FORMER Minister of Solid Minerals, and later, of Education during the second-term Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, has stated that 10% of the 2.5 to three million Nigerian youth who enter the labour market annually have access to decent jobs as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The former minister, who was also a presidential aspirant, and one of the staunchest proponents of Obasanjo’s neo-liberal economic policies between 1999 and 2007, spoke on Monday at the 26th edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit, although she did not make reference to the source of the information.
She argued, as one of the panellists on the theme of Nigeria’s path to recovery, that deregulation of the economy is the solution to unemployment and underemployment and not a social investment programme.
According to her, the telecom sector was not contributing to the nation’s GDP until it was liberalised and deregulated. “Only 10% of the young people who enter the labour market of the nearly two and a half to three million of them would find anything that the International Labour Organisation defines as a decent job.
“We should say to ourselves; where are the rest? What are they doing? A lot of the time, public officials don’t like deregulation. I remember when we did the one for the telecom sector; the then minister hated the economic team because it was the end of an era.
“Government officials across Africa love where they can make the decisions because the decision point is the point of control and opportunity but to the detriment of the rest of society,” Mrs Ezekwesili said.
She said the oil and gas sector would have contributed much more to the economy if it was liberalised and deregulated and not sat on by the president. She noted that during the two recessions the country has had, when other sectors of the economy were going in the negative direction of contribution to growth, the deregulated telecom sector held the economy up. “So imagine what would happen if we had decided on a massive agenda of deregulation of the economy?” Mrs Ezekwesili stated.
Feature photo credit: World Economic Forum www.weforum.org /Eric Miller