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There’s no evidence Buhari created 12 million jobs in rice sector

THE Muhammadu Buhari Administration has continued to claim that 12 million jobs were created in the Rice production sector in Nigeria as a result of the administration’s agricultural policies, but there is no evidence anywhere to support this claim.

On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, Lauretta Onochie, a presidential aide posted a tweet citing the much-talked-about 12 million jobs created in the rice production sector as one of the reasons Buhari deserves to be re-elected on Saturday.

Onochie had been found guilty of spreading fake news through her Tweeter handle in the past.

The claim of millions of jobs in the rice sector was first made by President Buhari in November 2018, when he presented his administration’s scorecard at the time. He was represented at the event by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh.

He said: “The impact of our intervention in the rice sector has resulted in job creation, increase in wealth, while reducing migration from rural to urban areas. As of July this year, the number of farmers has increased by 12 million.

“The Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN) has five million members. The number of people working in rice mills, small or big is over 1.7 million. These include harvesters, loaders, off-loaders, transporters, distributors and markers.

“Unemployment is one of our biggest challenges in the country. We want to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production and the fact that we are currently the largest producer of rice in Africa, followed by Mali is good news.”

However, there are no available statistics anywhere to back up this bogus claim. In fact, the Statistician-General of the Federation, Yemi Kale, categorically denied the claim, saying via a Tweeter post that “neither the statistician-general nor NBS ever made any such admission at any time to anybody”.

But the presidency insisted on the figure, saying that the unemployment rate as calculated by the NBS was concentrated on white-collar jobs and does not take into consideration the millions of jobs created in the Agric sector.

Garba Shehu, Buhari’s spokesman based his claims on a statement purportedly issued by the rice farmers association of Nigeria.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate was at 10.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2015 just after Buhari just took office, it has continued to rise and as at Q3 of 2018, it had risen to 23.1 per cent. Many say that since the majority of Nigeria’s workforce is in the Agric sector, according to the NBS, a 12 million addition in the sector would have reflected positively on the unemployment rate.

Tope Fasua, an Economist and the presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) in an article titled ‘Stop the deception – there are no 12 million rice farm-holders in Nigeria’, agave reasons why he believes the claim of 12 million jobs in the rice sector was false.

The article read in part: “The last record shows we cultivate about 40 per cent of our arable land (Abdullahi, 2017). That is 40 per cent of 923,000 square kilometres or 92 million hectares net of at least 20 per cent built up. This is close to 300,000 square kilometres or 30 million hectares cultivated in Nigeria… By every means, 12 million rice paddies will be visible from space. Nigeria will have become the biggest rice producer for the universe. We will even supply some to the kingdom of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).  We must note however that not all of our 923,000 square kilometre landmass is arable. We have some desert and increasing desertification. We have swamps. We have rivers, lakes and so on. We also have mindless environmental degradation.”

The Buhari administration has also consistently said that Nigeria’s rice import has been reduced by over 90 per cent and that the country has almost attained self-sufficiency in rice. But evidence abounds that a significant quantity of the rice being consumed in Nigeria are not produced in the country.

What has happened is that rice imports into neighbouring countries like the Benin Republic have increased astronomically within the same period Nigeria’s official rice importation purportedly fell. The excess of these imports end up in Nigeria’s markets, no thanks to the country’s porous borders and largely corrupt customs officials, and because they are most times cheaper than the locally produced rice, consumers tend to go for them more.

Therefore, the claim that the Buhari administration created 12 million plus jobs in the rice production sector is at best unsubstantiated and at worst false.

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