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Bill Gates Picks Holes in FG’s Economic Plan …Urges More Investment in Education, Health

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Bill Gates
  • Bill Gates Picks Holes in FG’s Economic Plan …Urges More Investment in Education, Health

The Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gates, on Thursday said the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan was not reflective of the people’s needs.

He also said the country would do better with strong investments in health and education, rather than concentrating on physical infrastructure to the detriment of human capital development.

Gates spoke alongside the Chairman of the Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, at a special session of the National Economic Council held at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The theme of the event was the role of human capital investment in supporting pro-poor and economic growth agenda.

The council, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has all the 36 state governors, relevant ministers and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as members.

Gates stated, “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.

“In upper middle-income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68; in low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years.

“The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies investing in the people as one of three strategic objectives. But the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritising physical capital over human capital. People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.”

He added that investment in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand-in-hand with investments in the people to anchor the economy over the long term.

He noted that Nigeria’s approach placed more priority on physical capital over human capital development.

Gates stated that Nigeria had “unmatched economic potential and what becomes of that potential depends on the choice Nigerian leaders make.”

According to him, available statistics show that Nigeria “still looks like a low-income country.”

He, however, said the country would thrive if the government was ready to invest in health, education and opportunities, warning, “If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognise that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.”

He assured the government that his foundation was eager to support it to make “Nigeria a powerhouse that provides opportunities for all its citizens.”

Citing the gains Nigeria had recorded in the immunisation against polio, Gates urged the government to pursue human capital development with the same vigour to achieve the desired results.

BMGF invests $1bn in Nigeria’s health care, others

Gates also said his foundation had invested over $1bn (N305bn) in Nigeria’s health care system.

He stated this when he led a delegation from the foundation to a meeting with the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.

Gates said while funds had been spent on vaccination, the results had not been really felt as the health care delivery system needed to be optimised.

He added, “Our foundation has invested over $1bn in Nigeria, mostly in health, and we are very committed to global development.

“We want to discuss vaccine financing and the issue of how we can be effective as partners for the health resources to grow over time.”

He stated that the foundation was working with its partners to extend its current vaccine financing programme in Nigeria from five to 10 years.

Dangote, in his opening remarks, agreed with Gates that for Nigeria to truly compete globally, the government must prioritise investments in health and education, and create opportunity for the people alongside other critical areas like infrastructure.

“Together, these are the inputs that will make Nigeria richer,” he said.

Osinbajo, in his response, insisted that high oil prices and economic growth of previous years had failed to translate into a better life for most Nigerians.

He reiterated his position that grand corruption had prevented investments in health care, education and infrastructure.

The Vice President added that the scourge had robbed government policies of most, if not all, of their intended impact.

Osinbajo, however, assured stakeholders that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was determined to rewrite the Nigerian story for the better.

“We are determined to put Nigeria’s money to work for Nigerians, doing the most with the least. And we have stayed true to that vision, even as oil prices went into a freefall, we ramped up investments in infrastructure as well as our social spending,” he said.

The Vice President added that not only was the administration aware of the issues facing the country, but it was also prepared to take the challenges that Gates and Dangote outlined.

He said Nigeria had strong economic growth and development ambitions encapsulated in the ERGP, which was launched in 2017.

CDHR, PDP, Junaid, others back Gates, el-Rufai disagrees

The Peoples Democratic Party; Committee for the Defence of Human Rights; a northern elder, Dr. Junaid Muhammed; and Health Maintenance Organisations have supported Gates’ observation on the Federal Government’s economic plan.

The PDP said that it hoped that President Buhari would listen to Gates and make amendments where necessary.

The opposition party stated that Buhari had ignored its advice and criticisms, adding that the President would do well to listen to Gates.

The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, said, “We thank Gates for being able to speak truth to power. We have identified all these before and have asked the President and his team to change their ways, but all that had fallen on deaf ears.”

On its part, the Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria, the umbrella group of the HMOs, described Gates’ position as apt.

The National Publicity Secretary, HMCAN, Mr. Lekan Ewenla, stated in an interview with The PUNCH, “A healthy nation is a wealthy nation and good education will translate into a structured and sustainable development for the country.

“For affordable, equitable and accessible health care services, the only available option is mandatory health insurance programme. The only mandatory health insurance programme in the country now is the federal civil servants’ health insurance programme. The government should earnestly review the National Health Insurance Scheme Act to make the health insurance programme mandatory for all citizens, and also properly define the roles of all critical stakeholders in the sector.

“The government should also earnestly comply and effect the contribution of one per cent of the consolidated revenue towards health care services as earlier agreed.”

He also advised the Federal Government to review the structure of education in the country, including the curriculum, regulatory bodies and the remuneration package for teachers.

Muhammed, on his part, said the Federal Government must listen to Gates’ recommendations because its economic blueprint had not led to more jobs and enterprise creation.

Muhammed stated, “This government has never been a listening government. The highlights of the government’s so-called capital projects have not translated to the creation of more jobs and enterprises for Nigerians.

“I believe Gates’ observation is apt and the Federal Government must listen to him. This is what economists have essentially said over the years. Even if we had the best capital development policies, they can be derailed if the people who are meant to enjoy the policies through wide consultation don’t have it.”

Also, the CDHR said the Federal Government must invest more in the development of the citizens.

The President, CDHR, Malachy Ugwummadu, stated, “It is unfortunate that it takes a foreign expert to discover the fundamental economic flaws of the present Federal Government. Gates has made his mark around the globe and that will mean that he has been diligent in analysing economic programmes.

“However capital development is a foundation for human development. The urgency of now demands that we create an enabling economic environment to be able to drive the needed human capital development.”

A former President of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr. Sam Nzekwe noted that Gates’ observation was right, adding that Nigeria’s education was in a poor state.

“Bill Gates said it almost exactly as it is right now in Nigeria. In our country today, the educational system is nothing to write home about. You have dilapidated classrooms, poorly equipped laboratories, uninspired manpower, inappropriately funded tertiary institutions and many negative attributes,” he added.

However, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, faulted the claim of Gates that the ERGP did not reflect the people’s needs.

El-Rufai said in an interview with State House correspondents at the end of a special session of the National Economic Council, “It is not correct to say that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan does not give primacy to human capital; it is not correct.

“The plan has enough provision for human capital; it is a Federal Government’s plan. What is needed is for states to have similar plans as well as adequate provisions for health care and education, because the bulk of the burden for health care and education really rests on states governments.

“The disease burden of the country is largely at the primary health care level and this primary health care system is broken completely. We need to rebuild it.”

The governor stated that emphasis should be to appeal to state governments to provide more money for basic education and primary health care.

He added, “The United Nations recommends that we should set aside at least 26 per cent of our total budget for education; many state governments are doing that or near that.

“Kaduna State has done averagely 35 per cent in the last two years. The World Health Organisation recommends that we budget at least 16 per cent of the total budget for health care; some of our states are doing 12 per cent and 16 per cent, and so on.

“Kaduna is doing 16.1 per cent; we moved from three per cent in 2016 to 16 per cent today. So, the states government are scaling up their investments in health care, but we need to do more.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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FG Declares June 12 Public Holiday for Democracy Day Celebration

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The Federal Government has declared Wednesday, June 12, a public holiday in commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day celebration.

The announcement was made in a statement signed by Aishetu Ndayako, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior, on behalf of Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the Minister of Interior.

The statement urged Nigerians to reflect on the struggles and sacrifices of the nation’s founding fathers and to ensure that Nigeria remains a united, secure, peaceful, and indivisible entity.

“As we mark another Democracy Day in the history of our dear country, let us all reflect on the efforts of our founding fathers and ensure that Nigeria remains a united, secured, peaceful, and indivisible entity,” the statement read.

A Historic Shift

The designation of June 12 as Democracy Day dates back to June 7, 2018, when former President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the day would henceforth be celebrated as Democracy Day.

Prior to this declaration, Democracy Day was observed on May 29, the date marking the inauguration of the Fourth Republic in 1999.

President Buhari’s decision was rooted in the historical significance of June 12, 1993, the day of what is widely regarded as Nigeria’s freest and fairest presidential election.

Despite the election’s annulment by the then-military government, Buhari emphasized that the democratic credentials of the process should be honored.

Honoring a Legacy

To further commemorate the significance of June 12, Buhari posthumously awarded Chief Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the annulled 1993 election, with the nation’s highest honor, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).

The statement from the Ministry of Interior also highlighted President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to implementing positive reforms aimed at reviving Nigeria’s economy and enhancing national security.

A Call for Unity

The Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, called on all citizens and friends of Nigeria to appreciate the progress that has been made in the country’s democratic journey and to look forward to a brighter future.

“As we celebrate Democracy Day, we must appreciate the progress that has been made and remain hopeful for a better future for Nigeria’s democracy,” the minister said.

This year’s Democracy Day comes at a crucial time as Nigeria continues to navigate economic challenges and security concerns. The public holiday on June 12 provides an opportunity for Nigerians to reflect on the importance of democracy and the ongoing efforts to strengthen the nation’s democratic institutions.

As the nation prepares to observe the public holiday, there is a sense of anticipation and hope that the values of democracy will continue to guide Nigeria towards a prosperous and harmonious future.

The government’s declaration serves as a reminder of the enduring legacy of June 12 and the importance of upholding democratic principles.

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Guilty on All 34 Counts: Trump Convicted in Hush Money Case

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In a historic and unprecedented legal decision, former President Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts in his “hush money” trial, making him the first former U.S. president to be convicted of a crime.

The verdict was delivered by a jury of 12 New Yorkers on Wednesday, concluding a six-week trial in Manhattan.

The charges against Trump centered around falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

The jury found Trump guilty on all counts, concluding that he authorized a scheme to falsify checks and related documents to keep the alleged affair from becoming public knowledge.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office presented evidence showing that the conspiracy to cover up the payment began during Trump’s 2016 campaign and continued into his first year in the White House.

They argued that Trump, along with his associates, created false records to mislead voters and conceal the payment.

Trump, who has consistently denied having any sexual encounter with Daniels, responded angrily to the verdict. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, he called the trial “a disgrace” and accused the judge of bias.

“This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt,” Trump stated.

He vowed to continue fighting the verdict, saying, “The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people, and they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here. We’ll fight to the end.”

The conviction comes at a critical time for Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president in the 2024 election. Despite the conviction, there is no constitutional barrier preventing him from running for office again.

Legal experts note that the Constitution’s requirements for presidential candidates—being at least 35 years old, a natural-born citizen, and a U.S. resident for 14 years—do not include any disqualification for being a convicted felon.

Judge Juan Merchan has scheduled Trump’s sentencing for July 11. The defense has until June 13 to submit any motions, with the prosecution required to respond by June 27.

Trump’s legal team indicated they would prefer a sentencing date in mid to late July.

Trump’s conviction adds to the already intense political climate as the nation prepares for the 2024 elections. The trial has drawn significant media attention and public scrutiny, reflecting deep divisions within American society.

The trial highlighted broader issues regarding campaign finance and the use of hush money in politics. It also raises questions about the integrity of presidential candidates and the lengths to which they might go to protect their public image.

As the legal and political ramifications of this verdict unfold, Trump’s conviction on all 34 counts marks a significant chapter in U.S. history.

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President Tinubu to Inaugurate Newly Paved Roads to Apapa, Tin Can Ports

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Bola Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu is set to inaugurate the newly constructed paved roads leading to the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports in Lagos on Saturday.

This development is anticipated to bring significant relief to port users and operators who have endured years of hardship due to the previously dilapidated roads and severe traffic congestion in the area.

The commissioning of these roads marks a major milestone in the government’s efforts to improve infrastructure and boost economic activities around the nation’s busiest ports.

The newly paved roads are expected to enhance the flow of goods and services, reduce operational costs for businesses, and alleviate the chronic traffic bottlenecks that have plagued the Apapa and Tin Can Island areas.

President Tinubu, who is scheduled to arrive in Lagos on Saturday morning, will perform the inauguration as his first assignment of the day.

The ceremony signifies a commitment to addressing the infrastructural challenges that have long hindered the efficiency of Nigeria’s maritime sector.

Mohammed Koko, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), highlighted the importance of this project earlier this year.

He emphasized the NPA’s “zero tolerance for all forms of impediments to the free flow of traffic” and reiterated the agency’s dedication to improving port operations.

“Our zero tolerance for all forms of impediments to free flow of traffic is no fluke,” Koko said, noting that the rehabilitation efforts are aimed at consolidating gains achieved first in Apapa and now extending to Tin Can.

In January 2024, President Tinubu directed the Federal Ministry of Works to urgently and comprehensively repair the access roads to the Lagos Port Complex and Tin-Can Island Port Complex.

The Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, echoed the urgency of this directive, pointing out that the poor condition of the port access roads had significantly increased internal logistics costs for importers and exporters.

“The dilapidated port access roads increase the cost of internal logistics for importers and exporters,” Oyetola noted.

The improved road infrastructure is expected to curb the exodus of businesses from the Apapa and Tin Can Island areas, which had been driven away by the severe logistical challenges.

The restoration of these critical routes is also anticipated to enhance Nigeria’s competitiveness in international trade by facilitating smoother and more efficient port operations.

Following the inauguration of the port access roads, President Tinubu is also scheduled to flag off the Lagos to Calabar coastal road project at Victoria Island in Lagos.

Also, he will virtually inaugurate the newly rehabilitated 3rd Mainland Bridge, further underscoring his administration’s commitment to revitalizing Nigeria’s infrastructure.

The series of inaugurations and project launches underscore a broader strategy to enhance connectivity, reduce operational bottlenecks, and stimulate economic growth through improved infrastructure.

The completion of the Apapa and Tin Can Island port roads is a pivotal step in this direction, promising a new era of efficiency and productivity for Nigeria’s maritime sector.

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