President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the Statistician-General of the National Bureau of Statistics, Dr. Yemi Kale, to change the high unemployment statistics and reflect the rising rate of employment in the agriculture sector.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said this on Sunrise Daily, a programme on Channels Television.
Shehu said during a recent meeting with the Federal Executive Council, Kale admitted that the NBS was only focusing on the creation of white collar jobs and not the agriculture sector and the informal sector.
He said the President subsequently told him to go and admit his error to members of the public and make appropriate changes.
When asked why job losses were being recorded, Shehu said, “There was a departure last week. The NBS chief had addressed the federal cabinet and he made the admission himself that they had concentrated analysis over time on white collar jobs and they had not taken cognisance of job creation in areas of agriculture.
“Rice Producers Association of Nigeria made the open claim and nobody has challenged them up until the time that we speak, that they had created 12 million new jobs.
“When he finished addressing the federal cabinet last week, the government asked the DG of the NBS, go out there and tell the Nigerian public, you are just saying to us now that Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi and Ebonyi are recording the lowest unemployment rates in the country on account of agriculture.
“So, the point is that the data collected which has formed judgement on the data that have been passed and misleading and I think there is now a convergence. The data has been unfair to the administration, it had ignored job creation in the areas of agriculture but that is now being integrated and Nigerians will be impressed.”
However, a spokesman for the Abubakar Atiku Campaign Organisation, Mr. Phrank Shuaibu, who was on the programme, lambasted Shehu, accusing the Presidency of attempting to alter job statistics on the eve of elections.
He said it seemed the Presidency was trying to cow the NBS like it did to the West African Examination Council when the registrar personally handed over a certificate to Buhari at the Villa.
Shuaibu said, “The National Bureau of Statics came for EFC meeting and according to the President’s spokesman, the man admitted that he miscalculated. That is an agency funded by government, not an agency sponsored by any international organisation.
“He has forgotten that this is not 1984. 2015 is not 1984. The world has gone digital but because they are operating an analogue system of government, they don’t know that even a 10-year-old can use the internet to find out statistics.
“When the NBS came out with the figures about loss of jobs and how it was affecting the economy, nobody came out to defend the government. But just as the certificate issue was managed, they have pushed the DG to the villa and obviously dictated to him what he should say.
“You cannot say that a government that is in power, the DG of NBS reeled out statistics, you did nothing to him, many months after and because elections are here, on the eve of elections, he is summoned to FEC and is asked to generate new figures. That is a fallacious tale and an affront on the sensibilities of Nigerians and they should apologise to us.”
Incidentally, the NBS has failed to release the statistics on unemployment for over a year, citing lack of funds as the reason.
However, the opposition has always insisted that the Presidency had ordered the agency not to release the figures until after elections.