
NBS DG, Yemi Kale, rebuts: Kale, who never shies away from asserting the independence of the NBS was quick to debunk Shehu’s claim in response to an inquiry on Twitter: “Neither the statistician general nor NBS ever made such admission at anytime to anybody and the unemployment computations does take into account all sectors, age groups &both rural &urban areas,” he said.
Assuming what U claim was said was actually said then I make it very clear that Neither the statistician general nor NBS ever made any such admission at anytime to anybody and the unemployment computations does take into account all sectors, age groups &both rural & urban areas.
— Dr Yemi Kale (@sgyemikale) December 17, 2018
Why it matters: President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned on a plank of job creation, but the numbers since his elections have trended downwards. The NBS has not released new unemployment data since September 2017 because the FG has not provided the funding, but the last time data was released, it showed an unemployment rate of almost 20 percent among the total active labour force. A further 21 percent were underemployed. The figures are so troubling that the FG is refusing to accept it. However seeking to delegitimize the NBS which was simply carrying out its legal responsibility can have repercussions down the line especially when the same government tries to use the same NBS figures when trying to seek loans and other types of support.