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2023: NESG proposes 6-point agenda towards salvaging Nigeria

2023: NESG proposes 6-point agenda towards savaging Nigeria

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has proposed a six-point agenda to nudge Nigeria’s prospective political actors towards actualising the immediate yearnings of Nigerians and effecting sustainable economic change.

The NESG’s Economic Dialogue, which was held in Abuja,to set agenda for politicians jostling for public offices ahead of the 2023 general election, was attended by high-profile political leaders, private and public sector stakeholders, civil society and academia.

The six-point agenda urged the government to rethink what socio-economic development outcomes mean for an average Nigerian, rethink the role of market and the private sector and deepen sectoral reforms to support broad-based growth and competitiveness.

The agenda also urged the nation’s leadership to facilitate integrated national and sub-national approach to economic inclusion and development, pragmatic and actionable social sector reforms and develop workable and inclusive national security strategy in all dimensions.

In his keynote speech, Asue Ighodalo, chairman, NESG, said that the process by which parties select their candidates during the primaries and the characteristics and capacity of persons chosen were crucial to the Nigerian dream.

“The Nigerian government has a pivotal role in addressing, with utmost urgency, six critical challenges causing economic dysfunction. These challenges are non-inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic stability, infrastructure deficit, human capital deficit and skills gap, national insecurity and weak economic competitiveness,” he said.

Ighodalo further said: “We, the citizens, need to pay attention to the quality of our political system, processes, institutions and economic reforms. Our collective responsibility is to deliver a first-world country with happy and safe citizens. This is a call to national service. We must all be more involved, more selfless and tolerant, acting in the national interest.”

Osita Ogbu, director, Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria Nsukka, said enough emphasis was not placed on inequality, adding that inequality undermines the trust, solidarity, and mutuality on which good citizenship is based.

According to him, “Once you have a non-inclusive growth economy, it’s a recipe for what we are already observing in this country. Poverty is pervasive; inequality is pervasive. It is not just a simple matter: there are few rich people and many poor people. It’s a matter of citizenship.

“It’s a matter of how can you expect people who do not have a stake in the country to regard themselves as citizens of this country? When people ask what we do to fix the economy, I always say fix the politics first. If you fix the politics, that’s a major step towards fixing the economy because major economic decisions are made by politicians.”

According to the NESG, the government needs partnership with the private sector to effect positive socio-economic outcomes. This demands a free-market orientation to support growth and inclusion, ensure appropriate pricing, and unlock private capital for economic development.

Meanwhile, external imbalances occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the on-going Russia-Ukraine war provide compelling reasons for countries to look inwards and support domestic value-chain development.

The NESG emphasised that this is applicable to the Nigerian situation. The government needs to prioritise value-added exports for commodities – particularly agricultural products and oil to address cross-sectoral value chain constraints and drive economic growth.

Reinforcing the urgency of adopting this strategy, Ari Aisen, Resident Representative, International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Nigeria, said the global economy has been hit by the second shock of the Russia-Ukraine war, stressing that it puts the economy in a difficult situation.

“Allowing food production to satisfy the citizenry takes precedence over other priorities. Food security is a big objective, and attention must be paid to this sector so it can provide enough food to keep Nigerians from suffering from the shock disproportionately,” Aisen said.

Olisa Agbakoba, Senior Partner, Olisa Agbakoba Legal, said when bad leadership ceases to have an effect, then the effect of bad leadership would cease, wondering why from 1960 till date, the country’s successive leaders had failed.

Currently, most states in the federation experience internally generated revenue constraints and, as a result, live off the monthly subventions from the federation account.

This, the NESG argued, demands an integrated national and sub-national approach to foster economic cooperation between subnational governments, boost intra-regional wealth transfer, and check socio-economic polarisation and inter/intraregional divides. It cited the rice milling partnership between the governments of Lagos and Kebbi as one example of such successful projects that should be encouraged in Nigeria.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks Nigeria’s healthcare system 178th out of 192 countries. Medical tourism and brain drain among health practitioners have also taken a huge toll on the sector, even as Nigeria also accounts for 20percent of the global out-of-school children.

The NESG said a functioning and efficient social sector is critical to developing a resilient economy, and therefore advocated for pragmatic and actionable social sector reforms, particularly in education and health.

Hussaini Abdu, Country Director, CARE International Nigeria, said the country was experiencing a huge social development crisis, adding that the crisis in the university reflects the larger crisis in the education sector.

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“The level of investment in healthcare is extremely poor. Seventy-seven percent of health service delivery in this country is out of pocket. This is how health service is being financed in this country, and it does not work anywhere. It means our health insurance system is not working. It only captures a few civil servants, and the poor are not getting good services.” Abdu said.

Tosin Faniro-Dada, managing director/CEO, Endeavour Nigeria, emphasised the importance of the digital economy and providing support for Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to scale with adequate infrastructure, power supply and skills development.

Samson Itodo, executive director, YIAGA Africa, who was also a panellist at the dialogue, said the conception of public leadership needs to be reviewed, revisited and redesigned in Nigeria, adding that we need a new political mobilisation strategy to sensitise Nigerians on why it is crucial to elect good leaders.

According to him, “If you have a political process that is highly commercialised, plays with a deficit of ideas competition, and is exclusionary of the vast majority of people, what you have at the end of the day is a ruling and political class disconnected from reality.

“The conception of public leadership needs to be reviewed, revisited and redesigned. We need a new political mobilisation strategy to sensitise Nigerians on why it is crucial to elect good leaders. We need to amplify the need for us to register and cast our votes. Voters in 2023 need to be informed voters who understand the issues.”