Nigeria can achieve a turnaround in the current socio-economic conditions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, if the challenge was approached l with a greater sense of urgency, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said.
With such a commitment, the VP said the country was capable of generating economic growth, eradicating poverty, developing human capital and building up the her infrastructural backbone in a sustainable manner.
To realize this objective, Osinbajo
urged all tiers of government and critical partners to be focused, open-minded and collaborative in meeting shared aspirations, providing better and fuller lives, and decent jobs for Nigerians, especially the youth.
The VP spoke while declaring open, the 20th meeting of the Joint Planning Board and the National Council on Development Planning on Thursday in Maiduguri, Borno State. Members of the Board and Council are drawn from the Federal Government and the State Economic Planning Commissioners.
On the COVID-19 pandemic, he said security, climate change, education, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, apart from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), these issues require deliberate policy responses and deserve the attention of economic manager.
On the government’s response to the pandemic, the VP said the COVID-19 pandemic had a unique and devastating impact on the country’s health, economic systems, and social life.
“For a vibrant and enterprising people like ours, the whole experience of lockdowns and social distancing was quite trying, while economic difficulties made existing socio-economic conditions even harder.
“The Federal Government responded by way of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) focused on saving and creating businesses and jobs, while boosting local production.
“We had the very impactful micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund, the Agriculture for Food and Jobs, Mass Housing, the Rapid Response Register, and the SolarPowerNaija Programmes, amongst other things.” “The ESP worked in the sense that the economy recovered quite early from the recession occasioned by the pandemic, but it must also be said that we are not yet out of the woods,”he said.
He said some people described the current wave as pandemic of the un-vaccinated, in view of the fact that there are still people who are yet to be vaccinated in developed economies that are most seriously affected.
“As economic managers, we are faced with two related challenges that might hinder our return fully to economic activity.
“First, we must find the resources to procure and administer sufficient quantities of COVID-19 vaccines and actively encourage our people to get vaccinated to enable us as a country to reach herd immunity.
Restoring local capacity
“Secondly, we must ponder on ways and means of restoring and boosting local capacity to produce vaccinations, not only for COVID-19 but for the other diseases that continue to stalk the land.”
On climate change, POsinbajo restated his earlier calls for a just transition to net-zero emission, noting that Africa has contributed least to global warming but is expected to suffer the most from its consequences.
“Global efforts to tackle climate change and ensure environmental sustainability will challenge us here in Nigeria in a number of ways. Quite evidently, the global drive to reduce the use of fossil fuels to mitigate the rise in global temperature will reduce demand for fossil fuels.
“This will affect us, because of our dependence on oil and gas for revenues and foreign exchange earnings. We just have to find alternative sources,” he said.
The country, he said, Q1 2021 1 has limited resources to finance the technological and lifestyle changes needed to adapt to climate change. This means the push by multilateral finance institutions to defund oil and gas projects will be particularly hurtful.
“This is why I continue to join other well-meaning leaders across the world to call for a just transition and a standstill of attempts to defund gas projects at the forthcoming 26th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow,” he said.
On security, the VP said the Federal Government has over the past few years invested huge resources in equipment and human resources, with emphasis on effective synergies with the Federal Government.
Human capital development
On human capital development, Osinbajo saidn with adept planning, Nigeria could leapfrog into the digital age.
For Nigeria to cope with the 4th Industrial Revolution given the country’s struggles with the 2nd and 3rd Industrial Revolutions, he emphasized increased focus on “education, education, education, especially basic education.”
He said it is scandalous for the country to be dealing with out-of-school children, adding: “We must put resources into education.”
“Today, we have no choice, but to focus on relevant education that will prepare our young people for 21st-century jobs and opportunities.
“At the same time, we must find the resources to invest in technology and related broadband infrastructure if we are to help the budding technology ecosystem in our country to continue to excel,” he said.
$500m Innovation Fund
The Federal Government, he said, is currently working with the African Development Bank to launch the Nigerian Innovation Programme backed by a $500 million fund to support the technology and creative sectors of the economy.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area, the VP said “it is another development with great promise for Nigeria’s economic prospects, but one for which all have to be well prepared.
“First, we must especially, as sub-nationals, take a more active interest in the agreement, its implications and opportunities for our States.
“The businesses and enterprises that will benefit or be at disadvantage on account of the free trade agreement are in our States.
“We owe them and our governments a duty to look out for their interests.”
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said the challenging times confronting the global and local economies required constant interactions among policymakers and synergy of ideas and resources with a view to finding possible solutions.
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, commended the efforts of the Federal and State governments to address the security challenge in Borno State and the entire Northeast.
He said this would be critical to economic stability and general wellbeing of the people of the entire Lake Chad region