President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the resolve of his administration to drastically cut down the importation of goods and services into Nigeria.
The president said that because imports were a drain on the country’s resources, the federal government would in the next four years promote import substitution activities to boost local production and create more jobs for the citizens.
Buhari stated this yesterday in Abuja when he opened the first Presidential Policy Retreat under the current administration.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman, Comrade Adam Oshiomhole, who was the lead speaker, lamented that poverty had continued to ravage Nigerians despite the efforts of the current administration to address the scourge.
But, Buhari, who gave his administration pass mark in rejuvenating the economy since he came into office, stressed that he came into power in 2015 at a period of economic recession following sharp drop in the global oil price and years of economic and financial mismanagement.
According to him, his administration restored economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up external reserves through various monetary and fiscal measures.
The president said that his administration had witnessed eight quarters of consistent marginal growth of the economy over the past two and a half years.
He 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.
“In line with the “Next Level Strategy” of our party, the APC, which seeks to consolidate on our achievements over the past four years, this policy dialogue session has been conceived to: “Advise the government over the next four years to deliver on our promises in a manner that reflects true changes to the livelihood of the people.
“Discuss and propose for the federal government’s approval, key strategies and high impact initiatives to stimulate economic growth and development,” he said.
Concerted effort, Buhari stated, requires the convergence of various stakeholders cutting across the private sector, developmental partners, industry experts to dialogue and forge a way forward.
He said that his administration was committed to consolidating the successes of the first term and creating an avenue where the nation’s investments and resources are 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 outcomes of this policy dialogue will be wholly advisory and implementation will be left to the federal machinery of government.” he said
Those at the retreat included Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia and former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn.
The state governors included those of Kebbi, Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Imo, Bauchi, Ekiti, Edo, Borno, and Lagos.
Earlier, Oshiomhole faulted the use of PENCOM funds to tackle budget deficits and called for the overhaul of the economic policies to address inequalities and poverty.
He said that the use of PENCOM funds as stop-gap measures to fund budget deficits and infrastructure development by both the federal and state governments was wrong.
Oshiomhole who asserted that the PENCOM fund was initiated to provide long-term loans for housing development, charged the retreat participants to come up with implementable policies to address Nigeria’s social and economic crises.
According to him, “the logic behind introducing the pension scheme under PENCOM was that the workers’ social capital that they deducted monthly which they would not need to draw on until they retire about 30 years or 35 years later, provids a basis for long-term fund. Happily, PENCOM has generated over N5trillion to N6 trillion since it commenced operations.
“Unfortunately, the money is borrowed by government both federal and state and unfortunately, it is not available to address the social purpose of the working people whose contributions the pension fund evolved.
“I ask our experts to recognise 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 deficits, it was meant to address the primary social purpose of those who work. So that they are sure that by the time they finish their employment that they are retired, they have a modest home to retire to.
“I think we must visit these issues, address them because this president if he has opposition he is among the rich, if he has supporters he is 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.
“Everywhere in the world, people have access to credit. We have to drop a system where unless you have stashed away millions of naira, you can build a house in Nigeria,” he said.
The APC chairman observed that despite the progress made in the economy under the Buhari administration, there were still huge gaps to be filled and room for improvement.
On the economy, Oshiomhole stated that there was the challenge of high rate of poverty in spite of all the efforts and despite the fact that “we are out of recession and we are able to talk about economic growth. Unfortunately, the rate of growth is still far less than the rate of population growth. If our economic growth rate is still lower than the rate of population growth, poverty would remain endemic.