Many high-level policymakers and business executives were gathered at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja for the 24th annual Nigerian Economic Summit which was earlier today declared open by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
While addressing the hundreds of gathered participants, the newly-appointed Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Mr Asue Ighodalo, described the summit as a platform dedicated to stirring up conversations that will position Nigeria on the right path to economic development whilst helping to uplift millions out of extreme poverty.
The Chairman also highlighted some of the problems hindering Nigeria’s economic development, noting that this year’s theme – Poverty to Prosperity: Making Governance and Institutions Work – is apt, especially as Nigerians are getting ready to go to the polls in early 2019.
The Vice President represented President Buhari
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who was representing President Muhammadu Buhari, highlighted some of the efforts being made by the Federal Government towards actualising the much-desired economic development in Nigeria. These include the Government’s Anchor Borrower’s Scheme which gives loans to smallholder farmers in order to enable them to increase their output.
Also, 56% of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) has gone to women, he said.
The Vice President further talked about how the Administration has invested as much as N250 billion in its various social investment programmes such as the N-Power.
“A major premise of our economic model was empowering the jobless youth and millions in abject poverty.” – VP Osinbajo
He, however, acknowledged that there is plenty of room for more to be done, even as he blamed corruption and Nigeria’s explosive population growth as some of the major factors responsible for the extreme poverty prevalent in the country.
He acknowledged that Nigeria’s poverty does persist even when the country earn its highest revenues. This, he blamed on the high level of corruption in the Nigerian system.
According to him, the biggest surprise to him since becoming VP is the sheer impact of corruption. Unfortunately, fighting corruption is difficult as it has become deeply-entrenched in the system due to many years of military impunity.
Minister of Budget talked about the Government’s Economic Recovery Growth Plan
Also speaking during the summit was the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma. He said he was glad to be a part of the summit, as it is the uttermost priority of the President Buhari-led Government to regularly interact with the private sector as a way of driving the economy.
He enumerated some of the measures the Government has taken towards actualising economic development, including the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) which he said the Federal Government is working closely with the state governments to implement.
He also made mention of the Government’s four-year strategic plan to reform the Nigerian Civil Service towards ensuring optimal productivity.
Professor Lewis hammered the need for Government to do more
While most of the speakers spoke in favour of the Government, Professor Peter Lewis of the John Hopkins University took a different dimension.
Although he agreed that a lot has improved since 1993 when the first NESG held, he, however, argued that the country still has a long way to go in terms of economic development; even as there is no reasonable excuse for the slow growth.
He pointed out the Nigerian system of poor governance and corruption as the key factors responsible for lack of development. This is because the likes of Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and China have overtaken Nigeria in terms of development despite having similar challenges and prospects.
Many high-profile individuals were represented at the event, including Governors of Lagos, Edo and Ekiti states- Akinwunmi Ambode, Godwin Obaseki, and Kayode Fayemi.
Others include Nigeria’s Head of Service, Winifred Oyo Ita, Ministers, Chief Executive Officers and Chairmen of companies. There were also many expatriates in attendance, as well as the general audience.
The two-day event is organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, will continue tomorrow Tuesday, October 23rd.