By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
In his welcome address at the Nigerian Economic Summit, the Chairman of the NESG, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, said that the Organised Private Sector (OPS) operators were concerned that several Bills meant to stimulate the nation’s economy, by attracting private capital to areas hitherto operated as government monopolies, were yet to be passed by the National Assembly.
“We are concerned that the National Assembly is yet to hasten the passage of other NASSBER Bills, for example, the amended Companies and Allied Matters Act Bill, Nigerian Railway Bill, National Roads Funds Bill, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Bill and the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill.
“We strongly urge the National Assembly, in the spirit of our partnership, to expeditiously pass these bills. We appreciate the immense work they have done” he said.
He commended the National Assembly for passing the National Transport Commission Bill to create an effective transport sector regulator, which is expected to help attract significant private capital to the transport sector.
The chairman appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to speedily assent to the Bill, adding, “We also expect an expeditious presidential assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, as soon as the National Assembly resolves the few contentious issues raised by the Presidency.”
He noted that last year, the Nigerian economy started its recovery from the recession it experienced in 2015/2016 – the 1st in more than two decades; with positive, though tentative, output growth. We have seen 5 successive quarters of growth since March 2017 evidenced by the modest improvements in key economic indicators; cost of living, measured by headline inflation, declined steadily for 18 consecutive months, (although we notice a slightly upward blip in the past 2 months).
He added that foreign Reserves also hit a 5-year high of $48 billion end Q1 2018 (again there has been a decline as the Central Bank strives to maintain currency stability), while the federal government has also commendably implemented its policies of providing for the poorest of the poor amongst us.
He said that, however, “despite these improvements, our country remains vulnerable on multiple fronts – economic, social and political. These are underscored by negative trends in several socio-economic indicators. The latest jobs report from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the combined unemployment and underemployment rates rose from 35.2% in Q4 2016 to 40% by Q3 2017.
“This implies that during the measurement period, over 4 million Nigerians lost their jobs, entered into the labour market and remained unemployed or were employed at jobs that were inadequate to their economic needs.
“While it is important to acknowledge and commend the government for policy measures aimed at inclusion through providing for the poorest in our population, it is difficult to ignore the continuing weakness of our institutional frameworks; migration of some of our brightest young talent; extremely poor productivity; extensive poverty and increasing threat to life and property.
“The narrative must shift forcefully to inclusive growth and development. This can only be achieved through good governance and strong institutions. Efficient markets and macro-economic stability are essential for inclusive growth and development, but the diverse dimensions of inclusive growth and development call for a broader capacity to deal with complex problems, strong levels of policy coherence and effective institutions.”
Ighodalo stated: “The overarching objective of NES#24 is to stir up discussions, create and share a unifying narrative on good governance and strong institutions, and thereby focus our governments at all levels on the critical and urgent task of moving 87 million of our people out of extreme poverty.”
On the theme of the summit, Mr. Ighodalo said it was apt, especially at a period that the nation would face general elections in a matter of months.
His words, “This theme is especially apt as we proceed towards the General Elections next year. Between now and the elections, various candidates for elective office will be doing their best, hopefully within the spirit and letter of our electoral laws, to achieve their ambitions.
“ It is important for us at the NESG and doubtless all Nigerians that the process be undertaken with as little rancour as possible and as much enlightenment of our people as can be mustered.
“Given the assurances by His Excellency Mr President that the elections will be credible, free and fair, we hope that candidates will set out their goals and policy agendas, very clearly, guided by our nation’s best interest.”
The summit, he said, would analyse the constraints to effective governance and institutions using five pillars, which together, provide a framework for distilling delegates’ perspectives and recommendations. The pillars are: Corruption and Rule of Law, Effective Public Institutions, Sustainable Economic Opportunities, Participation and Citizens’ Rights and Human Development.
“These five pillars will also serve as sub-themes for driving discussions at the Plenary sessions, while a deep-dive on sectoral issues will be achieved at six Breakout Sessions, which will be facilitated by the NESG Policy Commissions.
“There will also be a number of side events co-hosted with our partners, in the form of four Breakfast Meeting and six Parallel Roundtables tomorrow. This Summit will also host the second edition of our Working Lunch Meeting with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, as well as the inaugural meeting of the NESG/European Business Policy Council,” among others.