President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, 13th October during the opening of the 21st Nigerian Economic Summit (NES) in Abuja blamed elites for criticizing his administration and faulting his selection of appointments into government positions.
The President who spoke through his deputy, Prof Yemi Osinbajo described as unfortunate the fact that Nigerians pay more attention to sectional and religious interests, rather than the competence of the appointees, claiming that misgivings on the elite.
The President noted that those seeking the promotion of selfish interests were fuelling complaints on where government appointees come from, adding that the fact that a northerner is in government does not necessarily mean good fortune for his people.
He, however, said the notion that Nigerians unite in their conviction that the majority of the people are extremely poor remained incontrovertible.
In his words:
You find out that the elite, whether from the Southwest, Northwest or wherever, are willing to collaborate in stealing the resources of the state. It is important to point out that the idea of where a person appointed into government comes from is meant to divert attention.
The present administration, he said, remained genuinely committed to ensure that every Nigerian of good and proven integrity has access to serve in the Buhari-led government insisting that the ongoing war against corruption demands that all officials of government must demonstrate this leadership virtue of the president.
He said the government was already demonstrating this by not interfering in the operations of anti-graft agencies saying that:
What is required now is the national orientation and the will to curtail corruption both in the public and private sectors.
The President said that only merit will be recognised and rewarded in what he called the ‘New Nigeria’, urging the citizens to realise that there must be discipline in all spheres of life.
He disclosed that from government’s calculations, it will spend approximately N51 to N60 to feed every school pupil in keeping faith with the administration’s campaign promises.
With the projection, the President noted that it would not even cost the government as much as being speculated to implement the school feeding programme.
In his introductory remarks, Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) faculty of economics, Dr. Temitope Oshikoya, stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was at the cross-road because of slowing Gross Domestic Product and rising unemployment, noting that the all require “lowering of the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR), Liquidity Ratio (LR) and the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR)” .
These decisions, he said, could however “stoke inflation and banking liquidity with inflation at 9.3 per cent – a 10 per cent foreign exchange gap of $30.4 billion in the external reserves – and as a result, monetary policy is complicated with rising inflation and unemployment.
He urged the Federal Government to enhance tax administration reform by increasing Value Added Tax (VAT) rate to 10 per cent, diversify its base and close loopholes.
With these measures, Oshikoya noted that VAT revenue could increase from $5.1 billion to $18 billion or one per cent of GDP to 3.5 per cent.
He also called on the government to initiate a $40 oil price benchmark and zero-based budgeting for next year.
Dr. Oshikoya noted that it will cost the country over $300 billion or N60 trillion to execute equity and efficiency programmes and warned that “there is no free lunch.”
Oshikoya gave a breakdown of what it will cost to implement these two programmes to include: equity programme, social inclusion programmes of social welfare (N1,250 trillion), unemployment allowance (N65 billion), one meal per day (N435 billion), National Identity Card Scheme (N100 billion) and Regional Growth Fund (N300 billion) – all totalling N2.150 trillion
He listed other programmes as education and health for six universities (N120 billion); new vocational schools (N36 billion); special education (N6 billion); world-class hospital (N500 billion) and for national health expenses per year (N8. 800) –all totalling N9.462 trillion.
To execute a nationwide efficiency Programme Oshikoya stated that infrastructure projects like will cost N18.000 trillion, electricity (N5.400 trillion); petroleum refinery (N100 billion) and the environment (N20 billion)- all totaling N23.520 trillion, aside from the national mortgage scheme, expected to cost N16.000 trillion; Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Loan Guarantee (N10.000 trillion) and Agric Commodity Trade Board (N250 billion)
He put the yearly projection at N61.3 trillion.