Nigeria’s economy, according to many experts at the Economic Summit, is under the pressure of population explosion. They had noted that while the economy was growing at less than one percent, population was growing at about 3.0 percent, meaning that income per capita was thining out.
At the plenary, the minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed, disclosed that the federal government had commenced consultations with traditional and religious leaders across the country on how to tame the rapid population growth in the country.
According to her, the strategy was to secure the confidence of the traditional and religious leaders with a view enlisting them to join in seeing the need to moderate the population growth.
Her words, “We have been engaging traditional rulers and religious leaders. Specifically we have found out that to be able to address one of the three challenges that we have identified in the ERGP, which is the growth in our population that we need to engage these institutions and we have already started doing that.
“We hope that with their support, we will get to a point where we can come up with a policy that limits the number of children that a mother can have, because that is a problem for sustaining our growth.”
Dr. Mansur Ahmed agreed with the Minister , saying that the population demography could become a major risk for the nation if left unaddressed.
He said: “We must also look at the population issue, particularly the demography. Our demography is a huge potential but also a very huge risk and we must manage that very carefully.
“ I think those are very key. I believe the need to continue to improve the investment climate and the business environment is key to a prosperous economy.
“My reading of what the minister said is that it is not just a matter of making law. It is a matter of persuading people to understand and taking them on board and creating a strategy which works for the people, not for the government.
“I am sure there are many things to be done to get Nigerians to think of this issue and respond positively. It will not be by making a law. I believe that it is possible. Many countries have done so successfully and I think it is really a question of being careful, how you approach it, taking the people along and making it a long-term objective. You can’t achieve this overnight. that is why legislation should be the last option. In fact not just the last option, if it comes at all, it should come at the back of all other strategies that will ensure that the government has the buy-in of the people.”
Dr. Doyin Salami, former member of the Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, had raised the population issue in his contribution at as a panelist when he said that the growth rate was unsustainable and that it must be discussed.
“For us at the rate which our population has continued to increase, the kind of expenditure that are demanded of us, are not the kind of expenditures that are small, nor in my view, sustainable.
We must address poverty from base —Mansur Ahmed
There is a lot that s being done but there is a lot that needs to be done.
We need to sustain and bring in more policies that address the problem of the society. We need to address poverty from its base. By creating an environment that delivers capacity and resources to the grassroots of the nation.
Secondly, we must work on execution of policies. We have always had wonderful policies but we are often bedeviled by the problem of poor execution. We must ensure that we have a strong leadership that work on sustaining strong institutions.
He urged the government to provide the enabling environment for private business activities to thrive and create wealth for the nation.
At the end of the day, it is the private sector that will drive economic activities, drive job creation, drive wealth creation and I think the more we allow the private sector across the country to work effectively , to be able to invest and grow, the more we are going to be able to address the poverty issue.