Global Patriots Newspapers’ International Conference On Patriotism On 06/03/2021
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE GLOBAL PATRIOTS NEWSPAPERS’ INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PATRIOTISM ON THE 6TH OF MARCH, 2021
First, let me thank the organizers for this very kind invitation to be here today to participate in this very important conversation. I think the convener of this conference and publisher of the Global Patriot newspaper, Mr. Simon Ibe, and all co-conveners, deserve praise for providing this platform for this important conversation on Patriotism, Security, Governance, and Nation-Building.
This opportunity is greatly enriched by the quality and diversity of participants, especially our compatriots from the civil society, public service, including the international public service, from business and the diaspora community.
I don’t think there is any question at all that we meet today at moments of considerable challenges for our nation. The economy, security and national unity deserve special mention. These problems grave as they are, present some of the best opportunities for the socio-economic advancement, stability and prosperity of Nigeria.
They provide the circumstances, in my respectable view, for reinventing our economy, reinventing the social contract between the government and the people, and the design and purposes of the republic itself.
The COVID-19 pandemic struck at the heart of our resurgent economy. Prior to that, our economy had recorded 4 consecutive quarters of growth, but the pandemic cost us jobs, revenues, local and foreign investment and a good amount of resentment and some restiveness in the community. But in answer, we designed an Economic Sustainability Plan, focusing on creating hundreds of thousands of jobs by a massive investment in infrastructural development. The key areas in that massive infrastructural development were mass agriculture, mass housing and a five million solar connection scheme in the first phase.
As much as possible, we focused on the use of local materials, labor and expertise with the objective of creating jobs and opportunities, and putting money in the hands of as many as possible. The plan included a Survival Fund, which gave priority to 45% female beneficiaries and 5% of Nigerians with special needs.
The fund included Payroll Support for 500,000 employees from diverse small businesses who receive salaries for their staff for three months, also a Guaranteed Offtake Scheme where government guarantees payment for the production of certain items especially masks and personal protection equipment. Also, a 100,000 MSMEs are also benefitting from the Support for Artisans, 166,000 artisans across the country and another 166,000 transport workers also benefitted from that support.
There is also a Formalization Support Scheme, where 250,000 new businesses are receiving free company registration from the fund, then there is a general grant to MSMEs with 100,000 beneficiaries.
For the mass agriculture of the scheme, we enumerated 5.4million farmers, but there are two interesting aspects. First is that for the first time, we geotagged the farmers to their own farmlands making it easier for us to identify where these farmers are actually located. We were able to ensure that about half of the 5.4million received BVNs in our massive push for financial inclusions, which is one of our objectives.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has also disbursed, as part of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), about ₦557billion to 2,885,580 farmers cultivating about 3,572,786.48 hectares of 23 staple and cash crops, as well as rearing aquaculture, livestock (dairy) and poultry across the country.
The sum of ₦64billion has also been recently disbursed for the 2020/2021 dry season farming, an important part of our food security effort and also an important part of ensuring that farmers, especially new farmers coming into the business for the first time, are resourced.
Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme, (AgSMEIS), a scheme that had been in existence before, but was given extra funding for the purposes of the Economic Sustainability Plan, disbursed the sum of ₦106billion to 27,956 beneficiaries. The minimum disbursement is N150,000 and maximum is N10million, depending on the type of farmer and the size of the farming enterprise itself.
We have also had targeted disbursements to poultry farmers to help offset working capital requirements for feeds, this was a significant problem, but we were able to target poultry farmers.
The sum of ₦192billion has been disbursed to 426,016 beneficiaries as part of the Targeted Credit Facility, this again, is a CBN disbursement. 375,244 households have been beneficiaries, of that number, about 50,000 MSMEs have received between N80,000 and N1million. This has been spread across the country.
The ESP also had specific interventions for the Manufacturing Sector, again under CBN disbursements, a total of about ₦467billion has been disbursed to 129 projects. 32 of which were agricultural projects, especially in food processing; 20 in services; 10 in mining; and 68 manufacturing projects. This has created in excess of about 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Key projects that have been funded include the Lagos rail project, Steel Complex in Kaduna by African Natural Resources and Mines Ltd, BUA cement expansion, Pacific energy expansion and 11 companies also for gas expansion.
We also did considerable interventions in the health sector with the Healthcare Sector Intervention Facility (HSIF), with disbursements of up to ₦76billion to 76 projects, mostly pharmaceuticals and hospitals. These included the financing of the acquisition and installation of 16 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines by hospitals across the country; 22 medical scanning machines by hospitals across the country, and the expansion of production lines in various pharmaceutical companies across the country.
As we all know, the latest GDP figures show that we have exited the recession, the second in four years. The reason I have gone through some of these interventions in detail is to demonstrate how the ESP was largely instrumental for enabling us to exit the recession. But I also want to underscore the fact that exiting a recession, especially where it is induced by a pandemic where there is unplanned loss of jobs, opportunities, and investments, where that happens, you need a lot more money.
Many countries of the world that intervened had to spend a lot of money, even countries that would ordinarily not encourage these types of budgetary spending, many of them had to undertake serious spending.
We were constrained by revenues, and we are not like the US or the UK; we simply cannot issue more currency, which would create the sorts of problems we are all familiar with. We need more revenues to do a lot more in terms of more rapid growth.
The growth rate of 0.11% though marginal, is encouraging because it is a V-shaped recovery with a growth of 3.74 percentage points from the previous quarter, which is why there is some reason to cheer. Indeed, although growth for the full year 2020 was still negative at
-1.92%, it was far better than the predictions by domestic analysts and international agencies.
We are now set for sustained growth in the coming months, however, there are constraints and we can debate those, but our view is that our focus is on productivity, in other words, value addition.
In agriculture, our focus is on the processing of raw produce rather than the export of raw produce, which is why some of the targeted funding has gone into food processing.
Adding value in our view means adding more jobs and the value chain makes more money, same with mining, more beneficiation. Already we have seen quite a few investments in gold refining, manufacturing, especially light manufacturing is key. It is our view that this country, especially with the opportunity provided by the African Free Trade Continental Area agreement, AfCFTA, can be the factory for the continent. This is entirely possible and of course, there are many who would say we have power problems, but quite frankly I think that even factoring in all of that, we can still deliver cheaper goods and this is evident with what we are able to do even with the constraints that we have across Africa.
We have been discussing the prospects of zero taxes for machinery generally because machines mean production in one form or the other; more enterprises can benefit from machinery.
We must of course encourage investments in information and communications technologies, creative industries, tourism, amongst others. This is one of the areas that there have been some targeted interventions.
In sum, government policy should be geared to making Nigeria a value-adding economy, especially in our areas of comparative advantage. And talking of comparative advantage, Nigeria must leverage its trading talents. We have some of the greatest traders and entrepreneurs in the world, such that we can become a global trading hub.
It is important to loosen generalized restrictions on trade. This is a conversation that we have been having, there are arguments between the fiscal and monetary authorities on some of these issues, especially on account of foreign exchange.
Many of us on the fiscal side believe that blanket import restrictions are a dampener on economic activity because a lot of items that might be needed in the manufacturing process might be affected with consequent negative impact on value addition in the economy. So, these times have helped in focusing our minds on the fastest and most inclusive pathways to prosperity for Nigeria.
Our security situation is a many-sided one, but not only is it surmountable, but it also presents great opportunities. Somehow it is evident to me that aside from all the kinetic and non-kinetic interventions required to deal with the security situation, there is a demand for a high level of patriotism.
This is a time when hostile non-state actors and sundry criminal elements have intensified their assault on our society and our way of life. These threats to the safety and wellbeing of our people have encouraged agents of hate and intolerance to sow strife and breed enmity between communities that have lived together for centuries.
These voices are championing the idea that the path to peace and security lies in denigrating our common destiny and disintegrating our union. It is my respectful view that they are profoundly wrong. But it is not enough to know and say so, we are called to adopt a steady and steely resolve, neither to encourage nor condone these notions. We must not succumb to terror or to any form of hopelessness.
Consider, for example, the recent incident at Shasha Market in Oyo State, which was widely reported as an ethnic conflict between people of the Yoruba and Hausa extraction. The background is that Shasha has been a market where traders who come in from the North have brought their market produce for at least decades. But on account of the ethnic tensions, we saw what happened. The reality was that even in the midst of the mayhem, citizens from both communities also courageously aided, sheltered, and protected each other ensuring that the criminal assailants did not wreak more havoc.
In that instance, these citizens showed us that rather than turning on each other, we should be banding together against our common enemies – the criminal elements whose true tribe is terror and whose only creed is criminality.
In reporting these sorts of incidents, the media has a responsibility to tell the whole story, to resist the captivity of one-dimensional narratives. When we say the media today, that means almost all of us because more people are posting from various social media platforms than any of the organized media. We must resist the one-dimensional narrative that gives prominence to those of us that are driven by our worst instincts while ignoring those of us that are inspired to act according to our highest values.
The truth of the matter is that there are far more Nigerians who are interested in ensuring that this country remains one and we give ourselves a fair chance of working together.
It is important for us to know that even while nihilists are hard at work, there are also men and women of goodwill who, as we have seen in Shasha and elsewhere in our nation, reach across ethnic and religious divides to make common cause with their compatriots in the name of our shared humanity. I believe that the vast majority of Nigerians are of this same persuasion, and are committed to peaceful coexistence.
As I said earlier, the times that we are in call for resolve and courage from all of us, both government and governed. The government at all levels have a sworn duty to secure and protect all Nigerians and guarantee that they can conduct their lawful business in peace and safety.
This administration is committed to working with State Governments, civil society, and all stakeholders to secure our communities. This is why at the last meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), State Governors committed to the following principles of action on peace-building. These principles are an important compact that State governments agreed to as part of their responsibilities for the welfare and security of the citizens that reside in their states.
- The protection of all residents of all states, including non-indigenous communities and religious and ethnic minorities within the states;
- Prompt investigation of crimes, as well as the arrest and prosecution of all suspects. (The prosecution of crimes is the responsibility of States, most of these offenses are State offenses and we have had occasions to invite Attorneys-General of States for discussions on the prosecution of persons who have been caught. There are several people awaiting trials in several States. The investigation and arrest of persons are within the federal province, it is within the powers of the police and other law enforcement agencies, but I want to emphasize that the Governors have a very prominent role to play in ensuring the speedy prosecution of persons who are accused of various offenses. You’d find that this is a prominent issue with a lot of Nigerians. Many Nigerians are concerned about this. In some cases, the prosecution is taking place and adequate publicity ought to be given but, in many cases, there are delays and this is across the various States where quick prosecution of those arrested would be the right and comforting thing to do. Everyone is interested in seeing that justice is done, especially those who are victims of the criminality in many of the cases we have seen);
- In collaboration with the Federal Government, the reconstruction of destroyed homes and payment of compensation for damage to property and livelihoods sustained during targeted attacks on communities within their jurisdictions;
- Ensuring that deceased victims of such violence are duly accorded dignified burial rites and that their families are also to the extent possible, compensated;
- The immediate public and unequivocal condemnation of all manifestations of hatred, targeted violence, and other hate crimes against ethnic, religious, and minority groups;
- Ensuring that local security initiatives – whether they are State Government law enforcement agencies or local vigilante groups or the Community Policing programme of the Nigeria Police Force, are inclusive and are composed with due consideration given to the adequate representation of non-indigenous/minority resident communities (to give everyone living in that community a sense of not fighting an ethnic group, but fighting against criminality in whatever shape or form it presents itself);
- Ensuring that all State, local, and communal security initiatives operate according to guidelines consistent with State legislation and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and other relevant laws and are subject to rigorous oversight (it is easy for us to ignore excesses that may occur where we have initiatives that are meant to deal with gaps in law enforcement, but the governors agreed for a need for strict oversight);
- Ensuring that innocent citizens and entire communities are not slandered, harassed or victimized for the crimes perpetrated by criminal elements within those communities purely on the basis of ethnic or religious affiliation.
- The continued organization of and participation in town hall meetings and other meetings that bring ethnic communities together in localities where ethnic strife has taken place by Governors representing all geopolitical zones.
These sets of agreements are important because it sets the tone and principles that we think these issues and some of these security concerns, especially the inter-ethnic security concerns can be dealt with. They say the devil is in the detail, perhaps even more so in the actual implementation of these principles and we have held and continue to hold the Governors and the Federal Government to account to ensure these principles are abided with.
With the new Service Chiefs, we have a fresh set of eyes, intellect, and skills and a fresh look at strategies against the insurgency in the Northeast, as well as banditry and kidnapping elsewhere. In this new approach, much greater emphasis is being placed on technology for surveillance, intelligence gathering, and interdiction.
As you have heard, even up until yesterday, the President gave fresh orders to the service chiefs and also pledged to give support to the procurement of platforms, weapons, and other equipment that might be required to actively deal with the questions of criminality and insecurity in different parts of the country.
On its own part, the Nigeria Police is putting a new impetus behind the community policing policy, which is already being implemented across all States of the Federation. We must accept that there is a need for greater decentralization of our police force and I have been a frequent advocate of state policing and I believe this is ultimately the way we should go. The National Assembly is in the position to consider some of the proposals that have gone to it for purposes of ensuring that we devolve more power to the States for security purposes and meeting their security challenges.
Regarding the perennial crisis of farmers and herders, both the Federal and State Governments are focused now on the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP). NLTP is a comprehensive strategy for addressing the farmer-herder conflicts, essentially by encouraging interested States to establish cattle ranches. With this, cattle can be bred in purpose-developed facilities, which will have all the standard requirements for their healthy growth, even while providing much higher economic benefits for all Nigerians that may choose to be involved in the business.
NLTP was developed by the Governors under the aegis of the National Economic Council. The crucial point here is that no community or State is compelled to give land for ranching. Ranching is a business; it is open to any State or community or private individuals. It is not a land grab in any way, every State as some of us already know, is completely responsible for its land. The Federal Government cannot go to any State and take over any land. Over 22 States have already indicated their interest, and four pilot programmes in partnership with the government of the Netherlands, some of these are set to begin in Nasarawa, Plateau, Gombe, and Niger State.
If we are able to execute the NLTP especially in areas where there is a considerably large amount of livestock, we will be able to see an end to the farmers/herders conflict, because the goal is to make livestock breeders more sedentary, so to ensure they don’t just wander around, but more importantly, that they are able to derive financial benefit from breeding livestock. The modern approach to it is through ranching, providing adequate opportunities for livestock breeders to provide the very best for their livestock.
In conclusion, may I say the task of building is often exerting and may even appear messy as the process continues. Nation-building is no different, especially in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. It challenges all our values, our patience, and tolerance. It is very often even costly in lives and livelihoods. But this is the challenge thrown to every generation, to build not to destroy, to add to not to take away from. The easier path of disintegration, (and this is what is urged by some amongst us), warns us that it is easier to destroy than to build. If we agree that we are stronger together than apart, then it is our generational responsibility to put in place, block by block, the ramparts and the foundations of that union.
I would like to thank you very much for your great patience in listening to my presentation.
Thank you very much.