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Osinbajo to Protesters: We Heard You Loud and Clear

Osinbajo to protesters: We heard you loud and clear
One Voice Nigeria, a Non-Governmental Organisation on a peaceful protest in Lagos on Monday. Photo: Okoya Olatunde/NAN
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has told Nigerians who filed out today to protest the high cost of living and the economic crisis that government has heard them “loud and clear”.

Osinbajo spoke today during a meeting between between the Economic Management Team and the Private Sector on the Economic Recovery Growth Plan, which is to be launched later this month.

“We hear you loud and clear, those who are on the streets protesting the economic situation and even those who are are not, but feel the pain of economic hardship. We hear you loud and clear. You deserve a decent life and and we are working night and day to make life easier,” he said.

“The government is one that is determined to give the ordinary man a fair deal. You have the right to live well and descent, and we are committed to making that happen. But years of deterioration and corruption cannot be remedied over night.

“But again, we must emphasise that it is our business and our duty to ensure that we put the Nigerian economy on a path of sustained growth.And that is exactly what we are determined to do.” the vice-president said.

Osinbajo recalled President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement a few months ago on the economic crisis:

Buhari said then: “I know that uppermost in your minds today is the economic crisis, the recession for many individuals and families is real. For some it means not being able to pay school fees, for others it is not being able to afford the high cost of rice, millet, or of local or international travel. And for many of our young people the recession means joblessness, sometimes after graduating from university or polytechnic.

“I know how difficult things are, and how rough business is. All my adult life I have always earned a salary, and I know what it is like when your salary simply is not enough. In every part of our nation people are making incredible sacrifices,” Buhari said.

According to Osinbajo, the journey out of the damage caused by years of neglect and corruption is bound to be difficult but there is a glorious light at the end of the tunnel. Let us work together, steadfastly and patiently for the economic change that will come very soon”.

Osinbajo said that the federal government had in the past 13 months intervened in the economy three times to give the states enough resources to pay salaries.

According to him the government’s last intervention happened in December 2016 when the federal government refunded the Paris Club debt which it owed states since 2005 even when oil sold for $115 per barrel.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari insisted that the refund must be made and said that at least 50 per cent of it be used for payment of workers’ salaries.

He said the administration was bent on implementing that Presidential directive adding that many states had used that for the purpose in December.

He said it had always been the concern of Buhari and the government to ensure that the most vulnerable in the society took as little of the pain as possible.

Osinbajo remarked that the social investment programme of the administration had been rolled out targeting 500,000 unemployed graduates for the N-power volunteer scheme.

He also said the government had started paying N5,000 a month to the poorest Nigerians as part of the conditional cash transfer scheme.

Osinbajo added that the home-grown school feeding programme had started in many states adding that credit facilities were being provided for 1.6 million market women, traders and artisans.

The Acting President said that the administration’s comprehensive economic strategy was the growth plan being considered by the stakeholders.

He, however, observed that certain things had been considered that must happen in the plan for it to yield good results.

“The first is agriculture and food security, the second is energy which covers power and petroleum product sufficiency.

“The third is industrialisation and small business and the fourth is stabilising the macro-economic environment and especially foreign exchange policy.’’

Osinbajo said that every of the target must happen in the short and immediate term, adding that government was working to ensure that it achieved them.

He said the ERGP spelt out step by step how the administration intended to make them to happen adding that the stakeholders’ contributions would enrich the debate and quality of the growth plan.

Osinbajo said that fundamental to the growth of the economy, was government’s plan to involve the private sector in view of the fact that the administration could not do it alone.

He said most of the efforts at developing the economy would come from the private sector.

He assured that government would provide the environment that would be favourable to achieving the targets.

The Budget and National Planning Minister, Sen. Udoma Udoma, said in a speech that the specific objectives of the forum were to review the context of the ERGP and share the plan’s structure and discus potential key initiatives.

He added that the forum was also to solicit feedback from the private sector noting that the plan was to drive the Nigerian to a minimum GDP growth rate of seven per cent within the plan period of 2017 to 2020.

“Our plan is to have an economy with low inflation, stable exchange rates and a diversified and inclusive growth,’’ he added.

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