•The longest FEC session
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
The fourth week of Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President in the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari has broken record by convening the longest meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, in the Buhari’s presidency. Is this in a bid to re-launch the recessed economy on the path of survival, stability and growth? Find out in this report on the Osinbajo Acting Presidency.
Here, again, comes the workaholic, a man who is apparently made for meetings. Indeed, without meetings, ultimately, there will be no government and that is the impression he has so far created in the minds of many keen followers of his activities.
Of course, meetings, all kinds, are inevitable in government circles. But Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Acting President, has taken it a notch-high as no day passes without one form of meeting or another irrespective of their content and impact.
However, to many analysts and critics of government, actions rather than meeting after meeting should be the kernels of any political administration that wants to leave indelible prints on the sands of time. But in their own estimation, it does appear that there is so much steam with less motion.
One won’t really blame Osinbajo for the series of meetings that are fast defining his office.
First, he is the Chairman of the Presidential Economic Team. He also chairs the National Economic Council, NEC, and countless several othr statutory bodies. He had presided over the Federal Executive Council, FEC, especially in the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is also outside of other economic related indulgences.
Besides, the economy is in dire straits and, on daily basis, he works so assiduously, earnestly seeking to liberate the country from the present economic miasma.
With these layers of responsibility, therefore, it becomes absolutely difficult for Osinbajo to spend a day without having a meeting.
But, again, it does appear that the more the meetings are summoned, the more the economy defies every move to make it better.
Nigeria’s economy officially went into recession in second quarter of last year and, since then, no solution has been found. And if there is any, it is still in the offing as there is likely to be more meetings to that effect.
But to be fair to the government, Osinbajo had, in the past months, launched into series of events to better the lot of the citizenry. A few of them readily hit the mind.
First, the economic summit, held at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja last year. Recall also the first edition of the Presidential Business Forum, PBF with the Organized Private Sector, OPS, in September 2016 with its second edition held on January 23, 2017.
There was also the launch of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises in Nigeria, MSME, Clinics
While the PBF is a platform to engage and interact with the private sector to keep them abreast with government’s economic policies, programmes and activities, the MSME is a programme designed to not only sensitize operators of Small Scale Enterprises, SMEs, in Nigeria on the best business strategies but to also assist them financially to grow their businesses.
Also, on February 1, 2017, the Acting President set up a Presidential Task Force on Food Security to urgently consider measures that would ensure a steady flow of produce to the market and reverse the present hike in food prices.
On Monday, February 6, 2017, the Acting President chaired the Consultative Forum on Economic Growth and Recovery Plan, EGRP.
As the name suggests, the EGRP is another consultative platform with the operatives of the private sector to brainstorm on ways and actions that can correct the anomalies and restore the economy back to good footing.
And so, in the fourth week of his Acting Presidency, Osinbajo intensified efforts to re-launch Nigeria on the path of economic greatness and, true to his style, the renaissance could only be a product of a marathon meeting. Yet, the EGRP is still in the process.
Below are the activities of Osinbajo in his fourth acting week.
Monday, February 13-A day with Rivers people
Osinbajo continued his consultation with the people of the Niger Delta. And so, having visited Delta and Bayelsa States already, his next destination on Monday, February 13 was Port-Harcout, Rivers State.
Tuesday, February 14- He shows love to Imo people
The Acting President, who spent 24 hours in Rivers State, later proceeded to Imo State on Tuesday, 14 February, widely celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day, for the same consultation.
Wednesday, February 15-Longest FEC meeting
While many had thought that the Acting President, having spent so much energy attending to meetings in Rivers and Imo States, would postpone the Wednesday meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, they rather got a shocker of their lives. It was a day Osinbajo presided over the longest FEC meeting of the Buhari administration to date. The meeting, which stated at about 10 am, ended at about 5:30 pm. Of course, the FEC deliberated extensively on the EGRP. This was outside the inauguration of the National Road Safety Council which the Acting President chairs.
At the end of meeting, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma said they were in the process of fine-tuning the recovery measures.
He said: “We had extensive discussion on Economic Recovery Growth Plan, ERGP. The growth plan is still being fine-tuned. But a lot of inputs were made by Council Members and it is virtually ready for the President to launch. However, we are doing some fine-tuning and during this period we also do some final consultation before the president launches the plan.
“The plan that is being approved is expected to drive Economic recovery and lay the foundation for longer economic growth as well as improve the competitiveness of the Nigerian economy. The goal of the plan is to have an economy with low inflation, stable exchange rate and a diversified inclusive and sustaining growth.
“The proposed initiatives outlined in the plan are designed to address the country’s poor competitiveness, improve business environment and attract investment and infrastructure, especially power, roads, rails and ports. Jobs and social inclusion are also key focused areas of the plan.”
He also stated that the immediate execution priorities of the plan were as follows “agriculture and food security; energy, particularly power and petroleum product sufficiency; industrialization-focusing on small and medium size enterprising; transportation which is very, very important as an infrastructure requirement to get the economy really moving; stabilization of the micro-economic environment.”
According to him, these were the underpins focused on governance and delivery to the successful implementation of the plan.
He said: “We spent a lot of time looking at implementation. That’s the key and one of the means of ensuring implementation is to have a delivery unit which will be in the presidency and the key principles of the plan are tackling constraints to growth; leveraging the power of the private sector; promoting national cohesion and social inclusion; allowing market to function; approving the sore value for which this country stands.
“So, these are the principles. They are still being fine-tuned. Reviews are being incoperated and at a date to be announced soon, the president will launch the plan. Let me add that there will be additional consultations that we agreed in cabinet that we will be making and one of the people we will be consulting will be labour before the plan is finalized.
“We came in to meet very difficult economic circumstances and we have been working hard. When you talk about the plan, it is a document. What goes into the plan are things that we have working but now want put everything in a single plan. But elements of the plan are already being implemented.
“As you know, the 2017 budget is under the guidance of the plan. It is just we want a complete document so that any stakeholder dealing with Nigeria internally and externally, there will one document that you can see anything that you want find out about what government thinking is on the economy and every aspect of it.
“It is all in a document. We started with this implementation in the 2016 budget. When the plan is launched, you will see that everything that was done in that 2016 budget will be in that plan.
“We have launched agricultural plan which is part of it. We have also launched solid minerals which we have announced. So, each of the sectors will be in one document so that nobody can say they don’t know what our plan is in any sector.
“In fact, those people who are interested, they do know our thinking is any of the sector because at every occasion, we have said it. So, I don’t think, the document will be a surprise. We believe in ease of doing business. What we stand for is to turn this country around.”
Asked why the government was still on planning process 2 years after taking off, Udoma said planning was necessary to accommodate other needs as they arise.
“Government came in with a clear mandate. If you remember it was on three principles: one, tackling corruption, restoring security and fixing the economy. As you know, we are still working on all the three. We were clear on what our plans were”, he stated.
“However when you come and you implementing, you have to get all information that you actually need physically and see from it and get out what you want there. As regards budget releases, if you look the past budget, capital releases have never been released in full because of funding constraints. Actually, we are not doing badly right now in terms of capital budget releases.
“Because of the funding constraints, the budget has a deficit, I traveled with Minister of Finance and CBN governor to market out eurobond. As you can see, the Eurobond was oversubscribed by over 8 times, so the funds are coming in, there is more stability in th Niger-Delta, so more money are coming in”.
NGF meeting/valedictory dinner for Adams Oshiomhole, Olusegun Mimiko
Osinbajo won’t still sleep or take some rest after the marathon FEC meeting. Surprise greeted many who had also expected him to do so when he showed up at the Valedictory Dinner for former Governor Adams Oshiomhole (Edo) and outgoing Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State who leaves office on Friday.
Organized by the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, the event was the first in the history of the association. Held at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, it paraded a galaxy of former, immediate past and serving governors and there, Osinbajo, a Senior Pastor with RCCG, said a word of prayers for the governors and wished them well. He didn’t leave the venue until about 11:30 pm when the governors entered into a closed door meeting after the ceremony.
Thursday, February 16, NEC, another long day for Osinbajo
NGF meetings always precede the meeting of the National Economic Council, NEC, chaired by the Acting President. And so, on Thursday, Osinbajo made it to the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, venue of the meeting, to preside. Of course, the issues discussed bordered on the economy. The meeting didn’t end until about 4:20 pm when Sunday Vanguard saw the Acting President leaving the Chamber for yet another meeting in his conference room where his guests were already seated. Interestingly, the country later saw a NEC meeting that demanded a review of the current Foreign Exchange policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and injection of $250 million into the Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF, from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, which stood at over $2 billion as of February 15, 2017, all geared towards saving the Naira and boosting the economy in recession.
Friday, February 17-Osinbajo’s failed date with Ondo people
After the hectic Thursday, the Acting President still wouldn’t rest. By 10 am on Friday, the engines of the presidential jet came alive, waiting to take Osinbajo to Akure, Ondo State in continuation of his consultation with the oil producing states. But Osinbajo was forced to return to Abuja to perhaps take some rest when the jet refused to land, owing to poor weather. The presidency was later to issue a statement announcing that Osinbajo was “already air-borne Friday morning when weather reports indicated dusty haze and very poor visibility at the Akure Airport and other alternative airports nearby.”
It added that “The presidential jet therefore had to return to Abuja following which the weather condition was closely monitored until about 2:30pm, when it became abundantly clear that the situation would not change in time for the Acting President to achieve the purposes of the visit.”
Meanwhile, the visit has been rescheduled for tomorrow, Monday, the 20th of February, 2017.
Saturday, February 18-Osinbajo in Zambia/Expected at Yar’Adua Center for a function on Sunday.
Osinbajo’s hectic week continued even at the weekend. The Acting President was in Zambia, yesterday, for a function. As of 12: 30 am when this piece was being written, the Acting President was expected as guest speaker at the 50th anniversary of the demise Amb. Isa Wali, the father of Mrs. Maryam Uwais, today, Sunday, at Yar’Adua Centre.
For a man, who has spent almost all his life, teaching in the university as a professor of law, it is no strange thing talking and having meetings. This is also so of pastors. But to many analysts and critics, the situation becomes a different ballgame when meetings fail to bring mere food on the table of the common man. If that had been the case in almost last two years of the Buhari administration, many believe it would amount to self-delusion having marathon meetings for the next two years, planning endlessly without taking-off and producing results. But until then, expect more meetings even though President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to return from his medical vacation in London, United Kingdom this week.