I am delighted to have the opportunity to address this distinguished and all-important retreat on the Nigerian economy. The purpose of this retreat as outlined in the Retreat Concept Notes is to generate immediate, medium and long-term viable policy solutions to the economic challenges facing us at both the Federal and State levels.
2. From information at my disposal, if we aggregate public views from the grassroots, city dwellers, the economic managers, consumer groups, the Unions and other stakeholders of the economy, there is near unanimity about the ills of our economy. But naturally, there are divergent views about solutions.
Yet our real wealth is in farming, livestock, hatcheries, fishery, horticulture and forestry.
- · Rising food prices, such as maize, corn, rice and gari.
- · Lack of visible impact of government presence on agriculture.
- · Lack of agricultural inputs at affordable prices. Cost of fertilizers, pesticide and labour compound the problems of farming. Extension services are virtually absent in several states.
- · Imports of subsidized food products such as rice and poultry discourage the growth of domestic agriculture.
- · Wastage of locally grown foods, notably fruit and vegetables which go bad due to lack of even moderate scale agro-processing factories and lack of feeder roads.
- · First, we need to carry the public with us for new initiatives. Accordingly the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the States should convene early meetings of stakeholders and identify issues with a view to addressing them.
- · Inform the public in all print and electronic media on government efforts to increase local food production to dampen escalating food prices.
- · Banks should be leaned upon to substantially increase their lending to the agricultural sector. Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should bear part of the risk of such loans as a matter of national policy.
- · States should increase their financial support through community groups. The appropriate approach should be through leaders of community groups such as farmers cooperatives.
- · Provision of feeder roads by state governments to enable more effective evacuation of produce to markets and processing factories.
- · Access to small scale credits
- · Inputs (fertilizers, herbicides etc)
- · Extension services.
• High electricity bills despite power cuts.
• Low supply of gas to power plants due to vandalization by terrorists.
• Obsolete power distribution equipment such as transformers.
• Power fluctuations, which damage manufacturing equipment and household appliances.
• Low voltage which cannot run industrial machinery.
- · Privatization. We are facing the classic dilemma of privatization: Public interest Vs Profit Motive. Having started, we must complete the process. But National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the regulatory authority, has a vital job to ensure consumers get value for money and over-all public interest is safe-guarded.
- · Government to fast-track completion of pipelines from Gas points to power stations and provide more security to protect gas and oil pipelines.
- · Power companies should be encouraged to replace obsolete equipment and improve the quality of service and technicians.
Painful though this is, I believe it is a temporary phase which we shall try to overcome but there are deeper, more structural problems bedeviling local industries which this Retreat should identify short and long-term answers to. Chief among these problems are:
- ·Inadequate infrastructure:
leading to increase in costs of making Made-in Nigeria goods pricier than imports
High Cost of Borrowing Money:
- ·Lack of Long Term Funding:
The Nigerian Capital Market has not completely recovered from the 2008 worldwide crisis. Banks’ funding sources are short-term in nature due to sources of the liabilities.
- · Under-developed Science and Technology Research: As with Agriculture, Nigeria’s industries are in the main outmoded and industrial practices far behind those in advanced countries.
- · Unions:
We need to protect our workers from exploitation, but unions must cooperate with entrepreneurs to substantially improve productivity and quality of products if we are to move forward.
- · Smuggling:
Need I say more?
- · The infrastructure Development Fund should be fast-tracked to unlock resources so that infrastructural deficiencies can be addressed.
- · There should be more fiscal incentives for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which prove themselves capable of manufacturing quality products good enough for export.
- · Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should create more incentives and ease credit terms for lending to manufacturers.
- · A fresh campaign to patronize Made-in-Nigeria goods should be launched. Example: all uniforms in government-sponsored institutions should be sourced from local factories.
- · The Federal Government builds two hundred and fifty thousand units. The 22 APC States together manage another two hundred and fifty thousand units.
- · We invite foreign investors together with local domiciled big construction companies to enter into commercial housing building to pick up the rest.
· The most frequent public concerns brought to my attention are three-pronged:
1. Severe shortage of housing
2. High rents
3. Unaffordable prices for prospective buyers especially middle and low-income earners.
- · In addition, red tape, corruption and plain public service inefficiency lead to long delays in obtaining ownership of title documents.
- · Again, there are no long term funding sources for mortgage purposes.
- · Laws
The relevant laws should be reviewed to make the process of acquiring statutory right of occupancy shorter, less cumbersome and less costly. Court procedures for mortgages cases should make enforcement more efficient. Ministries of Works and Housing should upgrade their computerization of title registration system for greater efficiency.
- · Mortgage Institutions. Achieving affordable housing for all Nigerians will require the development of strong and enduring mortgage institutions with transparent processes and procedures.
- · Mortgage Re-financing Company. This institution when fully operational should ensure adequate support for mortgage financing.
· Strengthening public health propaganda in primary prevention:
- Environmental sanitation
- Stop smoking
- Better dieting
Screening and early diagnosis of diseases
· NAFDAC to intensify efforts on reducing or stopping circulation of fake drugs in Nigeria.
· Ministry of Health should work closely with the Nigerian Medical Association to ensure that unqualified people are not allowed to practice.