By Amaechi Agbo
“A successful economic development strategy must focus on improving the skills of the country’s workforce, reducing the cost of doing business and making available the resources business needs to compete and thrive in the nation’s economy” – Rod Blagojevich
Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Oluyemi Osibanjo is one man who has taken the monumental task of spearheading the diversification of the Nigerian economy from a mono-economy to one that has a multiplicity of sources towards breaking the tag of oil as the mainstay of the nation’s revenue.
Weeks ago, the Vice President told a global audience how the government of President Muhammad Buhari has revamped Nigerian economy through purposeful policies and programmes.
Speaking during the 10th year Colloquium of former Lagos State governor and leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos, recently, the Vice President recounted how the present administration inherited a weak economy ravaged by corruption and ineffective policies that sooner than later plunged the country into avoidable recession had past governments did the needful in stabilizing the economy.
To pull the country out of recession and create jobs for Nigerian youths, the Vice President highlighted that the administration was left with only two options: heavy investment in agriculture and the need to put in place an audacious Social Investment Programme to the tune of N500 billion, the largest pro-poor programme in Nigeria’s history, and the largest social safety net, at least in Sub-Saharan Africa to date.
The Vice President went further to note that other policies such as N-Power Programme has created 200,000 jobs for undergraduates employed as well as 300,000 more waiting to be employed; the beneficiaries have been pre-selected stressing that over 7 million children are being fed daily in 22 States so far; beneficiaries of microcredit loans going to about 300,000; and almost 300,000 households benefiting from conditional cash transfers.
The successes recorded by its social investment programmes are clear indications that the President Mohammadu Buhari administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is making progress.
To actualise the set target of ERGP, the economic team, headed by the Vice President had two options to explore. One of which was investing heavily in agriculture thereby creating jobs in the hinterlands, providing enough food locally and for all of the urban areas.
In the agriculture programme, the ERGP has been a tremendous success as several millions of Nigerians have been employed in agriculture. This has led Mr. President to confess that some people who have abandoned their farms, in his own village where they used to let out farms or lease out their farms to farmers from Kano have decided to retain their farms for their own agricultural uses.
Who wants to be left out anyway? The President added that nobody in Katsina State is leasing out their farms anymore as they all have gone back to farm.
The second option which the Economic Team explored also to the fullest was putting in place an audacious Social Investment Programme, SIP, to the tune of N500 billion; the largest pro-poor programme in Nigeria’s history, and the largest social safety net, at least in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This was despite the fact that by 2015, oil prices fell by over 50% and Nigeria’s production also fell from over 2 million barrels a day to less than 700,000 barrels a day, sometimes even 500,000 barrels in 2016.
But today, the empirical evidence of the successes of this programme, and all of that is evident for Nigerians to see and listen to several testimonies and stories.
The social investment programmes, which are a key component of the administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), have made significant strides nationwide because of the administration’s political will and vision to make the needed investments, for today and the future.
The Federal Government is leveraging on the creativity and innovation of young Nigerians to steady the economy and improve the living standards of the citizenry.
For instance, 200,000 jobs have been created for graduates employed under the N-Power programme with 300,000 more waiting to be employed after they have been pre-selected.
N-Power, is known as the jobs-for-graduates component of the Social Investment Programme. It deploys young Nigerians to work as health and teaching assistants, and agriculture extension workers, thus bringing healthcare, quality education and improved agriculture output to more people across the country.
Also, over 7 million children are being fed daily in 22 States so far; another 300,000 beneficiaries receive micro-credit loans; and almost 300,000 households are benefiting from the Buhari conditional cash transfers of 5,000 monthly.
The federal government commenced the implementation of its Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) payments to beneficiaries in nine states early last year.
The nine pilot states are Borno, Kwara, Bauchi, Cross River, Niger, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun and Ekiti. Last year, the federal government allocated N500 billion for the implementation of its social welfare agenda.
The nine pilot states were chosen because they have an existing social register that identified the most vulnerable and poorest Nigerians in their localities through a community-based targeting method designed by the World Bank.
However, other states that have already begun developing their social registers have been included in the subsequent phases of the CCT implementation with the number of states implementing the CCT programme now 22 as at August last year.
The cash transfer programme, which the APC-led national government is delivering with the support of the World Bank, makes it imperative for beneficiaries to fulfil certain conditions relating to health or education, before they can receive their monthly stipends.
These conditions range from mandatory ante-natal care for pregnant women, to mandatory immunisations for nursing mothers, to minimum school attendance rates for parents of school-age children.
With the primary aim of ERGP being to invest in the Nigerian people, the federal government is expanding the reach and quality of the nation’s healthcare, through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS); and working to guarantee basic education for all persons, whilst also upgrading and modernising the quality of secondary and post-secondary education.
The Buhari led administration is not paying lip-service to investing in the Nigerian people. And Vice President Osinbajo has been the key driver – as the head of the country’s economic management team.
He has provided astute idea-driven and capable leadership. Like most investments, the fruits may not come out immediately, but assuredly, decades from today, Nigerians would indeed be thankful for the Buhari – Osinbajo Presidency.
Amaechi Agbo is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja