Press Release Obi at LBS…
Nigerians deserve far better service than they are getting- Obi
The Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi said on Tuesday that the urge to serve a people not getting enough of what they deserve is the main driving force on him to seek to be President of Nigeria.
Obi told 2022 Lagos Business School Alumni Conference in Lagos on Tuesday that the desire to be President “is borne out of a deep conviction that Nigerians deserve far better than they have been served by their leaders.
The country should work for every citizen but regrettably “Currently, Nigeria works for a small minority of people; Nigeria must work for ALL Nigerians. First and foremost, all Nigerians must be able to dwell securely and in safety wherever they live. This is the first duty of government, but sadly, it is one where there has been blatant failure.”
Obi whose paper is on ‘ Creating an Enabling Environment for Business Nigeria’ said “To have hundreds of Nigerians killed or maimed by terrorists, and millions of people displaced as a result of the destruction of their villages and farmlands is unacceptable. Also unacceptable according to the LP candidate is “To have Nigerians abducted by bandits and forced to spend weeks, months and even years in the bush with their abductors is also unacceptable.
“To have almost 20 million of our children out of school and roaming the streets is utterly unacceptable. Nigerian lives matter. Nigeria lives must not be wasted.
The former Anambra state Governor who is also an alumni of the Lagos Business School stressed the effect of corruption in the business environment. “To have corruption eat so deeply into the fabric of our public life, such that over 80% of our common wealth is devoured by a small minority while most of our people are left to scrounge and scavenge for a living is totally unacceptable.”
He said that Nigeria cannot be a Banana republic because it’s citizens are too gifted, too smart for that to happen to them.
“With the staggering amount of natural and human resources that our country has been endowed with, we have no business at all being in this pitiable, sorry state: we occupy the lowest rungs of the ladder in practically every index of development – the statistics are appalling!
Obi said that Nigeria is in dire need of good leadership for direction, hence his desire to present himself to serve
“Today, Nigeria is badly in need of a reformative leadership. Bad leadership has hurt us deeply and diminished our national potentials and dreams.
He remarked that the desire to take back Nigeria is nearly unanimous. “We may be used to the old order; but we cannot vote for the continuity of corruption, recklessness, impunityand poverty. We can no longer gamble with our fate and future. I’m running for president, because I’m qualified; have the capacity, credibility, commitment, stamina and track record and Nigerians can trust me.”
On the way forward for the country if he gets the mandate to lead, Obi listed seven point strategy: Securing Nigeria, ending banditry and insurgency, and uniting our dear nation to manage our diversity such that no one is left behind; Production-centred growth for food security and export -Moving Nigeria from consumption to production.; Restructuring the polity through effective legal and institutional reforms to fight corruption and enthrone rule of law and all-inclusive and effective government.; Leapfrogging Nigeria from an oil-dependent economy to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with massive investment in new technologies.; Expanding physical infrastructure – with focus on critical sectors like power, multi-modal transportation, gas pipeline, etc. – through efficient public-private partnership (PPP) reforms (unleashing growth-enabling entrepreneurship and market-creating innovations).; Youth engagement and human capital development that improves quality of life of workers and families, and productivity-enhancing education that empowers labour competitiveness and having a robust foreign policy that restores Nigeria’s strategic relevance.
Obi explained that the main vision and mission of Obi-Datti Presidency “is to give full expression to our democracy by moving our country from consumption to production. From transforming the economy to make it more productive, to creating employment and prosperity for millions of youths, reducing poverty in the land, addressing issues of criminality and insecurity.
Below is Obi’s response to Questions
I will now respond and address several questions put to me in advance, pertaining to four core areas germane to “Creating an Enabling Environment for Business Nigeria.” The core areas are: Governance & Security, Economy, Education, Health and Social Welfare and Infrastructure
Governance & Security
- There is increasing demand for devolution of more powers to states and local government. Do you agree to the demand and which items from the Exclusive list should be transferred to the Concurrent list and when will it be done?
• We must return to dreams of our founding fathers to create an egalitarian society. Devolution of powers or restructuring is a process, not a one-off event. Yes, if we have a real federation, the federating units will enjoy discernible autonomy. Resources will also be shared equitably. A higher derivation paid to oil or solid minerals producing states will not be tantamount to other states not receiving federal allocations that should keep them viable. We must transcend the rhetoric that bedevils a robust debate on some of these national questions. Every ethnicity and religion will be equally protected within a United Nigeria.
- As you are aware there is a general belief that the cost of governance is too high in Nigeria and Oronsaye Report recommends for the downsizing the size of the government. How and when will you reduce the cost of governance and will you implement the Oronsaye Report.
• Cost of Governance is too high. The current scope is not sustainable. Lack of political will and lack of synergy between the Executive and Legislative arms has resulted in a costly inertia in tackling our oversized government. The result is persisting turf fights and competition among several overlapping agencies, and the resultant wastages. Cost-cutting measures must start with rationalization and harmonization.
• Pruning the size of government will be imperative. The Oronsaye Committee report of April 2012, called for extreme but practical rationalization measures. Its implementation will be imperative if we must make any headway.
- What are your views on the immediate and remote causes of insecurity that is pervasive in the country? What are your plans for changing the narrative in the short, medium and long terms? What are your views on the need for state police? Will you create it and when?
• Deprivation, political polarization and policy inertia combine to exacerbate insecurity. The herders-farmers crisis has been poorly handled. The conflict has exacerbated because it has become an existential problem. The herders-farmers conflicts have existed for a long time, but they have expanded in scope, national coverage and aggressiveness in the past decade. A combinational approach of modernized husbandry and poverty alleviation policies ought to address the related challenges.
• The relevant security institutions and agencies exist. The supporting national security enabling documents and strategies also exist. We will tweak the security architecture, which will entail reform of the security sector and governance. We will restructure, reequip and reorient the Nigerian Police. This will include three-level policing- Federal, state and community. We will pursue legislation on the establishment of state police based on community policing. We will raise the population to police officer ratio to a higher level.
• We will deploy properly manned, equipped and technologically driven security system with emphasis on re-focusing the military on external threats, border protection, illegal migration and porosity; and the police on internal security threats, law enforcement; and upholding the rule of law.
• We will integrate the activities of the National Intelligence and Security Agencies by establishing a central reporting intelligence loop under the authority the Minister of National and Homeland Security; establish a National Command and Control Coordination Centre for the efficient management of actionable intelligence, resource allocation and force deployment.
- Since the return of democracy in 1999, we have witnessed significant economic reforms, what key reforms should we expect from you and when will they be implemented?
• My administration will not embark on drafting a new economic plan, but I will set up a small national working committee of policy, planning and economic experts to distil
critical lessons from and key elements of Economic Empowerment Development Strategies since 1999. The goal will be to use the vitally pertinent provisions of these plans by previous administrations to kick start our national economic revival, overcome Nigeria’s sub-optimal performance relative to its set growth targets, and seek to achieve and supercede the target annual average economic growth rate of 4.7percent set in the 2021-2025 plan.
• Thinking through 2023 and beyond, we must think seriously about a leadership that is imbued with competence, capacity, credibility and commitment. Accordingly, we will pursue intangible assets of good governance, rule of law, security of lives and properties; we will ensure that we have these assets in place and stress asset optimization.
- The never-ending debate on the subsidy has persisted through various governments, what are your plans for the subsidy? Are you going to remove it and when?
• We must look beyond total dependence on oil. We will reduce the subsidy cost by over 50% with concomitant measures and counter-balance policies and programmes to cushion the impact of the removal of oil subsidy. We will support modular refineries and local refining for domestic use and priced strictly in Naira.
- Nigeria’s debt has increased dramatically from 2015 and currently at over N60 trillion, with debt service approaching 100% of revenues, what are your plans for fiscal consolidation to rein in debt and debt service?
• I am not against loans per se; but as part of our fiscal consolidation, we must stop borrowing for consumption. All loans must be invested in regenerative projects. We must operate within available resources and strive for a balanced national budget as cost saving measures. We shall pursue a drastic reduction in cost of governance and corruption by following due process.
- How would you fund your programme without plunging the country into more debts?
• We will improve ease of doing business to attract FDI to jumpstart industrialization and when borrowing is unavoidable, it will be strictly for production. Moreover, as a nation, we must look beyond oil. Whatever oil we still have will be refined domestically. Ending the leakages including the subsidy regime and improving our tax regime should do the magic of debt reduction.
- Oil production has precipitously dropped over the last few years owing largely to oil theft, how do you intend to restore production to at least OPEC quota levels? What are your plans to boost investment in oil and gas sector amidst demands for cleaner and renewable energy?
• As a nation, Nigeria must look beyond oil. We therefore intend to leapfrog Nigeria from oil to the Fourth Industrial Revolution by expanding physical infrastructure through market-driven reforms that will unleash growth-enabling entrepreneurship and market-creating innovations.
- Food inflation is the biggest component of our exponentially increasing inflation levels, what are your plans to enhance food security (food production for local consumption and exports)? What’s your strategy to
transform the agricultural sector of the Nigerian economy?
• Although agriculture remains Nigeria’s largest and most important sector and employs 60% of Nigerians, and contributes an average of 24% to the nation’s GDP, presently Nigeria is incapable of feeding her population fully; talk less of exporting agricultural produce. Expensive food importation has become the norm.
• I am an avid proponent of agriculture, especially as we have so much arable land in Nigeria. In fact, Africa as a whole has 65% of arable land. So, there are lots of economic opportunities in agriculture. There is an innovative project which the African Development Bank has spearheaded called Special Agricultural Processing Zones. The ADB is supporting African countries, including Nigeria, to roll out these zones. They are game changers for Nigerian agriculture.
• The first thing to tackle is food inflation. Once we tackle insecurity and farmers return to farms, our food production will go up and inflation will go down through reduced food prices. When you remove subsidy, our fiscal imbalance will reduce and subsequently increase.
• Despite marginal increase in mechanized farming, most Nigerians are engaged in subsistence farming. Relatedly, over the past several decades Nigeria’s agricultural trade deficit has widened despite various government’s policies and interventions aimed at national food self-sufficiency.
• We will orchestrate programmes and projects on agriculture, supported with adequate investment that would lead to enhanced national agricultural output. This will also include crop and farm protection facilities for out croppers and rural farmers who presently affected negatively by increasing incidents of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism in various parts of the country.
• We will also set target for national food and agricultural output, with guaranteed government buyback options, with the aim to creating food security, protecting local producers, reducing Nigeria’s food import, while stimulating growth of the industry and creating sustainable sectoral employment.
- The youths are major players in the digital economy space. What plans do you have for this sector?
• We are challenged by high youth unemployment, which stands at 33.3%; 54% for the youth; and 20 million out-of-school-children. We must give this country back to the Nigerian youths. Half of our 200 million people are below the age of 30.
• Harnessing our national youth strength and demographic dividends intelligently, must start with curbing the high youth unemployment and creating funding access to enable our youths become entrepreneurs and drivers of our Small and Medium Scale enterprises (SMEs).
• We will work to bring down the unemployment rate to fewer than 20 percent over the next four years, if elected. Part of our objectives on the economy will be focused on supporting job creation given its impact on the economy, as well as poverty alleviation.
The Nigerian manufacturing sector is one of the weakest sectors in the economy, what are your plans to turnaround the sector?
• First, our focus will be on agriculture and production-centered growth for food security and export, with more emphasis on exporting finished products instead of commodities and raw materials. This relates mainly food and textiles. Nigeria has over 84 million hectares of arable land. And barely 40% of our arable land is cultivated today. Nigeria’s arable land is her new oil and gold.
• We will incentivize the resuscitation of the moribund cotton and textile industries; and full exploration of the cattle economy value chain, notably the $75b global hides and skin economy. Nigeria’s share of the global industry is envisaged to generate over $1bn by 2025;
• Second, pursuant to Goal 9 of the SDGs our administration will from its inception, continue to encourage investment in infrastructure – energy, transport, irrigation, and telecoms—to grow these and other sectors. We are eager to quickly close the infrastructure gap between now and 2030. We will expand the frontiers of financial inclusion to ensure that SMEs have greater access to credit to grow.
• We will work with financial institutions to improve their ability to identify credit worthy borrowers; and support inventory financing, which will help to unlock finance for SMEs dealing with high account receivables.
- Foreign Direct Investment has been on the decline, what are your plans to attract new investments?
• Insecurity and weak economies often translate to capital flight and deep worries for foreign investors. We will enforce the legal framework protecting foreign investors and their indigenous partners. This is the only way to tamper monopoly and capital flight.
• To restore investor confidence, we will explore ways of cushioning the forex demands by mainstreaming those components of Diaspora remittances that remain opaque and informal. With proper policy and planning, we can expect to boost and leapfrog the current $20 billion in remittances to $40b to $60b annually. That will translate to about 14% of our total GDP.
• We will remove import and forex restrictions and insist on a single forex market. The current system penalizes exporters who bring in forex by forcing them to sell at a rate that they are unable to source for forex when they need to purchase forex. This multiple exchange rate regime encourages capital flight and deters investment, which has further worsened Nigeria’s forex situation.
- We have a major foreign exchange crisis in the economy. We have seen a tumbling of the naira exchange rate over the last few years. What will be your approach to tackling this crisis?
• We will abide by the Fiscal Responsibility laws? Despite the exigency and convenience the two-tier foreign exchange regime offers, it has become an albatross. Hence that arrangement will be critically reviewed, adjusted or even eliminated.
- Nigeria’s tax to GDP ratio is adjudged one of the lowest among its peers,what are your plans to enhance tax revenues and what kind of outcomes and time frame are we looking at?
• There is a nexus between our debt –to-GDP ratio and our tax-to-GDP ratio, which this year has decreased by 1.3 percentage points, from 7.3% to 6.0%. Comparatively, our tax to GDP ratio is one of the lowest in the world, with some peer countries doing 15% to 25% percent. Our bane in this connection, is our over reliance on oil, excessive borrowings and fiscal indiscipline. A simplified but enhanced tax collection regime should address the prevailing challenges.
- Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of out of school children(particularly girl child) in the world, what are your plans to reverse the trend? What targets are we looking at and when?
• Twenty million out of school children is a dire national crisis. As part of our Marshall Plan for Education, we will foster nationwide federal intervention in education at all levels and partnership with State governments and international organizations in order to improve access to affordable and quality education at all levels;
• We will introduce a mandatory “No Child left Behind” educational policy, mindful that Nigeria’s inadequate investment in the social sectors such as health, education and housing, has resulted in large number out-of-school children, huge unmet housing needs as well high youth unemployment.
- It has been reported that the Nigerian educational system is churning out graduates without the skills for the future economy, what reforms would you implement for the educational sector to produce future-proof work force? For instance, what curriculum changes should we expect under your government and what kind of time frame are we
• We must fund education more robustly and holistically by tweaking the operational modalities of UBEC and TETFund. In funding education, we will pursue the global best practices and standards within available resource. A 14% budgetary funding for education is within the realm of possibility in the medium and long term.
• We will review the legislation guiding the fund access modalities to Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), to redress prevailing bottlenecks, create greater transparency, and ensure increased flexibility, and optimum availability of funds required to meet the educational need of the Nigerian students they are meant to serve.
- What would be your proposed solution(s) to permanently end the perennial ASUU strikes and when will it be implemented?
• TETFund resources must be re-directed to funding of the Universities and other higher institutions robustly with a view to ending the perennial strikes by University staff and workers.
- There appears to be a steady decline of vocational education resulting in a shortage of skilled artisans, what are your plans for reviving vocational education and practical training and when will the implemented?
• Our government shall prioritize education to serve the following functions: technical and industry relevance; alignment with local comparative advantages and factor endowments; modern skills proficiency, critical thinking, ethical citizenship values, global competitiveness, and talent export.
• We will prioritize a structured approach to developing the digital skills of our young population to give them the competitive advantage to receive offshore jobs in the new gig economy, while also improving the efficiency and productivity level of our economy.
Health and Social Welfare
- Nigeria’s doctor to patient ratio does not meet the World Health Organization’s recommendation and the doctors are migrating in large numbers, how do you intend to stem the migration and improve the doctor/patient ratio? What kind of ratio should we be expecting in 1, 2,3 and 4 years and what are your other plans to improve the health sector given its poor state and the report by National Sovereign Investment Authority that over $1 billion are spent annually by Nigerians on medical tourism?
• Through an all of government approach, we will take clear steps to progressively increase allocation to health as recommended in the Abuja declaration. This will decrease the number of emigrating doctors and hopefully improve doctor-patient ratio.
• We will also ensure that health is a major beneficiary of the economic expansion that will arise from the shift of the economy from consumption to production which will expand the GDP. Ultimately, we will ensure that Health budgets are 100% utilised and those managing healthcare are held accountable for results.
- Child and maternal mortality in Nigeria are still high compared to its level of development and its peers, how do you intend to coordinate with the state and local governments to improve primary health care? What kind of outcomes should we expect and when?
• High infant and maternal mortality are systemic and orientation driven. Personnel, training and service delivery also play a role. We will unite ad incentivize health workers, expand our capacity for production and make our health workers feel proud to live in and work for Nigerians.
• We will invest in data and technology systems that will trigger efficiency in health systems governance, logistics, disease prevention and control, epidemic prediction, mitigation and response, and human and financial resource tracking and optimisation.
• We will expand local production use and export of pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and other healthcare consumables, as part of our strategy to promote quality, make efficiency gains, expand production and broaden the contribution of the health industry to GDP.
- Climate change is having a devastating effect on lives and livelihoods for instance flooding, what are your plans for dealing with such emergencies and what is the time frame to execute/achieve your plans?
• Impact of climate on Nigeria is quite severe. Besides causing excessive rainfall, flash floods, landslides, and gully erosion, climate change also affects our food production, our forestry and related costs of building and furniture materials. We contribute to climate change, even if minimally, through gas flaring.
I am however satisfied that Nigeria’s 2021 Climate Change Act, providessufficiently for mainstreaming and domesticating climate actions in line with national development priorities and sets a net-zero target for 2050-2070.
- It is estimated that the national health insurance scheme covers less than5% of the Nigerian population and health expenses are largely met by out-of-pocket payments leading to devastating outcomes, how do you intend to extend health coverage to majority of Nigerians? What percentage of Nigeria should we expect to be covered in your first term if elected president?
• Through a participatory approach involving communities, we will progressively implement a robust PHC-based people centered agenda to move Nigeria towards Universal Health Coverage. Furthermore we will implement a clear health focused research agenda that puts Nigerian Universities and research institutions at the core of research and development
- Over the last 6 or 7 years we have witnessed several instances of conditional cash transfers to the vulnerable, but it appears to have stalled and more Nigerians have slipped back into poverty, what are your plans to improve access to a social safety net?
• Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) are ad hoc palliative intervention measures. Salutary as they are, medium and long term social security regimes that are sustainable will be required. Large swaths of Nigeria’s labour force are self –employed or private sector employed. They have limited or no access to pension and gratuities facilities. They must be protected by a social safety net. That is part of the government responsibility to protect.
- Gender based violence prevention and control has been mainstreamed by most countries, do you have a plan to mainstream same? What are those plans and when?
• We will introduce a mandatory “No Child left Behind” educational policy, mindful that Nigeria’s inadequate investment in the social sectors – health, education, and housing has resulted in the current dismal social and demographic trends reflected in low life expectancy, high maternal mortality rate, large number of out-of- school children, huge unmet housing needs as well high youth unemployment. Naturally, our gender policy will include strong proviso against gender-based violence.
• As governor of Anambra State, my administration achieved close to a 60-40 gender balance in appointive and elective positions. The national target has hovered around 30-35%. We intend to progressively aim for between 35-40%, with aggressive gender mainstreaming action plan and rigid benchmarks.
- The electric power sector in Nigeria appears to be incapable of improvement. We have seen reforms, privatization, building of new power plants and interventions but the problems appear intractable.
• We will support the private sector to invest aggressively in the power chain through a multifaceted approach particularly the transmission infrastructure. As we all know, two components of the power sector (generation and distribution) have been privatized and liberalized leaving the most critical component (transmission) in the hands of government which is causing inefficiency and darkness. I will therefore vigorously pursue the liberalization of the transmission infrastructure in addition to a robust power mix- embedded power and renewable energy.
- What would you do differently to enhance power supply and what kind of outcomes should we expect in 1, 2, 3 and 4 years?
• Bolstering our power generation will be imperative. We intend to ensure a clear measurable increase of 200% of today’s generation, transmission and distribution, within the shortest possible time through public private partnership.
- Infrastructure deficit is a major factor affecting productivity in theeconomy. This includes roads, railways and others. How and when would they be fixed and where will the money come from? What would you do to enhance and ensure adequate maintenance?
• The top three priorities are Power generation, Roads, and Heavy Haulage Railway network. First, we will realize these by using current oil earnings to invest in critical physical and human infrastructure, while intensifying domestic resource mobilization for recurrent expenditure.
• Nigeria is poised to lead African countries as we leverage more private funds to meet our continent’s infrastructure financing needs. Those needs are estimated to be between $68 billion and $108 billion annually.
• We will diversify the funding for our national surface transportation system (Roads, rail, bridges and mass transit) and programmes with the creation of the Highway Trust Fund Accounts. This account will be funded jointly [by federal government, states and private sector] on a 60:20:20 ratios. The federal government share will be funded by excise taxes levied on importation of foreign luxury vehicles and diesel fuel used by heavy haulage articulated vehicles.
• We will promulgate legislation mandating the Federal Government to build construct new federal highways and bridges, but States will have the responsibility of maintaining federal highways traversing their respective territories with allocated federal subventions calculated on a mileage/kilometer basis.
• We will pursue aggressively modalities for raising the national internet penetration, as well as increased contribution of ICT to overall economic growth aid national development.
• Nigeria is poised to lead African countries as we leverage more private funds to meet our continent’s infrastructure financing needs. Those needs are estimated to be between $68 billion and $108 billion annually.
- Nigeria is situated almost equidistant from Europe and the Americas and so is a natural air transport hub. What would you do to realize Nigeria’spotential as an air transport hub and when? Do you support the Air Nigeria project and why?
• The Nigeria Aviation industry has been correctly and properly deregulated. It should remain so. I fully understand the psychic satisfaction of a country owning a national carrier. But such an arrangement is not imperative. The national carrier might provide pride and employment; but we must weigh the cost-benefit aspects. We should allow the privately-owned operators and private sector to retain the lead. They already have an airline consortium and that is positive.
- What kind of reforms should we expect from your administration regarding our seaports particularly the time and hurdles of clearing goods? How many days/weeks/months for clearing of goods should we expect from you in 1, 2, 3 and 4 years? What will be the nature of your trade policy?
• The Nigeria Maritime sector is robust and ought to grow stronger. We are blessed with several deep seaports. However, for some inexplicable reason, we tend to cluster our import and export activities around the Lagos Ports, thus creating avoidable bottlenecks. We should decongest Lagos Ports via deliberate policy of incentivizing end-destination priorities. This will also curtail on-land heavy haulage transshipments that take a tool o our road infrastructure.
- I hope I have done justice to the subject under discussion provided answers and insights into our plan for Nigeria. I thank you