Econ­omy: We’ve stopped the bleed­ing – Pres­i­dency

The Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant to the Vice Pres­i­dent on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity, Mr Laolu Akande, says in this in­ter­view that the eco­nomic re­vival is tak­ing a while ow­ing to the dam­age caused by the im­me­di­ate past ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ex­cerpts:

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Isi­aka Wak­ili

Many Nige­ri­ans be­lieve that the econ­omy, be­ing co­or­di­nated by the Vice Pres­i­dent, has not taken a good shape.

As much as we try not to say this, we know as a mat­ter of fact that most of the mem­bers of the past ad­min­is­tra­tion have come out to say they did not save for the rainy day. So, we're deal­ing mostly with sit­u­a­tions caused be­fore this ad­min­is­tra­tion took over power. The Pres­i­dent and his team have worked hard and planned not only to save cost and tighten pub­lic ex­pen­di­ture, but to also di­ver­sify the econ­omy like never be­fore. So, we're sure and be­lief that go­ing for­ward, things will be­gin to pick up again. It's tak­ing a while be­cause of the ex­tent of the dam­age. If the coun­try took a sharp drop as much as 70 per­cent drop in its for­eign earn­ing, you can un­der­stand some of the dif­fi­cul­ties the coun­try is go­ing through where states used to share a huge sum of money which has come down in­cred­i­bly. A lot of what is hap­pen­ing right now in the coun­try is as a re­sult of some of the de­ci­sions taken in the past. But this ad­min­is­tra­tion has clearly changed the di­rec­tion of this coun­try and go­ing for­ward, we ex­pect bet­ter things.

The first fruit is al­ready in place be­cause we’ve started re­build­ing. I be­lieve that a huge fac­tor in the way Nige­ria is to­day eco­nom­i­cally is cor­rup­tion. We can’t run away from that, and the Pres­i­dent has made it clear. I think ev­ery­one in the coun­try now un­der­stands that, and it’s not go­ing to con­tinue. Ef­fec­tively, he has re­duced cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria

Rather than con­tinue to hold the past gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­ble for the cur­rent eco­nomic woes, why not spec­ify when Nige­ri­ans will reap the first fruits of this ad­min­is­tra­tion?

The first fruit is al­ready in place be­cause we've started re­build­ing. I be­lieve that a huge fac­tor in the way Nige­ria is to­day eco­nom­i­cally is cor­rup­tion. We can't run away from that, and the Pres­i­dent has made it clear. I think ev­ery­one in the coun­try now un­der­stands that, and it's not go­ing to con­tinue. Ef­fec­tively, he has re­duced cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria. The Trea­sury Sin­gle Account, for in­stance, has man­aged to save over N3trn that would have been lost if we didn’t have the TSA im­ple­mented. Mr Pres­i­dent tried to cut cost with many ghost work­ers in the fed­eral pay­roll de­tected and the process is con­tin­u­ing. So, one of the things that the Pres­i­dent has de­liv­ered is that the bleed­ing has stopped and that is so im­por­tant.

The con­sti­tu­tion re­quires that what­ever money made is de­posited in the Fed­er­a­tion’s Account, in which case, you can’t keep aside any money. So, how can this ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cuse the past gov­ern­ment of not sav­ing?

There are sev­eral ways of manag­ing your re­sources ad­e­quately in a pru­dent way. First, when a bar­rel crude was be­ing sold for over $100, what did we do with the money? It's a very sim­ple propo­si­tion. How many in­fras­truc­tural projects were im­ple­mented for the bet­ter­ment of Nige­ri­ans? How many were de­liv­ered? And how many roads were built for in­stance in the last 8, 9, 10 years? Th­ese are the ways you would say whether you man­age your re­sources well to take care of the fu­ture. That's why we say Nige­ria would've safe­guarded much more than what we've. When you spend your re­sources ad­e­quately on your peo­ple and in­fra­struc­ture, in that sense, you're sav­ing. What I’m say­ing is that we had a lot of wrongs in the past.

Why is it that Nige­ri­ans are yet to ben­e­fit from the much-pub­li­cized so­cial wel­fare scheme of this ad­min­is­tra­tion?

We've some de­lay in the whole process be­cause of the tim­ing of the bud­get ap­proval. For in­stance, when we came in at the end of May, there was no way the gov­ern­ment could im­ple­ment some of those so­cial wel­fare schemes be­cause it was not bud­geted for. So, we had to wait for the bud­get process to be­gin so that we could be­gin to put our ideas for­ward which was done and since the bud­get has been signed now, we're tak­ing off. For in­stance, we've started the 500, 000 jobs for un­em­ployed grad­u­ates, and peo­ple have been ap­ply­ing. The project will con­tinue for the rest of July, and the ap­pli­ca­tion process should end some­time at the end of this month. We'll then go to the next stage of pick­ing the 500, 000 grad­u­ates se­lected. The school feed­ing is also in the process. We're in the process of sit­ting down with the states that will start the first phase of it, try­ing to work out the modal­i­ties of how that is done.

Given the present harsh eco­nomic re­al­i­ties, do you think the N23,000 salary for the prospec­tive grad­u­ate teach­ers is enough?

The way we con­ceived the al­lo­ca­tion of 500,000 jobs for the un­em­ployed grad­u­ates is not so much to see it as a full-time per­ma­nent job. It is like a vol­un­teer job and then peo­ple get paid. The idea is to in­ter­vene. The idea is to say that N23, 000 is bet­ter than noth­ing. They'll stay in their com­mu­ni­ties and help to teach, help in health sec­tor. N23,000 is not a lot of money, but it's an in­ter­ven­tion to re­duce the sit­u­a­tion. We planned to pay N30,000, but an idea came that why don’t we ac­tu­ally do more in terms of pre­par­ing and equip­ping those se­lected 500,000 grad­u­ates by giv­ing a lap­top or an iPad that would be equipped with dif­fer­ent kinds of Apps that can help them to de­velop new skills? So, N7,000 would be taken out of the N30,000 and would be used to give them maybe an iPad or a lap­top. We're work­ing with Mi­crosoft and some tech­nol­ogy firms abroad on how to give a good and use­ful skill that peo­ple can be em­pow­ered through. By that, even though he/she leaves in two years, he/she will take away that iPad or lap­top and be al­lowed to con­tinue to im­prove him­self/her­self. We in­tend to cre­ate con­di­tions that would give op­por­tu­nity to peo­ple to ac­tu­ally dis­cover their hid­den tal­ents by ex­pos­ing them to bet­ter tech­nol­ogy in dif­fer­ent as­pects of life.

There are feel­ings that the the Na­tional Direc­torate of Em­ploy­ment ought to have been al­lowed to han­dle the grad­u­ate teach­ers' re­cruit­ment, in­stead of the Vice Pres­i­dent' Of­fice, to en­sure trans­parency.

The first thing about this process is trans­parency, and that's why we're us­ing a plat­form that ev­ery­body can go and check. That's why we're in­sist­ing on ap­pli­ca­tions. The NDE and the min­istries are in­volved. When we've a project that cuts across min­istries, we need co-or­di­na­tion and that's what the Pres­i­dency is do­ing. So, it's for the rea­son of bring­ing about ef­fec­tive co-or­di­na­tion that Mr. Pres­i­dent has asked the Vice pres­i­dent to co­or­di­nate this pro­gramme to bring the min­istries to­gether. It's not just some­thing that's done by one min­istry and you don’t want a sit­u­a­tion where ev­ery­body is go­ing in dif­fer­ent ways. The Pres­i­dency ex­ists for the pur­poses of co­or­di­nat­ing the job of gov­ern­ment.

How are you cop­ing with a Vice Pres­i­dent seen as a worka­holic?

The truth is that the Vice Pres­i­dent him­self is in­spired by the Pres­i­dent. Be­fore giv­ing me the job, he told me he had al­ways re­garded the then Gen­eral Buhari for his fru­gal­ity, hon­esty and clean de­sire to touch peo­ple's lives. So, see­ing this as an op­por­tu­nity Nige­ria has to have a leader of Pres­i­dent Buhari’s cal­i­bre, the Vice Pres­i­dent has to throw in ev­ery­thing he has got to make this ad­min­is­tra­tion work. The Vice Pres­i­dent is work­ing end­lessly be­cause he be­lieves that hav­ing some­one like Pres­i­dent Buhari at the helm of af­fairs of this coun­try is a great op­por­tu­nity that shouldn’t be lost.

Mr Laolu Akande

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.