Nigeria’s Vice President; Professor Yemi Osinbajo says the country currently has capacity to generate 12,000 megawatts of electricity just as he assured that government would soon stabilize the dwindling electricity supply across the country.
Professor Osinbajo made this known in Lagos while delivering a keynote address at the 1st National Economic Forum organized by Vintage Press Limited, publishers of The Nation Newspapers.
He explained that what had so far prevented the optimisation of the power plants was non-availability of gas to activate the plants, due to pipeline vandals, who destroyed one of the major gas pipelines in the Niger-Delta area.
The Vice President who spoke on the theme of the programme- “National Economy: The Way Forward,” attested to the significance power generation to the economy as he maintained that one of the key features of the 2016 budget remained electricity generation as well roads rehabilitation and construction and rail project.
According to Professor Osinbajo, there are six thematic areas in the budget; they include capital spending; diversification of the economy to agriculture to ensure self sufficiency in tomato paste by 2017, rice by 2018 and wheat by 2019 and prioritise critical infrastructure such as rail.
He listed other thematic areas to include oil and gas reforms, power sector re-engineering which would cater for electricity generation, transmission and distribution as well as social investment which he said would create 800,000 direct jobs.
He also said the federal government would soon commence work on 31major road projects across the country, just as he stressed the commitment of the current administration to give a quantum leap to infrastructural development.
Professor Osinbajo also explained the rationale behind President Buhari’s scheduled visit to China which he hinged on the need to perfect the Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Calabar rail projects which require counterpart funding between Nigeria and China.
However, on the controversial conditional cash transfer which formed part of the All Progressives Congress (APC) manifestoes, the Vice President assured that the APC led national government remained committed to it, government was already partnering with relevant bodies to bring the promise to fruition.
“We have identified one million extremely poor citizens and provision has been made for them in this year’s budget; although in our ambitious target, we were looking at 25 million extremely poor, but these cannot be accommodated for now, the World Bank and Bill Gates Foundation are already assisting us with a social register on the one million already provided for in the budget,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode said for Nigeria’s economy to improve, its leaders must have the courage to take difficult and tough decisions.
Governor Ambode said the nation’s economy was at a critical threshold and thus, would require its leaders to think outside the box and come up with creative innovations that would trigger economic growth nationwide.
“It is very unfortunate that we wasted the golden opportunity to deploy the trillions of dollars earned from our oil exports to develop the critical sectors of the economy including power, agriculture, industries, solid minerals, transportation infrastructure among others.
No doubt, if we had done the right thing as some other oil
producing countries did, keeping in mind that crude oil is a finite resource, we would not be experiencing the devastating effect of oil price crash on the scale we are experiencing it now,” Governor Ambode said.
He stressed that, “We are now being forced to do, with pains, what we should have done with ease years ago. The task of charting a new direction for the economy is not going to be a tea party. Various policy options must be identified and assessed on the basis of our current situation and needs. Moving our economy forward requires thinking outside the box
and doing things differently, we need creativity, innovation and the courage to take difficult and tough decisions.”
On strategies to improve the economy, Governor Ambode emphasised the need for the nation to explore and expand the opportunities that abound in inter-State relations and strengthen regional competitiveness by maximizing economies of scale, regional optimization of assets and endowments and mitigation of afflictions and natural disasters.
He listed other viable areas for inter-State collaboration to include transport infrastructure to facilitate market linkages, education, market development, human capacity building, security and intelligence sharing, saying that it was high time to move away from an oil driven economy.
“Prior to the oil boom era, Agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy and contributed about 65 per cent to the country’s GDP and represented close to 70 per cent of total exports.
Through farming, Nigeria was able to feed its population while major cash crops were exported to earn foreign exchange.
“From the cocoa and rubber plantations in the West, the groundnut pyramids and cotton in the North, to palm oil in the East; each region was identified by its economic areas of comparative advantage which were collectively harnessed towards ensuring food security and inclusive growth across the country.
Given our current economic challenge, I believe it is time we take a cue from our old ‘playbook’ for a viable ‘game plan’ to revive our national economy. States and regions must once again begin to leverage on their respective areas of
comparative advantage by establishing partnerships towards
establishing inter-State or inter-regional commodity value chain, we must re-start inter-state/regional cooperation,” he said.
Governor Ambode said that Lagos has already taken the bull by the horn with its recent partnership with Kebbi State aimed at developing a commodity value chain that will see the local production of 70 percent of Nigeria’s rice needs with a multiplier effect that will ensure job creation, the development of ancillary industries as well as strengthen the Naira.
Blessing in disguise, power devolution
The Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha was of the opinion that the dwindling fortune of oil on the global market was a blessing in disguise for Nigeria.
Governor Okorocha, however, suggested decentralization of power by the Nigerian government to empower states to stand on their own rather than depend on allocation from the central government.
The Chairman of Vintage Press Limited, publishers of The Nation Newspaper, Wale Edun said the forum was put together not just to lament the challenges facing the country but for government and members of the critical sectors of the economy to dialogues and chart a way out.