Nigeria has seen unemployment rise steadily since Buhari took office in 2015

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Nigerian presidential adviser Femi Adesina claimed in a recent television interview that 30 million Nigerians were unemployed in 2015, adding that this figure has fallen since President Muhammadu Buhari took office. This is false; in 2015, the year Buhari was elected, less than 10 million Nigerians were unemployed. The number has increased annually, and today 23.2 million Nigerians are unemployed.

Femi Adesina, who serves as special adviser on media and publicity to Buhari, said during an interview on March 28, 2021 that more Nigerians were unemployed in 2015 than today. 

“If you recall in 2015, buildup to the 2015 election when APC was campaigning, the figure that was used by the then candidate Buhari was that [a] minimum of 30 million Nigerians were out of jobs, were unemployed, particularly youths,” Adesina said in response to a question about high unemployment during a broadcast on Channels Television, a popular TV station in Nigeria.  

“That was in 2014, 2015, don’t make it appear as if it’s a genie that just came out of the bottle. No, it has always been there. As of 2014/ 2015, the figure used for [the] campaign was 30 million unemployed Nigerians. It is on record, you can check it.”

What did APC Manifesto claim?

When All Progressives Congress (APC) - Buhari's party - launched its manifesto ahead of the 2015 elections, it relied on similar unemployment figures to convince voters that Buhari was the fit choice for president.  

“Unemployment is at crisis point in Nigeria – even unreliable official figures put it at over 30%, up from 5% a decade ago,” the party wrote in its manifesto.

In the same document, the APC added that youth unemployment in Nigeria was 10% in the 1990s, but had risen to “at least 25%” by 2015.

In Nigeria, unemployment includes all people aged 15 to 64 who are willing and able to work and actively looking for a job without success.

Adesina and APC quote false figures

Labour force reports published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for 2014 and 2015 reveal that at no point in the year prior to Buhari taking office were 30 million Nigerians unemployed. 

Buhari was elected president on May 29, 2015 – the second quarter (Q2) of 2015 - when there were 6.1 million unemployed Nigerians. Another 13.5 million people were considered underemployed, which is categorised as those working less than 40 hours per week, or in jobs that underutilise their qualifications. 

Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) corroborate official statistics by the NBS, which suggests that Buhari and his supporters exaggerated unemployment figures during his election campaign. Even when including statistics of underemployed Nigerians, Buhari's numbers were overblown. 

At the time, the NBS reported that the “labour force population (i.e those within the working age population willing, able and actively looking for work) increased to 75.9 million in Q3 2015 from 74 million in Q2 2015”.

Based on all the government’s statistics, Buhari began his term of office with the unemployment rate at 8.2 percent.

Table shows labour force statistics from when Buhari was announced as candidate through his election.
Labour Force Stats Q4 2014 Q1 2015 Q2 2015 Q3 2015
Number of Unemployed (in millions) 4.7 5.5 6.1 7.5
Number of underemployed (in millions) 13.1 12.2 13.5 13.2
Unemployment rate 6.4% 7.5% 8.2% 9.9%

This contradicts the party’s other claim in their manifesto: the unemployment rate was “over 30%”. While it was true that unemployment was highest among youth, the numbers cited by the APC were inflated. The table above shows labour force statistics from when Buhari was announced APC candidate in December 2014 until after he was elected president.

According to NBS, “the unemployment rate ... was highest for those within the ages of 15‐24,” and it stood at “13.7% in Q1 2015, up from 11.7% in Q4 2014” - significantly less than the rate of “at least 25%” published in the APC manifesto.

In Q2 of 2015, when Buhari was elected, unemployment in this age bracket was 14.9% and rose to 17.8% in Q3. 

A screenshot taken on April 8, 2020, showing unemployment rates in Nigeria from 2010 to 2015.

It should be noted that the NBS reviewed its methodology for calculating unemployment in May 2015, but the data used in the reports and analysed by AFP Fact Check had been standardised by NBS to ensure uniformity. 

In 2020, the unemployment rate in Nigeria hit a record high of 33.3 percent. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, this means 23.19 million Nigerians were unemployed. Nigeria has seen a rise in both inflation and unemployment, leading Nigeria to have one of the highest number of unemployed people in the world.