Nige­rian Eco­nomic Sum­mit: 21 years of more talk, less ac­tion

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Fran­cis Arinze Iloani

The 21st Nige­rian Eco­nomic Sum­mit (NES) ended last Thurs­day with the body re­leas­ing a 100-page doc­u­ment that em­bod­ies de­lib­er­a­tions at the talk­shop, and more im­por­tantly, its rec­om­men­da­tions, to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for ex­pected im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The NESG col­lab­o­rated with the Na­tional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion (NPC) in com­pil­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions.

Key is­sues that dom­i­nated dis­cus­sions at the 21st eco­nomic sum­mit in­cluded en­demic cor­rup­tion in the pub­lic sec­tor, over­lap­ping func­tions in the civil ser­vice, the zero-bud­get­ing sys­tem and dif­fi­culty in do­ing busi­ness in the coun­try.

Par­tic­i­pants and pan­elists also dis­cussed what can be done for the All Pro­gres­sive Congress to achieve its N60 tril­lion ($300 bil­lion) to­tal cost of projects.

The Vice-Pres­i­dent, Pro­fes­sor Yemi Os­in­bajo, re­vealed that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has be­gun the process of over­haul­ing the pub­lic sec­tor by re­align­ing fed­eral gov­ern­ment min­istries, depart­ment and agen­cies (MDAs) for ef­fec­tive ser­vice de­liv­ery.

"We found out that many MDAs are ex­e­cut­ing the same projects and pro­grammes and some­times achiev­ing sim­i­lar re­sults with­out nec­es­sar­ily talk­ing to each other at all. That, we be­lieve, is a waste of resources,” he de­clared.

De­cry­ing dif­fi­culty in do­ing busi­ness in Nige­ria, the former Prime Min­is­ter of Georgia, Mr. Nika Gi­lauri, said his coun­try was at a point in its his­tory ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar huge cost of do­ing busi­ness, as Nige­ria is cur­rently go­ing through.

Gi­lauri nar­rated how it took cer­tain con­scious ef­forts of en­thron­ing re­forms, which now ranks Go­er­gia ahead of Nige­ria in terms of ease of do­ing busi­ness.

He told the sum­mit that it takes about 77 days to reg­is­ter a busi­ness in Nige­ria, while it takes just a day to do same busi­ness reg­is­tra­tion in Georgia, a coun­try of about four mil­lion peo­ple.

"This is the right time for the coun­try to take the path of re­forms and trans­for­ma­tion, when there is sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic down­turn, when you have lower oil price," he ad­vised.

Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion, Dr. Oby Ezek­we­sili chal­lenged the Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­ci­sively iden­tify causes of cor­rup­tion and deal with them “if the econ­omy must grow.”

The prob­lems an­a­lysed at the 21st Sum­mit had been cap­tured in the rec­om­men­da­tions sub­mit­ted to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and Nige­ri­ans now await the force of their im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The NESG was formed in 1996 as a plat­form for pub­lic-pri­vate sec­tor co­op­er­a­tion on Nige­ria's eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and was an off­shoot of a fed­eral gov­ern­ment eco­nomic sum­mit ini­ti­ated in 1993 by the Chief Ernest Shonekan-led In­terim Na­tional Gov­ern­ment. Its rec­om­men­da­tions are aimed at as­sist­ing gov­ern­ment in pol­icy for­mu­la­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion for the na­tion to achieve com­pet­i­tive­ness, in­clu­sive growth and sus­tain­abil­ity.

The sum­mit has held an­nu­ally since then but there are con­cerns that ev­ery edi­tion has been more talk and less ac­tion.

Analy­ses by both the Daily Trust and eco­nomic ex­perts of gov­ern­ment’s im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Group’s rec­om­men­da­tions over the last 20 years give lit­tle cheer.

For in­stance, two years af­ter the 19th sum­mit fo­cused on “Grow­ing Agri­cul­ture as a Busi­ness to Di­ver­sify Nige­ria’s Econ­omy,” 55 per cent of Nige­ri­ans are still dis­sat­is­fied with the rate of food se­cu­rity in Nige­ria.

A sur­vey con­ducted on the qual­ity of life in Nige­ria by Philips Con­sult­ing Lim­ited pub­lished in April this year in­di­cated that the is­sues which topped the rec­om­men­da­tions of the 19th sum­mit are still men­tioned by Nige­ri­ans as rea­sons they are dis­sat­is­fied with food se­cu­rity in the coun­try.

The re­port re­vealed that 56 per cent of Nige­ri­ans who par­tic­i­pated in the sur­vey in­di­cated that low in­come con­trib­uted to food in­se­cu­rity, while 50 per cent blamed the poor use of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment to boost crop pro­duc­tion for the prob­lem.

As a way out of the low in­come con­straint im­ped­ing agri­cul­ture, the 19th sum­mit, at­tended by former Pres­i­dent, Dr. Good­luck Ebele Jonathan, rec­om­mended, among oth­ers, the reser­va­tion of a por­tion of state agri­cul­tural fund­ing for Na­gro­preneurs (Nige­rian agri­cul­tural en­trepreneurs), and es­pe­cially women, tap­ping cap­i­tal mar­kets for long-term fund­ing and se­cu­ri­tiz­ing agri­cul­tural risks.

The sum­mit fur­ther rec­om­mended that the Fed­eral Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment be re­named the Fed­eral Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Agribusi­ness, as well as the ex­pan­sion of the ca­pac­ity of the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion (SEC) to reg­u­late com­modi­ties ex­changes.

In ad­di­tion, the Sum­mit rec­om­mended the es­tab­lish­ment of Sta­ple Pro­cess­ing Zones close to farms to re­duce the need for long dis­tance trans­porta­tion.

Two years later, th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions have not been im­ple­mented, even as two more edi­tions of the sum­mit have been held.

Re­cently, the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of the Nige­ria Com­mod­ity Ex­change (NCX), Za­heera Baba-Ari, lamented that farm­ers can­not ac­cess sin­gle-digit loans from banks, an is­sue that was ex­ten­sively ad­dressed dur­ing the sum­mit and on which ex­perts prof­fered rec­om­men­da­tions on how to ad­dress it.

In 2011, the 17th Sum­mit fo­cused on “At­tract­ing For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ments (FDI) through Global Partnerships”, but four years later, Nige­ria's an­nual FDI is in deficit of N1.39 tril­lion of the value re­quired to meet her an­nual eco­nomic agenda.

Speak­ing dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral ses­sion of the In­ter-Min­is­te­rial Strate­gic Busi­ness Com­mit­tee held in Abuja re­cently, the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the Nige­ria In­vest­ment Pro­mo­tion Com­mis­sion (NIPC), Uju Aisha Has­san Baba, rep­re­sented by the Com­mis­sion's Di­rec­tor of Na­tional Com­petive­ness and Pol­icy Ad­vocy, Mr. James Ebuetse, re­vealed that eco­nomic agenda de­mands an an­nual min­i­mum pri­vate cap­i­tal in­flow of about N2.59trn ($13bn), out of which Nige­ria cur­rently at­tracts only N1.19trn ($6bn).

The con­cern here is: What hap­pened to the rec­om­men­da­tions of the 17th Nige­ria Eco­nomic Sum­mit on how to at­tract FDI into the coun­try through global part­ner­ship?

More wor­ri­some is the fact that the then Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan at­tended the Sum­mit and promised to im­ple­ment the out­come.

The Pres­i­dent also told par­tic­i­pants at the Sum­mit that in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate the for­mu­la­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the NESG an­nual rec­om­men­da­tions, Pol­icy Com­mis­sions were es­tab­lished through which tech­ni­cal in­puts re­ceived by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could play a crit­i­cal role in the emer­gence of a num­ber of gov­ern­ment poli­cies and re­form mea­sures.

De­spite the fact that FEC adopted the rec­om­men­da­tions on how to im­prove lead­er­ship and gov­er­nance, the 2015 Ibrahim In­dex of African Gov­er­nance (IIAG) in­di­cated that over the last four years, gov­er­nance progress in Nige­ria has stalled.

The re­port also raised ques­tions on it was whether the FEC adopted the rec­om­men­da­tions and failed to im­ple­ment them or the rec­om­men­da­tions sim­ply did not work for Nige­ria.

Last year, the sum­mit fo­cused on ed­u­ca­tion and or­di­nar­ily, it is ex­pected that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would have adopted and im­ple­mented the rec­om­men­da­tions of the sum­mit to im­prove the stan­dard of ed­u­ca­tion in Nige­ria.

One year later, the Qual­ity of Life Sur­vey Re­port by Philips Con­sult­ing Lim­ited re­vealed that 75 per cent of Nige­ri­ans polled were dis­sat­is­fied with the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, even as 78 per cent be­lieved that in­ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties and poor in­fras­truc­ture are ma­jor stum­bling blocks in this area.

Ex­perts at this years’ sum­mit won­dered why gov­ern­ment has not im­ple­mented the rec­om­men­da­tions on how to re­vamp the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, as pro­posed by the 20th sum­mit.

On how NESG rec­om­men­da­tions can re­ally start im­pact­ing on the na­tion’s econ­omy, the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Moon Global Busi­ness Ven­ture, Gabriel Of­fiong, ad­vo­cated for an im­ple­men­ta­tion mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism to be led by the NESG.

Of­fiong said the mech­a­nism should be an­chored by an Im­ple­men­ta­tion Sub­Com­mit­tee which will con­stantly en­gage and lobby the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions.

He rec­om­mended that the NESG should liase with the Na­tional As­sem­bly on how to in­te­grate some of the rec­om­men­da­tions into ex­ist­ing laws, or pos­si­bly come up with new bills for pas­sage into law.

"It is not enough to sub­mit the out­comes to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. If you fold your hands, they won't act on them. There has to be a way to make them act," he said.

From left: Gov­er­nors Abi­ola Aji­mobi of Oyo State, Wil­lie Obiano of Anam­bra, the Mod­er­a­tor Mr. Frank Aig­bo­gun, Gov­er­nors Ibikunle Amo­sun of Ogun, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun and Adams Osh­iom­hole of Edo, dur­ing a ‘con­ver­sa­tion with state Gov­er­nors at the 21st Nige­rian Eco­nomic Sum­mit in Abuja on Wed­nes­day

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