Lagos, Nigeria: Nigeria reported a sharp rise in unemployment on Wednesday, an unwelcome development for President Muhammadu Buhari months before he runs for re-election.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said joblessness rose by five milion people in the third quarter from the year-earlier period.
This took the unemployment rate to 23.1 percent, a full five percentage points up from the third quarter of 2017.
Nigeria is scheduled to hold a presidential election in February, when Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party will compete with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar.
Abubakar has put jobs and growth at the centre of his campaign agenda after Nigeria suffered a 15-month recession between 2016 and 2017.
The new data came amid a dispute between the Nigerian presidency and the NBS over the accuracy of unemployment figures.
On Monday the President’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, claimed that the NBS chief had addressed the federal cabinet and admitted that previous jobs data concentrated on white collar jobs, omitting job creation in in other sectors.
“The data has been unfair to this administration; they had ignored job creation in the area of agriculture”, he said.
Yemi Kale, the Statistician General at the NBS, denied the claim.
“The unemployment computations does take into account all sectors, age groups, and both rural and urban areas,” he said on Twitter.
Buhari came to power pledging to diversify the economy but four years into his term in office, Nigeria is still heavily reliant on oil revenue.
A report in June by the World Poverty Clock and Brookings Institute found that in 2018 Nigeria overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.
Some 87 million people, about half of Nigeria’s population is estimated to be living on less than $1.90 a day.