By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
The Federal Government has said that it welcomes the initiative by the United Nations, UN, in collaboration with some development partners to complement Nigeria’s COVID-19 economic recovery efforts under the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan, ESP.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who appreciated the UN gesture to mobilize $250 million to support Nigeria’s ESP, said it was a fitting acknowledgement of the country’s effort in addressing the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this at the launch of the United Nations Plus Offer for Socio-Economic Recovery attended by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs Amina Mohammed, and top officials of the world body, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
A statement issued on Tuesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande explained that the UN Plus Offer was an initiative of the UN in Nigeria and Nigeria Development Partners Group.
According to the statement, “The Offer aligns with the government’s Economic Sustainability Plan. It seeks to mobilize close to $250 million and will provide targeted support to the development of health response systems ($13.78 m); protecting people ($53.3); macroeconomic stability and economic recovery ($30.7); as well as social protection (26.6m) to assist communities in building back better.”
Speaking on the importance of the initiative, the Vice President said “I think that rallying to support and thinking through a programme such as the UN Plus Offer for socio-economic recovery is a demonstration of the kinship that we developed with our partners and the United Nations.
“This initiative is also important because it mirrors our Economic Sustainability Plan and also does so in excellent complement of our plan. This is very helpful to us because we put together a plan that will cost us N2.3 trillion and half of that is in the form of loans and facilities and the other half of it is budgeted funds.
“But we still have a huge gap and that gap is being made up in this initiative. And we are extremely pleased that this had been a thoughtful collaboration because it takes into account where we have been unable to make up the financing and takes into account a plan which we had developed.
“So, it is not in any sense, an attempt by supporters and friends to impose new ideas or trajectories upon us. We are all at one in the direction that we intend to go and we think that this is an excellent feat for all our plans.”
Aligning the UN initiative to Nigeria’s ESP, Prof. Osinbajo said “much has been said about the ESP but one of the critical issues is social protection. And it has become even more urgent especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdowns and of course the disruptions that have taken place.
“The ESP is one that we intend to vigorously pursue. We don’t really have much of an option if we are to address the real concerns of several of our people.
The other aspect of it is the informal sector – young men and women who make a living by daily pay. And the focus of several of our initiatives in the plan is addressing the particular concerns for this category of workers.
“So, part of what the President approved in the ESP is more funding for about 1 million new entrants in our Social Investment Programme. And we think that we really have to do a lot more, we have increased the numbers because really, what people need the most is to be given the opportunity to earn a living.”
Earlier in her remark, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs. Amina Mohammed said the launch of the initiative is a demonstration of an effective partnership between the UN system and the Buhari administration.
She said various components of the initiative will expedite interventions in the four key areas which according to her is also being addressed under the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan.
“This offer is aimed at supporting Nigeria in its immediate efforts at risk mitigation by cushioning vulnerable communities, and through medium-term measures that will aid socio-economic recovery while addressing structural drivers of exclusion, inequalities and discrimination as a component of recovering better,” Mrs Mohammed noted.
On his part, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative and Chair of the Nigeria Development Partners Group, Mr Mohammed Yahaya said the offer was in response to the UN Secretary General’s call for action, noting that the Offer is to support the government’s action on post-COVID-19 medium-term socio-economic recovery.
Other officials of the Federal Government present at the event include the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; among others.
Officials from the UN and development partners include, Deputy Secretary General, Mrs Amina Mohammed; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Mr Mohammed Yahya; Special Representatives of the UN Secretary General to the West Africa and the Sahel, Mr Mohammed Ibn Chambas; Special Representatives of the UN Secretary General to the African Union, Ms Hannah Telleh; UN Resident Coordinator, Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon; Co-Chair Nigeria Development Partners Group, Christopher Pycroft; among others.