By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, has called on the Federal Government, non-state actors, and ordinary Nigerians to act with what he described as “fierce urgency” to secure the future of the country.
He spoke at the opening of the 27th summit of the NESG, in Abuja, yesterday, with the theme, “Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency of Now.”
He urged the public and private players in the country to sink their differences, with the purpose of uniting to confront the socio-economic woes facing the nation.
Ighodalo lamented the low economic policy coordination which had held the nation down for so long.
He said: “Three consistent underlying issues that have kept recurring in our advocacy have been the low levels of economic policy coordination, the pace of reforms and the low policy efficiencies and inconsistencies.
“Too many of the crucial policies required to deliver results have simply taken too long to be reviewed, approved and acted upon, resulting in an inability to coordinate various policies that were out of step with each other.
“We note that the NES #26 Report has been presented to the Federal Executive Council and National Economic Council and we eagerly still look forward to the implementation of its key recommendations. The 27th Nigerian Economic Summit, will continue from where we stopped last year, with the theme, Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency of Now.
“We have had two recessions in five years, aggravated by multiple vulnerabilities across political, economic, security, social, environmental, legal and technological fronts. Like never before, the Nigerian Economic Summit is compelled to call on the collective will, capacity, resources and commitment of all leaders in the governing class, in business and in civil society to rise to the occasion of our times.
“This is no time for petty quarrels, blame games and fingerpointing. It is time to secure our future, all working well together, with fierce urgency, utilising every arsenal and capability at our disposal.
“The urgency is also anchored on leveraging on the greatest opportunities of these times, which require the will to make and implement the right choices; the urgency to reopen our economy differently and attractively; the urgency to resolve our security problems; the urgency to ensure macroeconomic stability; the urgency to accelerate our digital and technological capacities; the urgency of seizing the competitive African Market space created by the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area; the urgency to not just grow tax revenues, but to grow our non-oil export earnings; the urgency to attract and acquire fourth industrial revolution technologies, and the urgency to create innovative and transformative solutions to social problems and to climate change issues
“The fierce urgency of now implies that unless we take deliberate and focused steps to transform our society, Nigeria will be left far behind not just by the world but also by several emergent bright spots in Africa, and our people will continue to wallow in poverty, hunger, insecurity and division.
“We can no longer afford to dream and theorize about the right policies, projects and programmes that will prepare us for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or gaze in admiration or envy at other countries as they leave us far behind.”
Pervasive despondency among youths
Ighodalo noted that Nigerian youths were leaving the country in droves, resulting in the nation losing large number of its best brains and skilled manpower, out of despondency because the people at the helm of affairs have failed to give them hope.
“We also cannot continue to allow the pervasive despondency leading our youth to migrate, to other countries. We are losing their skills and talent at a time when we need our best minds to tackle our most pressing problems and challenges. Nigeria must be a beacon of hope and possibilities.
“We must be humble to accept where we have taken wrong policy positions and reverse ourselves. We must be open to new ideas and innovations that can quickly transform our economy.
“We must act boldly and with courage, in the best interest of all Nigerians. The world is looking at us; but the world is not waiting for us.
“There are still too many of our people who are too poor and without hope, too many of our children who are out of school and without care, too many of our able men and women without work, and too many of our businesses without prospects.
“We are still too dependent on crude oil and there are still too many points of deliberate leakage in our government. Nigerians feel unsafe and insecure.“
Today’s need mustn’t compromise future —Finance Minister
In her address, the Minister of Finance, Budget and national Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said the future of the nation should not be compromised by the attempts to meet current needs.
She added that policy changes towards achieving the national economic growth desired by Nigerians must be sustained.
“The required investments and policy changes must be implemented in a sustainable and inclusive manner, ensuring that the needs of the present do not compromise the prosperity of future generations.
“Thus, in developing interventions, the well being of present and future citizens of Nigeria must be guaranteed,” she said.
The minister said she envisioned a Nigeria where citizens lived above poverty, with access to education, health and other social amenities.
She added: “I envision a Nigeria with a majority of the citizens lifted out of poverty and given access to fundamental services such as education, healthcare, water supply and sanitation, in line with the policy direction of the present administration.
“I envision a future with economic growth led by a thriving and innovative private sector resulting in a diversified economy with non-oil taxes as the major source of government revenue and the non-oil economy driving export expansion and accretion to our foreign reserves.
“I see a future where our young and vibrant population is driving growth in high value-added services in the digital economy and professional, scientific and technical services.
“I envision a globally competitive Nigeria at the forefront of advances in medium and high-tech manufacturing, characterised by increased product complexity and leveraging on our natural endowments.
”Lastly, I envision a future that is safe and secure, in which Nigerian citizens and foreign investors can trade and conduct business transactions with ease.
“This future we all crave will be achieved by the dedication and hard work of all stakeholders, with leadership at the federal, state and local government levels and in collaboration with the corporate sector.”
Mrs. Ahmed urged the private sector to show greater commitment to growing the economy and driving the overall development of the nation.
She said: “The business sector is a key engine of growth that must play a crucial role in achieving the future we envisage. To realize this future, a paradigm shift is incontrovertible.
“This will entail comprehensive and targeted reforms, a reorientation of our national values, and a radical shift in our attitudes to taxation and public financial management.
“This is consistent with the focus of this Administration on targeted investment in critical infrastructure and social development.”