…proffers way out of current recession, including selling of national assets
Ernest Nwokolo, Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Tuesday, expressed worry over the growing number of jobless Nigerian graduates.
Obasanjo said they represent the most dangerous and potent “bombs” to the nation today than any “bomb made with gun – powder.”
The ex – President made this known while making his remarks at the opening of the 2016 edition of the conference of the National Council on Finance and Economic Development (NACOFED) in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The two – day conference themed: “Enhancing revenue generation and obtaining best value for money in expenditure” was jointly declared opened by Obasanjo and the host Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library(OOPL), Abeokuta, with the ministers of Mines and Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, in attendance.
Also in attendance are the Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwabo, Senate Committee Chairman on Finance, Senator John Enoh, his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon. Babangida Ibrahim, Accountant – General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, 36 State Finance Commissioners, captains of industries, 36 State Commissioners for Budget and Planning among others.
Obasanjo noted the “recession” being faced in the country and the attendant grinding poverty, did not take him unaware as he had long seen it coming in 2014 and also spoke out about it, but ruled that the government at the time had neither the “political will” nor “the discipline to take tough decision” that could have averted the current economic gloom.
The former Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), who quit partisan politics in early 2015, said he had in 2014 while delivering a Justice Akanbi birthday, warned that the nation’s economy was already in “doldrum, if not in reverse.”
He suggested three measures Nigeria should adopt to navigate quickly and safely out of the buffeting recession.
According to him, when a nation finds itself in a situation where it is spending more than it’s earning, it should “cut expenses, work to earn more and also borrow.”
He said: “what has happened to us or what is happening to us is not unexpected. It is an act that we have brought on ourselves; it is the result of our own doing. For a long period of time, the cover up of corruption by the last administration destroyed the economy”.
“When we were earning big from oil, we failed to save for the rainy days, we did not have adequate preparation for the future and they failed to tell us the fact about the economy, they were quoting for us wrong GDP which did not reflect in the living standard of the people or the economy.”
Obasanjo also said he saw no reason why some of the nation’s assets should not be privatised or sold to raise the needed money to fund the economy, provided the process of selling them is “transparent and free of mago mago.”
“I see no reason why 48 per cent of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) cannot be privatised. I think the fear people are harbouring is the process by which the assets will be sold and how the money from their sales will be spent.”
“We should prevent reoccurrence of the past where assets were sold to cabals, friends of the government. We should limit the number of shares that will be sold to either individuals or corporate bodies and there should be limit to what individual or corporate body can buy.
“I think government should come out and explain to the people how the assets will be sold to allay their fears. If we sell some of the assets, we will be able to reorganize the economy,” Obasanjo said.
But the Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, expressed the confidence that President Muhamadu Buhari – led government is on the “right path to “revive” the nation’s ailing economy.
Mrs. Adeosun said one the measures the Federal Government is doing to revive the economy is the release of over N700bn for capital expenditure in order to rejuvenate the abandoned capital projects across the country.
According to her, the process of recovery of the economy would take the form of bottom – up from the Local Governmement, State to the national level using the small and medium enterprise operators as part of the major catalysts.
The Minister said that the monthly gathering in Abuja by the Federal Allocation Account Committee (FAAC) would no longer be for money, but to “share ideas and knowledge on how to grow the economy.”
Adeosun said: “in other words our recovery will be driven by the activities at the micro level in Nigeria, by groups of farmers, by collectives of artisanal miners deciding to formalise and increase their production, by local companies creating out grower schemes to support their raw material needs.
“It is when Nigerians begin to confidently invest that the essential foreign investment will follow. One large company that engages 3000 is very exciting but more exciting is 3000 Nigerians taking on two additional staff as our SME’s represent 50% of our GDP and are the real growth drivers.
“We are working to act as an enabler by investing decisively in power, roads, housing, transportation, airport infrastructure and education. To date we have release and fully cash backed over N700Bn and we are preparing another tranche in November.
“These investments are reviving long abandoned projects across the nation and directly and indirectly creating employment and wealth building opportunity. I think it is safe to say that this level of sustained and targeted capital releases has not been seen in recent times and is the direction that this government is committed to.
“However our focus is not limited to the hard infrastructure. The soft infrastructure of our society is also receiving attention, for the first time in our history.
“We have funded the social intervention programmes with the commencement of the home school feeding programme, the cash transfers to the poorest in our society, the job creation opportunity for Teach Nigeria which will engage 500,000 young unemployed graduates, agricultural extension workers and construction artisans and low cost loans to small traders.
“These funds are flowing down into our State and Local Government Areas and will directly put money into people’s pockets and stimulate demand that will support our efforts to get the economy moving
“For this economy to move in our chose direction of growth and job creation it is critical that every tier of government, every agency of government are synchronised towards our collective aims. Maximising revenue on the one hand but making sure that we obtain best value in expenditure on the other hand.
“Therefore the deliberations in the next two days are intended to share ideas, and strategies and we expect that you will leave here with a “to do” list of actionable plans and strategies that will ensure that all part of Nigeria’s public sector are aligned so that the entire nation moves toward the progress that we all desire and deserve.
“The Fiscal Sustainability Plan, which was designed to reposition State finances by ensuring widened revenue focus and cost control as well as improved transparency and accountability, is a partnership commitment to jointly improved public financial management.
“The FSP is now entering its first phase of monitoring and as we have done in the past we shall not shy away from taking tough decisions if we see states not meeting their commitments.” The Nation