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Full Text of President Buhari’s Address At The First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat

Address By His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria, At The First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat, State House Conference Centre, Abuja.
7th September, 2020. Read by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) as follows:

PROTOCOLS

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat. We are meeting a time that mankind is struggling to overcome the economic and social crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life as we knew it. The consequences of the pandemic will no doubt influence our deliberations at this gathering, especially as we will have to adjust our policy approaches and methods of working going forward.

  1. I stressed at last year’s Retreat that the Nigerian people expect dedication and commitment by all of us in implementing policies, programmes and projects to improve the quality of their lives and set Nigeria on the path of prosperity. I also reiterated the resolve of this Administration to set the stage for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years. Even today, these remain our overriding objectives.
  2. The priorities we set for ourselves were around nine inter-related and inter-connected areas, which are: stabilizing the economy; achieving agriculture and food security; attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products; improving transportation and other infrastructure; driving industrialization with a special focus on SMEs; expanding access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians; enhancing social inclusion by scaling up social investments; as well as building a system to fight corruption, improve governance and strengthen national security.
  3. In the course of the past year, Ministers have rendered reports to the Federal Executive Council on their activities and outputs related to the achievement of these objectives. Some of the notable achievements include:

i. Economic recovery prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. The economy recovered from a recession and we witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 0.8% in 2017 to 2.2% in 2019, but declined in the first quarter of 2020, as a result of the downward trend in global economic activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ii. Implementation of a Willing Buyer, Willing Seller Policy for the power sector, has opened up opportunities for increased delivery of electricity to homes and industries. We are also executing some critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, which will result in the transmission and distribution of a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023.

iii. On transportation, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure. The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund projects are also progressing very well. These include the 11.9 km Second Niger Bridge, 120 km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and 375 km Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Expressway. At the same time, we are actively extending and upgrading our railway networks, as well as our airports which are being raised to international standard with the provision of necessary equipment, to guarantee world class safety standard.

iv. The Government has continued to support the Agricultural sector, the key to diversification of our economy, through schemes such as the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme.

v. The work of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has resulted in Nigeria moving up 39 places on the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking since 2015 and Nigeria is now rated as one of the top ten reforming countries. We are confident that the on-going ease of doing business reforms would result in further improvement of this rating.

vi. Nigeria’s Law Enforcement Agencies have significantly scaled up their footprint across the country. As part of the efforts towards strengthening our internal security architecture, the Ministry of Police Affairs was created. Amongst others, we have increased investments in arms, weapons and other necessary equipment, expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen States of the Federation, and established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund, which will significantly improve funding for the Nigeria Police Force. We have also approved the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of the Community Policing initiative across the country, as part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at boosting security nationwide[1] .

vii. Efforts are also being made to empower the youth and provide for poor and vulnerable groups by enhancing investments in our Social Investment Programmes.

  1. These accomplishments are a testament to the fact that all hands are on deck in establishing a solid foundation for even greater successes in future.
  2. Distinguished participants, when we met one year ago, little did we know that the world would be in a serious economic, social and health crisis that had left even the major economies in disarray, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as in other jurisdictions, the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria has experienced a severe shock. Nearly 55,000 of our people have been infected with the virus while we have recorded 1,054 deaths by 4th September. The economy contracted by -6.1 per cent in the second quarter of this year; normal schooling has been disrupted; businesses are struggling and in certain instances completely closed; many people have lost their jobs and earning a living has been difficult. It has been a trying time for all of us and particularly for those in the informal sector who make their living from daily earnings.
  3. It has not been any easier for Governments, Federal and State alike. As a result of the poor fortunes of the oil sector, our revenues and foreign exchange earnings have fallen drastically. Our revenues have fallen by almost 60%. Yet we have had to sustain expenditures, especially on salaries and capital projects. We acted to mitigate the effect of the economic slowdown by adopting an Economic Sustainability Plan but we have also had to take some difficult decisions to stop unsustainable practices that were weighing the economy down.
  4. The N2.3 Trillion Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), consists of fiscal, monetary and sectoral measures to enhance local production, support businesses, retain and create jobs and provide succour to Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable. In addition to improving the health sector, the ESP lays emphasis on labour-intensive interventions in agriculture, light manufacturing, housing, and facilities management. It also complements on-going major infrastructural projects in power, road and rail by prioritising the building of rural roads, information and telecommunications technologies as well as providing solar power to homes which were not hitherto connected to the National Grid.
  5. Alongside interventions in these critical areas, including agriculture and food security, affordable housing, technology, health, and providing jobs for youths and women post-COVID; the ESP will also provide different avenues whereby Government will support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to enable them respond to the economic challenges of COVID-19. This includes safeguarding about 300,000 jobs in 100,000 MSMEs by guaranteeing off-take of priority products; and Survival Fund to support vulnerable SMEs in designated vulnerable sectors in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguarding jobs from the shock of COVID-19.
  6. Under the ESP MSMEs component, both the Survival Fund (Payroll support), and the Guaranteed Off-take Scheme, GoS, are to impact about 1.7 million individuals within a three to five months timeline. Also, 45 per cent of total business beneficiaries will be female owned; and 5 per cent of total business beneficiaries will be dedicated to special needs business owners.[2]
  7. In addition, under the Survival Fund (payroll support) scheme; 250,000 new business names are to be registered at a discounted rate of N6,000 by the CAC, but this will be free for the MSMEs; while 330,000 transport workers and artisans will get one-time grants of N30,000 each.
  8. Following an MOU to be signed by BOI and the FG, the total beneficiaries for Survival Fund Scheme tracks are about 33,000 beneficiaries per State; with a minimum payroll support at N30,000 and maximum support is N50,000.
  9. The COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a severe downturn in the funds available to finance our budget and has severely hampered our capacity to ..one of the steps we took at the beginning of the crisis in March when oil prices collapsed at the height of the global lockdown, was the deregulation of the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) such that the benefit of lower prices at that time was passed to consumers. This was welcome by all and sundry. The effect of deregulation though is that PMS prices will change with changes in global oil prices. This means quite regrettably that as oil prices recover we would see some increases in PMS prices. This is what has happened now. When global prices rose, it meant that the price of petrol locally will go up.
  10. There are several negative consequences if Government should even attaempt to go back to the business of fixing or subsidizing PMS prices. First of all, it would mean a return to the costly subsidy regime . Today we have 60% less revenues, we just cannot afford the cost. The second danger is the potential return of fuel queues – which has, thankfully, become a thing of the past under this administration. Nigerians no longer have to endure long queues just to buy petrol, often at highly inflated prices. Also, as I hinted earlier, there is no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget, simply because we are not able to afford it, if reasonable provisions must be made for health, education and other social services.[3] We now simply have no choice.

Nevertheless, I want to assure our compatriots that Government is extremely mindful of the pains that higher prices mean at this time, and we do not take the sacrifices that all Nigerians have to make for granted. We will continue to seek ways and means of cushioning pains especially for the most vulnerable in our midst. We will also remain alert to our responsibilities to ensure that marketers do not exploit citizens by raising pump price arbitrarily . This is the role that government must now play through the PPPRA. This explains why the PPPRA made the announcement a few days ago setting the range of price that must not be exceeded by marketers. The advantage we now have is that anyone can bring in petroleum products and compete with marketers, that way the price of petrol will be keep coming down.

  1. The recent service based tariff adjustment by the Discos has also been a source of concern for many of us. Let me say frankly that like many Nigerians I have been very unhappy about the quality of service given by the Discos, but there are many constraints including poor transmission capacity and distribution capacity. I have already signed off on the first phase of the Siemens project to address many of these issues. Because of the problems with the privatization exercise government has had to keep supporting the largely privatized electricity industry . So far to keep the industry going we have spent almost 1.7 trillion, especially by way of supplementing tariffs shortfalls. We do not have the resources at this point to continue in this way and it will be grossly irresponsibl e to borrow to subsidize a generation and distribution which are both privatized. But we also have a duty to ensure that the large majority of those who cannot afford to pay cost reflective tariffs are protected from increases. NERC the industry regulator therefore approved that tariff adjustments had to be made but only on the basis of guaranteed improvement in service. Under this new arrangement only customers who are guaranteed a minimum of 12 hours of power and above can have their tariffs adjusted. Those who get less than 12 hours supply, or the Band D and E Customers MUST be maintained on lifeline tariffs, meaning that they will experience no increase. Government has also taken notice of the complaints about arbitrary estimated billing. Accordingly, a mass metering program is being undertaken to provide meters for over 5 million Nigerians, largely driven by preferred procurement from local manufacturers – creating thousands of jobs in the process. NERC has also committed to strictly enforcing the capping regulation which will ensure that unmetered customers are not charged beyond the metered customers in their neighbourhood.
  2. In addressing the power problems we must not forget that most Nigerians are not even connected to electricity at all. So as part of the Economic Sustainability Plan, we are providing Solar home systems to 5 million Nigerian households in the next 12 months. We have already begun the process of providing financing support through the CBN for manufacturers and retailers of Off Grid Solar Home Systems and Mini-Grids who are to provide the systems . The Five million systems under the ESP’s Solar Power Strategy will produce 250,000 jobs and impact up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation [4] This means that more Nigerians will have access to electricity via a reliable and sustainable solar system.
  3. The support to Solar Home System manufacturers and the bulk procurement of local meters will create over 300,000 local jobs while ensuring that we set Nigeria on a path to full electrification. The tariff review is not about the increase, which will only affect the top electricity consumers, but establishing a system which will definitely lead to improved service for all at a fair and reasonable price. [5]
  4. There has been some concern expressed about the timing of these two necessary adjustments. It is important to stress that it is a mere coincidence in the sense that the deregulation of PMS prices happened quite some time ago, it was announced on 18 March 2020 and the price moderation that took place at the beginning of this month was just part of the on-going monthly adjustments to global crude oil prices. Similarly, the review of service-based electricity tariffs was scheduled to start at the beginning of July but was put on hold to enable further studies and proper arrangements to be made. This government is not insensitive to the current economic difficulties our people are going through and the very tough economic situation we face as a nation, and we certainly will not inflict hardship on our people. But we are convinced that if we stay focused on our plans brighter more prosperous days will come soon. Ministers and senior officials must accordingly ensure the vigorous and prompt implementation of the ESP programmes, which will give succour to Nigerians.
  5. In this regard, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has created credit facilities (of up to N100B) for the Healthcare (N100 Billion) and Manufacturing (N1 Trillion) sectors. From January, 2020 to date, over N191.87B has already been disbursed for 76 real sectors projects under the N1TRN Real Sector Scheme; while 34 Healthcare projects have been funded to a tune of N37.159B under the Healthcare Sector Intervention Facility. The facilities are meant to address some of the infrastructural gap in the healthcare and manufacturing sector as a fall out to the COVID-19 pandemic and to facilitate the attainment of the Governors 5-year strategic plan.[6]
  6. Distinguished participants, to address our current economic challenges, and consolidate on our achievements over the past year, this retreat has been designed to:

▪ Review the performance of each Minister in delivering the priority mandates, including programmes and projects assigned to them upon their appointment in 2019;

▪ Identify key impediments to implementation; and

▪ Re-strategize on how to accelerate delivery of results, given the current economic situation.

  1. The retreat would also provide the opportunity to effectively evaluate the activities of the Ministries over the last twelve months with regard to the delivery of our agenda and promise to Nigerians.
  2. The Ministers are urged to work closely with the Permanent Secretaries to ensure accelerated and effective delivery of the policies, programmes and projects in the priority areas. I have also directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to intensify efforts at deepening the work of the Delivery Unit under his coordination towards ensuring effective delivery of Government Policies, Programmes and Projects in the coming years. It is also my expectation that progress on performance of the implementation of the 9 priority areas will be reported on a regular basis.
  3. In closing, I encourage optimal participation and contribution by all participants, while observing all the necessary safety protocols and compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.
  4. On this note, it is my pleasure to formally declare this Retreat open. I look forward to a very fruitful session and stimulating exchange of views.
  5. Thank you.
  6. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

We Have Put Together A Stimulus Package of N2.3 Trillion – Vice President

The Office of The Vice President Said We Have Put Together A Stimulus Package of N2.3 Trillion. In a statement the Vice President was quoted to have said: “How we are converting COVID-19 Pandemic to opportunity to reset the economy.

Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, issued the statement yesterday, which reads:

In spite of the despair that came with the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant consequences, Nigeria decided to seize the opportunity to reset the economy amidst worldwide economic challenges, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo stated this in Abuja on Tuesday at a Webinar organised by the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, CWEIC, with its focus on Nigeria.

According to the Vice President, “it seemed the sun was beginning to shine quite brightly after the years of recession and its immediate aftermath. Then came COVID-19 possibly the worst economic crisis the world has seen. For us in Nigeria, it was a perfect storm for oil prices, Russia and Saudi Arabia choosing that very moment for a price war. Then the inevitable lockdowns resulting in closure of businesses, our huge informal economy all but crashed and Government revenues fell too by over 40%.

“But the silver linings were perhaps bolder in the dark clouds.

The President decided that we could seize the opportunity to reset our economy in a way that may have been impossible had there not been a worldwide economic crash.

“I was asked to chair an inter-ministerial team to develop our Economic Sustainability Plan. A plan which we hope will, in the next 12 months or so, avoid a deep and prolonged recession by supporting businesses and households, but perhaps more importantly, addressing long-term structural vulnerabilities

“Taking into account our economic size and fiscal limitations, we have put together a stimulus package of N2.3trillion, which is just over 1.5% of national income. If other factors like the price of oil and length of the COVID-19 pandemic do not worsen further, these interventions should ameliorate the situation with a mild recession expected of minus 0.59%.”

Other speakers at the international webinar include Lord Marland of Odstock, the Chairman of the CWEIC, Sir Lynton Crosby, Chief Executive Officer C|T Group and the Industry, Trade & Investment Minister, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo.

REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE COMMONWEALTH ENTERPRISE AND INVESTMENT COUNCIL FOCUS ON NIGERIA WEBINAR ON THE 14TH OF JULY, 2020

Protocols

Thank you for that kind introduction. I am pleased to be participating in this special session focused on Nigeria. There is never a good time for a pandemic, but there can be a terribly wrong time.

That’s how it seemed three months ago as COVID – 19 began to ravage. January 2020, oil prices approached $70 a barrel for the first time since the crash of 2015/2016 which saw prices crash to sub $30 a barrel, Q3 2019 growth was 2.55%, modest but clearly on the upward trajectory, 3% growth was well in sight.

Our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan was beginning to make sense. Work was on-going in major rail, road and bridge projects along the main national trade corridors. The Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) arrangements on our Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Train 7 which will unlock an additional 30% more LNG output had commenced.

It seemed the sun was beginning to shine quite brightly after the years of recession and its immediate aftermath. Then came COVID-19, possibly the worst economic crisis the world has seen. For us in Nigeria, it was a perfect storm for oil prices, Russia and Saudi Arabia choosing that very moment for a price war. Then the inevitable lockdowns resulting in closure of businesses, our huge informal economy all but crashed and Government revenues fell too by over 40%.

But the silver linings were perhaps bolder in the dark clouds. The President decided that we could seize the opportunity to reset our economy in a way that may have been impossible had there not been a worldwide economic crash.

I was asked to chair an inter-ministerial team to develop our Economic Sustainability Plan. A plan which we hope will in the next 12 months or so, avoid a deep and prolonged recession by supporting businesses and households, but perhaps more importantly, addressing long-term structural vulnerabilities.

Taking into account our economic size and fiscal limitations, we have put together a stimulus package of N2.3trillion, which is just over 1.5% of national income. If other factors like the price of oil and length of the COVID-19 pandemic do not worsen further, these interventions should ameliorate the situation with a mild recession expected of minus 0.59%.

We have taken the opportunity to remove petrol subsidies and to insist that power distribution companies must engage with customers to ensure that new tariffs are based only on improved power supply. We are talking of service reflective tariffs.

The Central Bank of Nigeria is also committing to moving to a unified exchange rate, to improve certainty in trade and investment. In addition to using fiscal and monetary measures to stimulate the economy, our main objectives are to retain and create jobs, to assist vulnerable people, support businesses and undertake infrastructural investments. I am happy to see from the research that jobs, retaining jobs and creating more opportunities tops Nigerians’ priorities when it comes to what they believe the COVID-19 response should be like.

Some key interventions include: Jobs for Food which is an agricultural programme aimed at expanding the acreage under cultivation across the country, to create, we hope, hundreds of thousands of jobs and we also intend to guarantee uptake processors, aggregators and to some extent, by government.

We also have a Jobs through Homes programme which is a programme to provide jobs and increase our national housing stock, at the same time by a massive social housing programme where we intend to engage young professionals and artisans who are involved at the moment, in small businesses, building and using local products such as cements, doors, tiles, windows and paint.

We also have a Solar Homes Systems Programme where we intend to engage private solar power companies who will be able to access cheap loans to provide modular solar-powered units to about 5 million households which will roughly translate to serve 25 million people in rural or under-served areas. At the moment, we have about 40million homes without power. So, we expect that this will be a major dent in that deficit.

The scale required means we will be encouraging suppliers to establish production facilities in the country. We expect to be able to attract solar companies to establish manufacturing and assembly plants in Nigeria.

Supporting small businesses is also a priority and I am sure the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment will talk more about it.

We are also looking at the Future of Jobs programme in technology taking into account the ‘new normalʼ, our creative and significant youth population and the need to prepare our economy to be an outsourcing hub, providing services across the whole gamut of possible technology engagements, including animation, software engineering and data analysis.

These are areas where we have invested considerably already and we intend to do a bit more and we hope that some of the efforts we put into the response will address these areas even more pointedly.

To be sure, improving health outcomes is very much part of the package. To meet the immediate challenge, we have dug deep to find resources to respond to the pandemic. We have more built isolation centres and laboratories, incentivizing medical personnel, buying test kits and personal protective equipment, as well as several other medical equipment.

We have increased the number of modular laboratories that can handle COVID-19 samples from 5 at the onset of the pandemic to 39 today.

The crisis has also revealed significantly, the vulnerability of our health sector. So, as part of the Economic Sustainability Plan, we are also looking at the universal health coverage, about improving the work we are doing in universal health insurance with a view to universal health coverage by a combination of public finance and mandatory social insurance.

While we are bullish on promoting local production, we remain committed to engaging with our traditional trading partners. This is in recognition of the potential contribution of trade to growth.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is pertinent in this regard, but so certainly is also trade with our Commonwealth partners, including the United Kingdom. This was indeed evident from Nigeria’s participation in the UK-Africa Investment Forum held earlier this year. It is particularly noteworthy that intra-Commonwealth trade is projected to rise from an estimated $1trillion this year to $2.75trillion by 2030 and we intend to be a major part of this growth.

It is not news of course that the COVID-19 pandemic has distorted international trade with disruption of global value chains, export bans, and protectionist policies. On our part, Nigeria remains committed to the multilateral trade system but we will ensure that our economy is not subjected to unfair trade practices.

Ultimately, we see Nigeria as ‘Africa’s Gateway Economy’. As the continent’s most populous nation and its largest economy, we think that we can leverage our geographical location, which is right in the middle of far-flung Commonwealth countries, we are poised to catalyze intra-Commonwealth trade. Our investments in fast-growing sectors and infrastructure, power, rail, roads and several other areas especially technology where we think we can benefit from other Commonwealth countries.

Once again, I thank the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council for convening this important discussion especially now, when we certainly see a greater need for socio-economic engagements with our Commonwealth partners and we are set and ready to continue these engagements and we look forward to not just what this particular session will bring but to all our future cooperation.

Thank you very much indeed.