•Says rate of poverty high; assures govt’ll build on 1st term successes
•As Obaseki, Oshiomhole ‘re-unite’ at Aso Rock
•My govt has restored growth, curbed inflation — Buhari
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig the security apparatus of the country for efficiency and effectiveness. He also declared that monies from staff pension deductions were not meant to be used for budget deficit by the federal and state governments, noting that there was the challenge of high rate of poverty in the country, in spite of all the efforts by the government, which culminated in the country coming out of recession.
Oshiomhole added that the rate of economic growth was still far less than the rate of population growth. However, President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration has restored economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up external reserves through various monetary and fiscal measures. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Presidential Policy Retreat declared open by President Buhari at the Council Chamber of the State House, Abuja, Oshiomhole said there is an urgent need to rejig the security apparatus and operational use of community policing in the country.
He said: “We need to rejig the security apparatus and operational use of community policing, which is already being discussed and we need to go into the specifics on the issue of “how.” He said the country was facing the challenge of high rate of poverty, in spite of all the efforts made in bringing her out of recession. ‘Stop borrowing from Pension fund’ Oshiomhole said monies from staff pension deductions were meant to address the critical issues of the masses who contributed the money and not to finance budget deficits. He urged the retreat to brainstorm towards getting practical solutions to the problems facing Nigeria.
On corruption, he urged the government to effectively plug leakages, with all the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies reviewing ‘hows’ to achieve it. Oshiomhole also recommended long term national economic plan to replace the current Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP. Acknowledging that so much progress had been made in the past four years in the fight against corruption, the economy and security, the APC national chairman noted that there were still huge challenges. He said: “The logic behind introducing the pension scheme under PENCOM was that the workers social capital that they deducted every month, which they would not need to draw on until they retire at about 30 years or 35 years later, provide a basis for long term fund. “Happily, PENCOM has generated over N5 trillion to N6 trillion since it commenced operation. Unfortunately, the money is borrowed by government, both federal and state, and is, therefore, not available to address the social purpose of the working people whose contributions the pension fund evolved. “I asked our experts to recognize that the primary purpose of the workers social capital is that it would be creatively managed and deployed to workers social needs, including housing, education and all the other factors. “It wasn’t meant to fund government’s deficit; it wasn’t meant to support federal government deficit; it was meant to address the primary, social purpose of those who work, so they are sure that by the time they retire, they have a modest home to retire to. “I think we must visit these issues, address them because this President has opposition among the rich and supporters among the poor.
The poor people’s money must be used to address the critical challenges of the poor. “May God drive our thoughts, our processes and rejig everything so that at the end of the day, those people would say yes, Sai Baba! We elected him, we trusted him and he has delivered.” ‘Population growth rate out-pacing economy’ On the economy, Oshiomhole said: “If our economic growth rate is still lower than the rate of population growth, poverty would remain endemic. On the economy, there is the challenge of high rate of poverty, inequality, access to credit and mortgage. “Mr President, I know deep in your heart and assessing the basis of our campaign, the issue of inequality is primary.
We don’t just want to grow the economy, create more wealth, we are also interested in who is benefiting from this wealth and what policy instruments are required to ensure that inequality is addressed, so that the average Nigerian people, particularly the masses that constitute the electorate, benefit from the fruit of growth.” He said there was the need to review access to credit and mortgage, unemployment, low level of manufacturing cost and diversification of the economy. Harping on the need to increase revenue, block leakages and ensure budgets deliver services to the citizens, Oshiomhole said: “I am happy that the National Assembly is here because part of the challenges we have faced over the past five years, is that even though we had control in terms of membership of the National Assembly, we had our budgets passed five months into the new year. That fact alone explained challenges at the level of execution of budget.” ‘Anti-graft war must include prevention’ Speaking on anti-corruption, he said: “I believe that we can commendably beat our chests as to the extent to which we have gone in implementing our anti-corruption war but there is need to ensure that our range of actions covers prevention. “There are many who have said that we should not just pursue corruption, we should deal with how to even prevent it.
Many wonder how salary earners who desire to have a house but is paid in 30 days interval can own a house, if a house costs as much as N10 million?” Noting that the banking system was not delivering to the ordinary people, he said access to credit remained a major issue. “Let me share my own ignorance, I am unable to understand, for example, as a worker why when they are in a recession in Europe, they reduce their interest rate. But in Nigeria, when we are in a recession, we increase our interest rate. “How do we price money at such level and expect that the ordinary people can borrow to set up businesses? “We do need practical solutions beyond theories. We need to re-examine our condition. If you want to buy a car, Mr President, you must have N20 million. It cannot be possible to have this amount of money in cash if you not a businessman; it cannot possibly come from a legitimate salary, given the known salary structure in the public sector and even the disclosed portion of the Nigerian private sector.
“So if people desire to buy a car and the banking system is not open to credit, the only way is to steal in order to purchase it. But we have all traveled round the world, ten per cent is enough to own a car if you have verifiable job and a banking history, you pay in instalments, month by month until you defray the cost of the car. “This retreat should critically review our achievements in the first term and map out strategy for the second term. What we hope to achieve in this Next Level Agenda is clear – challenges, how it should be done. This is why I want to challenge us to look at the following issues, among others. “The need for a long term national development plan to replace the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, which is expected to end in the next few years. “The need to improve our revenue through blocking of leakages and ensuring that every revenue agency remits to the federation account what is due in a timely manner. “Of course, in this, we must commend the President for introducing the Treasury Single Account, TSA. But as operators would tell you, this policy is there but we must improve our strategy to ensure that leakages that are still there are effectively blocked. “So the issue is how? The need for every ministry, departments and agencies, MDAs, to have a strategy plan to review the question of how, because to be honest, everybody knows what is wrong.
Even more importantly, everybody knows what we ought to do, the challenge is one word — how? “We know we have a huge number of unemployed people; we know there is a need to put them back to work but the question is how? So, there is the need to put an effective coordinating mechanism to ensure policy coherence and co-ordination between arms and tiers of government. “We need to radically change the budget contents; we need to do everything possible to reduce the recurrent expenditure from the current 70 percent and increase the budgetary allocation to the four sectors that are part of the life of citizens, namely the health sector, education, agriculture and infrastructure. “The more money we spend on recurrent, the less that is available for these critical areas. It is not acceptable that we spend 80 per cent on recurrent and we have some of our children in some states being taught under the trees, even during this raining season.
“There is need for radical decisions to change this so that those millions of poor people who we saw across the states, who fanatically believed in the person of our President and through him connect with our party, we must put appropriate policies in place to ensure that at the end of the day, we can measure how all of the things we have done or we are going to do at the end of the four years impact on their quality of lives. “We need to implement anti-corruption strategy in a comprehensive manner that would evolve the system, society and sanction.
As a party founded on the philosophy of social democracy, we need to expand programmes that touch on the lives of our people, such as the social housing, social investment programme, access to public healthcare, access to public education and support to small scale industries,” he said. My govt has restored growth, curbed inflation — Buhari Declaring the retreat open, President Buhari noted that his administration came into office in 2015 at a period of economic recession, following a sharp drop in global oil price and years of economic and financial mismanagement.
Buhari said his administration restored economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up external reserves through various monetary and fiscal measures, adding that the government has witnessed eight quarters of consistent marginal growth of the economy over the past two and a half years. President Buhari said: “We have made progress in the agricultural sector, especially in food production and processing through our Food Security and Anchors Borrowers Programmes, which provide concessionary credit facilities to farmers in crop production as well as large-scale investors in food processing and manufacturing. “To consolidate on these and other successes, we will continue to provide incentives that will facilitate investments and create jobs in key import substitution programmes.” He said policy dialogue for the session had been conceived to advise the government over the next four years to deliver on its promises in a manner that reflects true changes to the lives of the people. President Buhari said his administration was committed to consolidating the successes of the first term and creating an avenue where the nation’s investments and resources were geared towards sustainable development “We will implement structures that will accelerate speedy execution of these initiatives. I am looking forward to a very fruitful session with interesting and stimulating discussions and exchange of knowledge that will chart the course for our nation for the next four years. “The outcome of this Policy Dialogue will be wholly advisory and implementation left to the federal machinery of government,” he said.
Those at the retreat included Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia and former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn. State governors in attendance included those of Kebbi, Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Imo, Bauchi, Ekiti, Edo, Borno and Lagos. Obaseki, Oshiomhole ‘re-unite’ at Aso Rock Meanwhile, Comrade Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State yesterday shook hands at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. The duo have been in the news in recent times over the crisis in Edo State House of Assembly.
A faction of the Assembly is behind the governor, while the other is on the side of Oshiomhole, who is the governor’s immediate predecessor. Efforts to bring the duo together had failed on different occasions but on Wednesday, the two of them stood together after the presidential policy retreat at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, and Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti state, joined them. It is not clear if this is an indication that the hostility is over or the politicians will retreat to the trenches after the encounter at Aso Rock.