“Admittedly, the economy has proven to be the biggest challenge of all,” these were the words of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, as he lamented the battle by President Muhammadu Buhari administration to put Nigerian economy back on track.
Osinbajo made the confession in a speech marking the second anniversary of the Buhari-led APC administration.
The Acting President said much of the 2016 was spent clearing the mess inherited from the President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP government.
According to him, the administration has been very concerned with negative impact of the economy on the citizens.
His words, “Let me first express just how concerned we have been, since this administration took office, about the impact of the economic difficulties on our citizens.
“Through no fault of theirs, some companies shut down their operations, others downsized; people lost jobs, had to endure rising food prices. In some States civil servants worked months on end without the guarantee of a salary, even as rents and school fees and other expenses continued to show up like clockwork.
” We have been extremely mindful of the many sacrifices that you have had to make over the last few years. And for this reason this administration’s work on the economic front has been targeted at a combination of short-term interventions to cushion the pain, as well as medium to long term efforts aimed at rebuilding an economy that is no longer helplessly dependent on the price of crude oil.
“Those short-term interventions include putting together a series of bailout packages for our State Governments, to enable them bridge their salary shortfalls – an issue the President has consistently expressed his concerns about. We also began the hard work of laying out a framework for our Social Intervention Programme, the most ambitious in the history of the country.
“One of the first tasks of the Cabinet and the Economic Management Team was to put together a Strategic Implementation Plan for the 2016 budget, targeting initiatives that would create speedy yet lasting impact on the lives of Nigerians.
“Indeed, much of 2016 was spent clearing the mess we inherited and putting the building blocks together for the future of our dreams; laying a solid foundation for the kind of future that you deserve as citizens of Nigeria.
Speaking on the Social Investment Programme, which kicked off at the end of 2016,” Osinbajo noted that “Its Home Grown School Feeding component is now feeding more than 1 million primary school children across seven states and would be feeding three million by the end of the year. N-Power, another component has engaged 200,000 unemployed graduates – none of whom needed any ‘connections’ to be selected. Beneficiaries are already telling the stories of how these initiatives have given them a fresh start in their lives.
“Micro credit to a million artisans, traders and market men and women has begun. While conditional cash transfers to eventually reach a million of the poorest and most vulnerable households has also begun.
“Road and power projects are ongoing in every part of the country. In rail, we are making progress with our plans to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to upgrade the existing 3,500km narrow-gauge network. We have also in 2017 flagged-off construction work on the Lagos-Ibadan leg of our standard-gauge network, and are close to completing the first phase of Abuja’s Mass Transit Rail system.
On the Ease of Doing Business, the Acting President said, “This month we issued three Executive Orders to make it easier for citizens to get the permits and licenses they require for their businesses, to mandate Government agencies to spend more of their budgets on locally produced goods, and to promote budget transparency and efficiency. The overarching idea is to make Government Agencies and Government budgets work more efficiently for the people.
“The impact of our Ease of Doing Business work is gradually being felt by businesses small and large; its successful take-off has allowed us to follow up with the MSME Clinics -our Small Business support programme, which has taken us so far to Aba, Sokoto, Jos, Katsina, and we expect to be in all other states in due course.