THE grim picture of the economy was yesterday laid bare in Abuja by Vice-President-elect Yemi Osinbajo.
•110million Nigerians are feeling the pangs of poverty;
•a $60b debt is to be inherited by the Muhammadu Buhari administration;
•21% of this year’s budget will be spent on servicing debts; and
•two-third of the 36 states cannot pay workers’ salaries.
It was all at the opening of a two-day policy dialogue on the implementation of the agenda for change.
Prof. Osinbajo said: “We are concerned that our economy is currently in perhaps its worst moment in history. Local and international debt stands at US$60 billion. Our Debt servicing bill for 2015 is N953.6 billion, 21% of our budget. On account of severely dwindled resources, over two-thirds of the states in Nigeria owe salaries. Federal institutions are not in much better shape. Today, the nation borrows to fund recurrent expenditure.
“The figure of extreme poverty in our society- 110 million by current estimates- makes it clear that our biggest national problem is the extreme poverty of the majority. Thus, no analysis is required to conclude that dealing with poverty and its implications is a priority.”
Osinbajo went on: “In the course of the election campaign, we ran an issues-based campaign that identified certain areas of public policy as high priorities for propelling Nigeria forward. We addressed the challenges of the economy, insecurity, corruption and jobs creation.
“We spoke to the challenge of providing opportunities for self-actualisation to millions of our young people who face an uncertain future with understandable anxiety. We also addressed the challenge of providing for the most vulnerable segments of our population by equipping them with the tools to emerge from the crippling limitations of poverty to achieve dignified and productive citizenship.
“This is also against the backdrop of a highly unequal society in which, by some reckoning, the largest chunk of the benefits of our national wealth accrues to a small percentage of our population. Our manifesto offered a vision of shared prosperity and socio-economic inclusion for all Nigerians, that leaves no one behind in the pursuit of a prosperous and fulfilling life.”
Osinbajo spoke of the reason for the dialogue – “to interrogate these positions and propositions before a wider audience and to launch a robust public conversation on policy directions and priorities that will help inform our administration’s approach in the next four years.
The sessions, he said, will explore a wide range of policy priorities including the diversification of the economy in the wake of declining oil revenues by engendering job-led growth, the revitalization of agriculture in pursuit of job creation and food security, improving the regulatory frameworks in our most strategic sphere of economic activity – the oil and gas sector, improving access to qualitative and affordable healthcare, reducing inequality, reforming our education system to close the gender gap in access to education and to enable our children become effective contestants in the global economy, expand participatory diversity and inclusion in public life and tackle inefficiency and graft in public service.
“But the Vice-President-elect warned that the forum is not intended to produce a comprehensive agenda. “Rather, it is designed to inaugurate a robust conversation that will continue long after we have left these precincts. Our immediate duty today is to set the tone for what we desire to be a serious and intelligent dialogue about the future of our nation.”
“Consequently, this forum cannot and will not be another talk shop. Our deliberations must be informed and pointed submissions that lay adequate emphasis on the ‘how’ of implementation.”
“We have a few days to go- to enter into a new bold Nigerian enterprise. There are many hurdles to scale but we are confident that by God’s grace our Nation will serve its people well,” Osinbajo said.
The Director, Directorate of Policy, Research and Strategy of the Presidential Campaign Council and former Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, said the event marked the rounding off of the work of the directorate which worked behind the scene throughout the campaign.
Fayemi said: “This event is the gratifying culmination of an assignment that commenced several months ago. The Directorate of Policy, Research and Strategy has been behind the scenes contributing our modest quota to the presidential campaign of our then candidate in the March 28, 2015 general election, and now president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari.
“Indeed, prior to this, some of us in the directorate had worked with other patriotic party members to develop a most compelling manifesto. We subsequently ensured the harmonisation of the manifesto with the personal ideals of our president-elect, thus creating a necessary coherence of all aspects of our party’s expressions, that lent a powerful clarity and focus to our message of change.”
Fayemi spoke of the directorate’s behind-the-scene work, adding that “this momentary exposure is, infact, our final curtain call”.
He attested to the directorate’s effectiveness, saying: “The outcome of the historic polls attests to the fact that not only did the right candidate and party triumph, the right ideas and the right approach also prevailed. The majority of Nigerians demonstrated their readiness to be taken seriously as voters, and duly rewarded the party that sincerely addressed their pressing issues. This commitment to seriously tackling the themes that affect the lives of our people remains a cardinal principle of our pact with Nigerians and informs the convening of this policy dialogue.”
Accordng to him, “a majority of the lead presenters in this dialogue are members of the directorate and have all been instrumental in crafting the policy priorities and propositions that helped decisively swing the fate of Africa’s largest democracy in favour of progressive forces.”
“In a sense, the phase of policy conception is over and we are entering the phase of execution, governance, of providing tangible developmental deliverables.”
Fayemi said, adding: “The challenge of translating ideas into policy and praxis now looms large. Given the degree of work that has been put in by the Directorate and our well documented national problems of policy implementation, the focus should now be on evolving an institutional framework to deliver the agenda for change.”