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The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), on Friday, released the much-anticipated unemployment figures for states in Nigeria. The data lists unemployment rates for every state in the country as at the third quarter of 2018.

According to the data, states in the Southern part of the country recorded the highest unemployment rates in the country. This is despite being some of the richest states in the country in terms of oil revenues and internally generated funds.

Nairametrics Founder Ugodre Obi-Chukwu, first tweeted this on his twitter handle on Saturday.

Unemployment by Geopolitical Zones

Nairametrics analysed the data and clustered the states into the 6 geopolitical zones in the country. Nigeria has about 6 geopolitical zones which comprise of 36 states including the FCT.

  • North Central states comprise of the FCT, Plateau, Niger, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kogi and Benue States respectively.
  • The North Eastern States includes Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, Bauchi, and Borno States.
  • North West states include Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, and Jigawa States.
  • South East states comprise of Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Anambra states.
  • South Southern states comprise of Akwa Ibom, Delta, Cross Rivers, Rivers, Edo and Bayelsa States.
  • South West states include Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Lagos States.

Worst Geo-Political Zone – The South Southern states of the country, otherwise known as “South-South”, recorded the highest unemployment rate of 32 percent in the quarter under review.

  • This represents about 5.38m unemployed people in the region which has an estimated labour force of 16.7 million persons.
  • States in this region collect billions of naira monthly on Federal Allocations yet unemployment rates were the highest in the country.
  • In fact, Rivers and Akwa Ibom, two of the richest states in the country recorded a whopping 36.4% and 37% respectively in the unemployment rate.
  • Between them, there were about 3 million unemployed Nigerians.

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A contrast to the South West – The situation in the South-South is a sharp contrast when compared to the South West region which recorded the lowest unemployment rate across the geopolitical zones in the country. The South West zone was reported as having an estimated workforce of 21.3 million persons. The number of unemployed persons stood at 2.9 million.

Why this is troubling- The South Southern zone of the country is host to oil wealth and some of the most hardworking people in the country.

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  • However, issues like oil spillage and gas flaring have severely impacted on life especially for people who earn their livelihood via fishing.
  • This was the trigger for militant activities over the years that have increased insecurity across the region and chased away most industries.
  • Nevertheless, the state government received billions of money in Federally Allocated Revenues and also generate billions in Internally Generated Revenues.  Nairametrics, in an earlier report, had questioned how states in Nigeria spend the billions of naira allocated to them on a monthly basis.

What is Lagos and the South West States doing better? Former Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Akin Oyebode weighed in on the data via his twitter handle.


States in the southwest perhaps by virtue of their proximity to the Nations former capital, Lagos State, have created an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Though most organisations complain of multiple taxations in the regions, industries prefer to start out in this region as it is relatively safe and attracts a higher purchasing power when compared to other zones. These states also have policies that directly target job creation.

The upshots – Unemployment statistics may be questioned, but other indicators point us in the same direction.

  • Unemployment is one of the developmental indices, and with all the billions of revenue both from FAAC and 13 percent derivation going to the South-South zone, the Governors of this zone should do better.
  • States in this region cannot rely only on oil revenues to create jobs. These states must have to create the right incentives and operating environments that can attract industries in their regions.
  • For example, despite being the region where the nation’s crude is pumped most of the oil companies locate their headquarters outside of the regions due to insecurity and militant activities.
  • Apart from fostering insecurity, high unemployment rate also contributes severely to urban migration. Younger people in these regions will continue to flee for other parts of the country where they feel they can get jobs or even exit the country in general.
  • Despite South-South woes, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is still very bad across all zones.
  • The Federal Government must implement policies that aid job creation across the country and it begins by creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

Whatever model the South-West zone adapted to provide jobs and better the lots of the people, the South-South should draw a leeway from it and not compound unemployment woes in the country.



  1. Mr. Ugo Dre the entire nation has an unemployment problem. Anything close to 20% is pathetic and an indictment on all. I recall you were one of the proponents of the team that has exacerbated the unemployment problem in this country. The myopia which characterized your insight then is again evident here. take care


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