Nigeria’s economic ombudsman, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) on Tuesday told the Federal Government the best time to take bold structural reforms in key sectors of the economy was now to create the necessary conditions flr the country to function and grow.
The Group stated this in Abuja while presenting the final report of the 26th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#26) held between November 23 and 24, 2020 on the theme: “Building Partnerships for Resilience.”
In presenting the report to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, the Chairman of the NESG Board of Directors, Asue Ighodalo, said the outcome of the summit accelerated the need to urgently retool the country’s economic policies.
This, Ighodalo said, would enable the country to take advantage of emerging opportunities from the changing dynamics of the local, regional and global economic landscape as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
Such structural reforms, he said, would ensure no Nigerian was left behind nor the world would leave Nigeria behind.
Other recommendations in the report as a call to action included that all governments must lead in proactively navigating the country towards recovery and
resilience by expanding economic opportunity for all Nigerians through sound policies, strong
institutions, and responsible pro-poor public investments; that to unlock more private sector participation governments at all levels must remove sectoral rigidities
inhibiting the potential of businesses to drive economic growth.
Also, the private sector would accelerate economic progress through innovation and investment strategies to unleash the dynamism of enterprise and industry for global competitiveness, while the civil society should mobilize Nigerians to take civic responsibility and hold leaders accountable.
In the report, the NESG noted the unprecedented turmoil unleashed by the global COVID-19 pandemic as well as the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests by Nigerian youth before the NES#26 was convened.
During the Summit, the report said discussions focussed on five sub-themes, namely Mapping the
Future; New Trends, New Opportunities, New Horizons; Embracing Technology and
Innovation; Building Resilience, and Charting the Path to Recovery.
At the end of deliberations, the report said participants made views focussed on the need to ensure a resilient economic recovery; strengthen partnerships; unlocking sub-national competitiveness; meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030, and empowering Nigerian youth.
On Summit outcomes, Ighodalo said participants wanted the government to pursue a resilient economic recovery that would achieve and maintain macroeconomic stability and ensure economic growth
that outpaces population growth, creates jobs, stabilizes inflation, reduces poverty and expands external balance of
Other recommendations include the need to unify foreign exchange rates into single and market-driven window; improve coordination of fiscal, monetary and
structural policies; aggressively attract foreign direct investment (FDI); deregulate the oil sector by passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB); tighten fiscal coordination and intensify public investments in social sectors.
Apart from encouraging more private participation in the Nigerian economy and strengthening partnerships, the summit urged the National Economic Council (NEC) to be more effective in driving the country’s economic agenda with
better alignment with the Executive Council of the Federation (FEC) and the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
Also, the Summit emphasized sub-nationals to collaborate to streamline regulations and taxes and waive Right-of-Way charges, while the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) should improve the data ecosystem and subnational to have State Bureau of Statistics to work with it.
In addition, the Summit urged the private sector to collaborate with government for digital transformation, while the government should reform primary healthcare through public-private partnership (PPPs); collaborate with private sector to mobilise investment for research and development (R&D). The Summit urged the Federal Government to engage the Nigerian Diaspora to leverage on expertise for development of key sectors of the economy, particularly education.
To achieve sub-national competitiveness, the Summit called for the government to operationalise the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF)-NESG Economic Roundtable for engagement with private sector and drive competitiveness; fast track Constitutional Reform and move items from Executive to Concurrent
The Summit called for sub-nationals to develop their competitive advantages and use industrial policy as a tool to identify their priority industries and facilitate the investments into those industries, while the states should work with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to aggressively attract and retain
FDI to their domains.
In addition, the Summit urged States to aim for quick wins in generating jobs, promoting exports and enhancing revenues by granting tax reliefs and reinvigorating existing industrial parks/export processing zones.
Besides, the Summit wants the government to create economic corridors along existing national transport corridors and decentralize infrastructure development, while States should increase investments in
infrastructure, especially rural roads, connectivity, water for irrigation, and rural electrification.
To meet the SDGs by 2030, the Summit urged the government to prioritize SDGs and recognize stronger multi-stakeholder efforts to achieve the goals; establish a high-L
level forum on SDGs; ensure the SDGs become the centrepiece of development planning
between 2021 and 2030, especially the MTNDP.
Besides, the sub-nationals should integrate SDGs into their policies and plans, while companies should adopt a business-driven approach to sustainable development as investments that are positive for
achieving sustainable revenues.
Again, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) must be engaged in the implementation of SDGs as they are the largest employers of labour, while
all governments should be made to deploy policy incentives to encourage companies that are committed to the SDGs.
To empower Nigerian Youth, the Summit said tackling youth unemployment, underemployment, employability, and
entrepreneurship reskill and upskill youth in labour market, transition them from informal to formal economy and boost
their participation in the gig economy.
The Group wants the government to conduct an impact assessment of previous youth empowerment programmes; partner with the private sector to co-create investment funds that would be managed by private sector and designated for empowering young people, while Nigeria’s education curriculum should be reviewed to include entrepreneurship as a key
part of learning in schools; encourage mentorship to aid skills transfer; implement deliberate policies to transform the
productive potential of Nigerian youth in technology, talent, creativity, and innovation to open new markets for them.
Also, the government should scale up formal apprenticeship programmes and encourage informal apprenticeship schemes through accreditations and certifications; facilitate development of critical 7 in industries to absorb more youths. Youth, the Summit said, should deliberately be engaged and embedded in policy and governance across governments.
The summit provided a significant turning point for the federal government to use the private sectot to collectively pursue innovative policies and actions required to move the nation towards sustainable economic recovery and growth.
She said the government has noted the specific recommendations, with institutions that have been identified, and would be transmitted to the President and the FEC.
The approval of the recommendations, the minister said, would ensure implementation, working with responsible MDAs.
She said the government was working on a memorandum of understanding to formalize its partnership with NESG on economic issues.
The Minister announced that the 27the edition of the Summit has been approved to hold on October 25 and 26, 2021in Abuja.