Yesterday, the Nigerian Electoral Debate Group held its Vice Presidential debate. The Vice Presidential candidates of five political parties were present, namely:
Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN): Ganiyu Galadima
Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN): Khadija Abdullahi Iya
All Progressives Congress (APC): Professor Yemi Osinbajo
People’s Democratic Party (PDP): Peter Obi
Young Progressive Party (YPP): Umar Getso
Here are highlights of the two and a half hour debate, which was anchored by Imoni Amarere.
On fuel subsidy
While candidates of the four opposition parties, were in favour of removing the subsidy, current Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in his opinion, preferred that the subsidy be left for now.
Subsidy in Nigeria is fraught with corruption. What we are big on, is attack institutions to ensure there is transparency to ensure corruption is tackled.
In her opinion, savings from subsidy should be spent on areas such as health and infrastructure.
The government will do away with subsidy. There are a lot of inefficiencies in the system.
Doing so, in his view would encourage investors to take position in the oil and gas industry.
If removed, petrol prices could go up to as high as N220. The moment you remove the subsidy, costs go up. While consumer spending is weak, I think a minimal subsidy is useful now. We can’t remove it immediately.
The question to ask Nigerians, how much are they prepared for petrol. Are you ready to take a N40 petrol increase today?
Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP advocated for removal of the subsidy.
What we are subsiding today is inefficiency. It is a waste. You need to reverse it. If you do the right things, the price will come down.
To the Vice Presidential candidate of the YPP, the subsidy is a scam, as the Buhari administration had posited on assumption of office.
To be candid, subsidy to a typical Nigerian is just a scam.
On growing Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product
Nigeria needs to put emphasis on production. We intend to create a N1 trillion venture capital fund, in partnership with the private sector.
Peter Obi advocated for fixing the power sector in order to enable industries to grow.
You need to support SMEs properly. Total loans by banks is N19 trillion, 0.5% of that goes to SMEs. In other countries, it’s 20%. You must do something about your power.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated that the current administration had provided the highest lending to the SME sector, through programmes such as GEEP.
On the AFCFTA agreement
On the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA), while the PDP, APC and ANN, were in support of signing the agreement, the YPP and ACPN staunchly opposed it.
There is a process of consultation which is going on with the private sector. One of the chief fears of the private sector is the possibility of transshipment; i.e., China imports to Benin then Nigeria.
MAN rejected the agreement, similarly, NACCIMA(National Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture).We are a private sector driven economy. It is our duty as a responsible government, to take into account all the issues before we sign.
Peter Obi, was however in support of the agreement being signed.
You can have twice the foreign exchange earnings from oil from manufacturing. Sign the agreement. You consult at the stage of planning not signing. You don’t have to fear transshipment. That shows inefficiency.
If Chinese goods are cheaper , something is wrong. To bring out goods in Apapa, costs more than it costs to bring it in from Europe.
We will encourage free trade. We have to look at it carefully before signing.
The ACPN candidate was opposed to signing the agreement till the economy improves.
It’s a good thing. As brothers, we trade with each other, but are we going to get equal advantage. The proper thing is for the government to put the signing of the agreement on hold till the economy improves.
Not at this stage, we don’t produce much.
On ease of doing business
In Peter Obi’s view, the Government needs to move out of business. He also had a few knocks for the Nigerian Ports Authority, which he felt spent more on non-essential projects.
The first thing is to look at where your competitors are. If I belong to the BRICS where are they ? If I belong to the MINTS, where are they ? If you look at all the rankings, they are just below 100. You are 146. Government needs to move out of business.
To him, government agencies sourcing funds from the capital market, would make them more efficient, as they would have loans they need to pay back, and be attractive to banks.
Osinbajo in his response, defended the Buhari administration saying that Nigeria had moved up 20 places in the ease of doing business. He also took shots at the PDP, stating that their regime had failed to implement reforms after 16 years in power.
While Under the pdp, we fell 64 places down on the world bank index. Under us we have moved 24 places in 18 months in the ease of doing busioness. If you say investment hasn’t taken place in years, who has been in office these last 16 years ?
Isnt it just incredible, how it is possible to keep a straight face and talk about all that has gone wrong. We we are where we are today is because of 16 years of mismanagement of resources. All this investment ought to have been done.