- Bad Times Are Over, the Future is Bright, Says Osinbajo
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday urged Nigerians not to despair over the prevailing economic hardships, assuring them that the worst days were over and the future was brighter.
In a nationwide broadcast to commemorate the mid-term anniversary of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, he said the most difficult phase of economic crisis had been overcome and encouraged Nigerians to look forward to a brighter and more promising tenure.
Osinbajo, who said there was increasing intensity of the light coming at the end of the tunnel, also sought the co-operation and support of Nigerians in the administration’s bid to achieve its goals and objectives.
While assuring Nigerians that the 2017 budget would soon be signed into law to pave the way for the execution of the goals and objectives of the administration, Osinbajo recalled the comment once made by Buhari that old Nigeria was gradually giving way to a new nation.
“We also know that this journey will of necessity take time. But we will not succumb to the temptation to take short-cuts that ultimately complicate the journey. We did not find ourselves in crises overnight, and we simply do not expect overnight solutions to our challenges.
“The most important thing is that we are on the right path, and we will not deviate from it, even in the face of strong temptation to choose temporary gains over long-term benefits. As the President has summed it up: ‘The old Nigeria is slowly but surely disappearing, and a new era is rising.’ And so we commemorate this second anniversary of our administration with confidence and optimism.
“I firmly believe that we have put the most difficult phase behind us; and we are witnesses to the ever-increasing intensity of the light at the end of the tunnel. We ask for your continued cooperation and support, to enable us realise all our best intentions and ambitions for Nigeria. On our part we will continue to carry you along on this journey, speak to you, explain the challenges, and share our vision,” he said.
The acting president who said the administration had been focused on the war against corruption, lamented the alleged looting of public funds by unscrupulous Nigerians in the previous administrations.
However, he admitted that the anti-corruption process had been slow because corruption had been fighting back, aided by the slow pace of the nation’s justice administration.
Disclosing that the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) was one of the deterrents meant to curb corruption, Osinbajo added that its coverage had been expanded to include more efficient accounting and budgeting systems. “We have also launched an extremely successful whistle blower policy,” he added.
He listed other measures designed to check corruption by the government to include the Efficiency Unit in the Federal Ministry of Finance, which he said had been used to plug leakages running into billions of naira, adding: “We have ended expensive and much-abused fertiliser and petrol subsidy regimes.”
He also said in line with the administration’s promise to invest in the future, the federal government had not only pumped $500 million into the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), it had also raised the Excess Crude Account (ECA) by $87 million.
Nevertheless, he said, the greatest challenge confronting the administration was economic crisis, pointing out that the government was concerned about the pains Nigerians have gone through, observing that some had lost jobs to the economic crisis, others have had to cope with high cost of food prices while some, notably in the states, could not even obtain regular salaries, a situation, he said, had resulted in medium and short-term interventions meant to rebuild the economy as well as federal government’s bailout funds to the states along with social interventions programme.
Listing other achievements of the government to include the employment of 200,000 unemployed graduates through N-Power online portal under the SIP platform, he said micro credit had also been given to a million artisans, traders and market women and huge investment made in rail network, adding that a number of the government initiatives were targeted at young persons.
He also disclosed that in pursuit of power sector recovery plan, N701 billion payment assurance scheme was launched in March to resolve hiccups militating against the financing of operations of gas suppliers and generation companies.
Emphasising that the recently passed 2017 budget would boost government’s economic recovery plan when signed into law, Osinbajo cited what he described as the successful Eurobond recently launched, describing the N1.2 trillion spent on capital projects in 2016 fiscal year as a milestone in the history of the country.
He said: “We opened the year with an overwhelmingly successful Eurobond Offer – evidence of continuing investor interest in Nigeria. We have also launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, to build on the gains of last year’s Strategic Implementation Plan. And the implementation of our 2017 Budget, which will soon be signed into law, will bring added impetus to our ongoing economic recovery.
“In the 2016 Budget we spent N1.2 trillion on infrastructure projects, another milestone in the history of this country. Our 2017 Budget will double that investment.”
Hinting on government’s plan to invest in parks, special economic zones, social housing programme, industrial parks and a desire to make Nigeria a manufacturing hub, Osinbajo said the government’s housing programme would provide less expensive mortgages for low-income individuals and families across the country.
He also emphasised government’s commitment to invest in food security, energy, agriculture, industrialisation, transport infrastructure, home made goods and as well as stop importation of foreign items for local consumption including fuel.
According to Osinbajo, “These plans offer yet more evidence that we are ramping up the pace of work; the work of fulfilling all that we promised. In the next two years we will build on the successes of the last two. We have demonstrated a willingness to learn from our mistakes and to improve on our successes.
“The critical points that we must address fully in the next two years are: agriculture and food security, Energy, (power and petroleum) industrialisation and transport infrastructure. Every step of the way we will be working with the private sector, giving them the necessary incentives and creating an environment to invest and do business.
“Our vision is for a country that grows what it eats and produces what it consumes. It is for a country that no longer has to import petroleum products, and develop a lucrative petrochemical industry. Very importantly it is for a country whose fortunes are no longer tied to the price of a barrel of crude, but instead to the boundless talent and energy of its people, young and old, male and female as they invest in diverse areas of the economy.”
While recalling how Boko Haram insurgency had been degraded, the acting president identified herdsmen clashes with farmers in many parts of the country, which he said had culminated in loss of several lives and properties, as the recent threats to security in Nigeria, assuring Nigerians that the menace would be accordingly dealt with.
“We are working with state governments, and tasking our security agencies with designing effective strategies and interventions that will bring this menace to an end. We are determined to ensure that anyone who uses violence, or carries arms without legal authority is apprehended and sanctioned,” he stated.
In another development, Osinbajo, while speaking in the Presidential Villa, at an occasion organised to showcase government activities on the Social Investment Programme (SIP) in commemoration of Democracy Day, said Buhari, during the presidential campaign of 2015, had observed that poverty was endemic in various parts of the country and insisted that they must do something about it if they won.
He said it was that expression, which led to the invention of SIP, noting that economic development could only be achieved in a territory where people live above poverty level, adding that SIP was invented to fight poverty and unemployment.
According to him, N-Power is the largest post-tertiary job creation platform in Africa with recruitment done in a transparent form without any need for connection before qualified graduates could be recruited.
He also said part of SIP was N100 billion social housing scheme which he said would be the largest housing project in Nigerian history. The scheme, he added, would provide developers with the opportunity to obtain 80 per cent of the cost of developing an estate as loan while any Nigerian who can afford as little as N30,000 per month would be able to buy a house of his own.
Disclosing that the N-Power portal would be re-opened on June 13, this year, the acting president described SIP as one of the largest, diverse and complicated programmes in scope. He said it was not a favour to any beneficiary but rather the right of anyone found to be qualified.
He also said even though the N30,000 monthly salary being paid to every beneficiary of N-Power looked small, it was good for anyone who had been jobless over the years to take off from that point.
Also speaking, the Special Adviser to the President on SIP, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, described the programme as a bond between the government and the people as contained in the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to her, the programme provides a level playing field for the poor, unemployed and vulnerable Nigerians through a transparent process, disclosing that N80 billion had so far been released for the programme out of which she said N41 billion had been spent.
She also said 70,000 identified poor households from nine states with valid bank verification numbers were currently being paid N5,000 monthly stipend as social assistance while 350,000 others had also been identified in 12 states.
Uwais added that N400 billion had been approved in the 2017 budget for the programme with additional N100 billion for the housing project.
In his own speech, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who commended the government for the programme, advised the administration to capture many more vulnerable Nigerians in the scheme.
Akpabio also advised the federal government to expand the scope of SIP to orphanages and other places where there were downtrodden Nigerians and equally ensure that the programme was given better publicity so that Nigerians in the rural areas could also benefit from it.
However, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who were expected to give goodwill messages at the event were conspicuously absent. They were not also represented.
The event, which witnessed testimonies of beneficiaries of the scheme, was graced by ministers, expatriates and party officials including the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
INEC Plans Expansion Of Polling Units For 2023 General Election
Ahead of 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to make polling units accessible to the electorate to remove voter apathy during elections.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kwara, Malam Garba Attahiru-Madami, made this known on Monday in Ilorin while declaring open two-day training on “Implementation of expansion of voters’ access to polling units”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training was for Electoral Officers (EOs) and Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) in charge of Administration, Operations and Cluster Registration areas drawn from the 16 local government areas of Kwara.
He noted that many eligible voters refused to vote on election day because of the distance of polling units to their residences.
The REC told the participants that the training was very important to INEC, just as election was important, adding that without polling unit, there would be no election.
“Election start from polling unit, if there is no polling unit, there would be no election and collation, that is how important polling unit is,” he added.
He therefore charged the participants to take the training very serious as the outcome of the training would offer opportunity on what they would do on the field.
“I don’t need to re-emphasise why access to polling unit is very important. We already know that this exercise was carried out in 1996 and it was to serve 50 million voters.
“In 2019 election, we have greater voters of 84 million; you can see that the polling units now are grossly inadequate.
“By the time general election will take place in 2023, our projection is to have over 120 million voters.
“The number of polling units we have now cannot serve the 120 million voters, so the training is very important,” he said.
According to the REC, one of the reasons for voter apathy is because the polling unit was not accessible to them.
He said that some polling units have over 1,000 to 5,000 voters that were spread to polling points.
“So, we want to see how we can convert some of these voting points to polling units to meet the need of the people on election day.
“In some communities with communal clash, having their own polling unit would solve such conflict, because you will see a villager that will say, I will not go to that village to vote,” he added.
He said the idea of expansion of polling units was to remove voter apathy and reduce distance from home to the polling unit. (NAN)
African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity
African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.
“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.
The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.
The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.
The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.
Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.
The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.
The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.
Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”
The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.
ITF, Nigerian Air Force, Others, Sign MOU To Advance Research
The Industrial Training Fund, ITF has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, and Equipment and Protective Application International Limited to establish the framework that will give room for optimal performance as well as enhance productivity.
The Director General, Industrial Training Fund, Sir Joseph Ari while speaking at the NAF headquarters in Abuja, said the MOU will be pursued with vigour and all the seriousness it deserves so that greater success would be the catalyst that will drive their intentions.
He explained that over the years, ITF had redirected its focus on technical, vocational training and education noting that developed nations are where they are today because of the initiative.
According to him, “even here in Abuja, we have a model of a skills training centre and the model was brought in from the Singaporean experience of the institute for technical education and services of Singapore”.
“We brought a semblance of it here to experience with five trade areas, Mechatronics and Autotronics, Computer Networking, ICT, Facility Technology as well as culinary in both African and Western cuisine is right there in the heart of Abuja in the ITF house, it is like a university”.
“The ITF is well positioned to work hand in hand with the Nigerian Air Force,” he said
The ITF boss added; “I must say that the Chief of Air Staff has a lot of foresight with his men to think about this Memorandum of Understanding because I deed, ITF is where you should be”.
“The ITF came into contact with the Nigerian Air Force even though a lot of the officers of the Air Force might have participated in its programmes in the past and since then I have noticed that NAF has not relented in its efforts to equipped it’s workforce and also upgrade and retrain its people,” Sir Ari added.
He also commended the men and officers of the NAF for their sacrifice in keeping the nation safe.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Oladayo Amao said the Nigerian Air Force has a highly technical Service and technology is the bedrock of all its operations.
Represented by the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal, Olusegun Philip, Amao noted that in line with the focus of the Federal Government in promoting indigenous technology, the Nigerian Air Force has been looking inwards to gradually wean itself of overdependence on foreign technology and to become more innovative and resourceful.
“Therefore, in order to advance the Nigerian Air Force’s Research and Development efforts, we have deemed it necessary to formally collaborate with indigenous organizations through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding,” Amao stated.
“These collaborative efforts provide pedestals to leapfrog capability as well as a repertoire of capabilities that can be harnessed”.
“The collaborative efforts also provide platforms to synergise ideas for innovations that are key to achieving meaningful results to solve the technological challenges we currently face in a cost effective manner,” he said.
The Managing Director, Equipment and Protective Application International Limited, Engineer, Kola Balogun however, assured that the MOU entered would be for the overall economic benefit and development of the nation.
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