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FG dismisses global report on Nigeria’s poverty level

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..To spend N250bn on Export zones
…Approves N3.17bn for Consultancy
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE Federal Government Wednesday dismissed the Brookings Report on Nigeria as the new global headquarters of poverty as it now has the highest number of poor persons in the world.

Findings by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, America, published a week ago indicated that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor in early 2018 with six persons becoming poor every minute.

Poor nutrition, high maternal and infant mortality are major contributors to relatively low average life expectancy in Nigeria

The report said, “At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall”,

But responding fielding questions from State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, argued that the indices used for the report may have been complied when Nigeria was in recession

He advised Nigerians not to be overly worried about the report because the current administration’s urgent infrastructure programmes and enabling environment for businesses will make poverty in the country disappear.

He said that the poverty report may have been written based on when Nigeria was in recession, advising that the country should not kill itself over the report that poverty was increasing.

His words: “I think first, we need to understand when we get these reports, there are reports that are lagging in indicators which means, people are reporting on history. There are reports that are leading indicators which means that they are forward looking and of course, there reports that capture generally what you do which is current.

“They are actually dealing with what is current. So, when you get reports from Brooking institutes or all sorts of people, you need to look at the context. Somebody may have written a report when we were in recession. Remember that if you are in a recession, what it means is that even though, your population is growing, people don’t stop procreating, your growth fact, which means that in theory depending on how they run those numbers, you will be going the other way.

“There is absolutely no question that there an urgency to create employment in Nigeria. And it has to be a collective responsibility. What I can tell you, with certainty based on ones background in business and economics, is that if we complete the things on infrastructure and you implement these reports we are doing, that is what I mean by a leading indicator, poverty will go down.

“There is no magic to it. But you have to do it first, you have to put in the infrastructure, you have to implement the economic programme which is what will create the opportunities, they don’t drop from the sky. So, I think we should roll up our sleeves as a people and do the work because, if we don’t do it, our people continue to bear children obviously, they would get poorer.

“So, I don’t think we should kill ourselves that poverty is something just happen. I think it comes out of the urgent need we have as a country which is why we are focusing as a government to make sure that we create the enabling environment, the infrastructure and the things that are required to create opportunities for our people and I believe that will happen in the process of time.”

The Minister also disclosed that Nigeria was not in a hurry to sign the Continental Free Trade Agreement, as it was important for government to adequately deliberate on the deal before President Buhari gives the direction to go next.

Enelamah also announced the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval of establishment of world-class export-oriented economic zones in six geopolitical zones: Aba, Lagos, Katsina, Calabar and Kano as a total cost of N250 billion, through a limited liability company to be set up for the purpose and partnership with international companies.

Already, consultants to facilitate these zones are to be paid N3.17 billion for their work, which will also be for smaller but similar zones in Akwa Ibom, Makurdi, etc

The FEC directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to ensure stricter compliance with Presidential Executive Order 1, concerning ease of doing business in Nigeria; and to comply with 72-hour deadline for responding to public inquiries or complaints made through the online portal of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).

On free trade zones, Enelamah said, “The ministry brought two memos to the council. The first one is a memorandum that sought the council’s approval for effective implementation of Projects Made in Nigeria Exports, something called Project-MINE Initiative which is aimed at developing world class export oriented special economic zones across the six geo-political zones of council. And that memo was approved.

“That memo is anchored on creating the right enabling environment for special economic zones across the country. If you study other countries that industrialised rapidly, you will find out that one of things they did right was to have these special economic zones and industrial parks that are world class which means that all the infrastructure are there and all the requirements are in place.

“And the plan is to begin the development of those special economic zones across the six geo-political zones as follows:

“We are going to do one in Lagos State Lekki Free Trade Zone Area, one in Katsina in Funtau Cotton Cluster Zone Area and aother one in Abia in Enyimba City. We are also going to develop to world class standard the existing two zones that the government has in Calabar and Kano.

“And in addition, the council also approved pre-development work to start and develop Green Field Special Economic Zone in Akwa Ibom, in Benue and in Ebonyi, Edo, Gombe, Kwara and Sokoto state with a further roll out to other locations in phase two.

“As you know, there was budgetary allocation both in the 2017 and also in the 2018 budget. Specifically, council approved today payments to consultants totaling N2.655,785billion for various projects that would be undertaken by different consultants that would lead to the implementation of these zones.

Actually, that is just for one set of consultant. The aggregate amount which includes another set is N3.172,431 billion. But the amount that has been invested in zones are much larger. The 2017 budget had over N40bilion. The budget also has over N40billlion in 2018.

“The total budget of developing these zones would be in excess of N250 billion and it will include partners. This is going to be done through something called The Nigerian Special Economic Zones Company Limited, which is a public private partnership.

“The Federal Government is going to own 20 percent of that company and AFRIEXIM bank is going to be a shareholder and other investors like the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and other international investors. It is going to be developed in such a way that it will be world class. We are going to see rapid implementation now that council approval has been obtained.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Gabar Shehu who briefed on behalf of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu said that the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board has acquired a facility for the Computer Based Test to reduce examination leakages.

He said, “JAMB had ran their test for people who seek admission for Universities using computer based testing agencies and this been attended by leakages over time. And in order to stop that, JAMB has been able to set up their own infrastructure for conducting these examinations.

“They have realised that they have not sufficiently covered the grounds. They have requested for government to buy up one of the CBT test organisations for N133million. They bought over the infrastructure, equipment and building. The effort is that JAMB wants to take total control of all of these examination processes in order to avoid leakages that had in the past attended their own examinations.”

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