The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), a private sector-led think-tank, has said many Nigerians are expected to fall into the poverty trap amid rising unemployment in the country.

The NESG in its economic report for the first quarter of 2021, noted that the country’s economic growth in the period under review was relatively weak.

“Nigeria’s economic growth trajectory is better described as jobless and less inclusive even in the heydays of high growth regime in the 2000s,” it said.

“While the Nigerian economy recovered from recession in 2020Q4, unemployment rate spiked to its highest level ever at 33.3 per cent in the same quarter.

“With the COVID-19 crisis heightening the rate of joblessness, many Nigerians are expected to fall into the poverty trap, going forward.”

The group noted that the World Bank estimated an increase in the number of poor Nigerians to 90 million in 2020 from 83 million in 2019.

“This corresponds to a rise in headcount poverty ratio to 44.1 per cent in 2020 from 40.1 per cent in 2019. The rising levels of unemployment and poverty are reflected in the persistent insecurity and social vices, with attendant huge economic costs,” it said.

According to the report, huge dependence on proceeds from crude oil, leaving other revenue sources unexplored, indicates that Nigeria is not set to rein in debt accumulation in the short to medium term.

The NESG noted that public debt stock continued to trend upwards, with a jump from N7.6tn ($48.7bn) in 2012 to N32.9tn ($86.8bn) in 2020.

It said public debts grew by 20 per cent between 2019 and 2020, adding, “This is partly due to the need for emergency funds to combat the global pandemic and alleviate its adverse economic impacts on households and businesses.”

The group noted that Nigeria needs more than an economic rebound, and there is a need to improve growth inclusiveness.

“Nigeria has struggled to achieve inclusive growth for many decades. Since recovery from the 2016 recession, the economy has been on a fragile growth path until it slipped into another recession in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.

“This suggests that the country needs to attain high and sustainable economic growth to become strong and resilient.

“The relationship between economic growth and unemployment rate in Nigeria suggests that economic growth has not led to a reduction in unemployment rate – jobless growth.”

The NESG said to reverse this recurring trend, there was an urgent need for collaborative efforts between the government and relevant stakeholders towards addressing the constraints to value chain development in high-growth and employment-elastic sectors, including manufacturing, construction, trade, education, health and professional services, with ICT and renewable energy sectors as growth enablers.

It noted that despite the re-opening of the land borders that the Nigerian government shut since October 2019, inflation reached a four-year high of 18.1 per cent in April 2021.

“While we expect improved agricultural production in coming months to partially ease inflationary pressures, this positive impact could be suppressed by recurring key structural bottlenecks including insecurity in the food-producing regions, electricity tariff hike, fuel price increase and hike in transport and logistic costs,” it added