See Bill Gates Full Speech At Expanded National Economic Council Meeting

Bill Gates
Nigeria Human Capital Event
Abuja, Nigeria
March 22, 2018
AS PREPARED

Your Excellency Muhamadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Senator Bukola Saraki, Senate President; Honorable Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House; Your Excellencies, executive governors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Royal fathers; Distinguished ladies and gentlemen. And as you say in Nigeria, all other protocols observed. Thank you for welcoming me to Nigeria.

I’ve been coming here regularly since 2006, and I’ve always felt welcome. Nigerians usually greet me warmly. The first time I met the Sultan of Sokoto, I was honored that he greeted me with the gift of a white horse.

At some point during every visit, though, some brave person eventually asks me—very politely—”Why are you actually here?” It’s an understandable question. Most American technology guys don’t wander around Nigeria learning about its health system. But I think I have a good answer.

When we started Microsoft 40 years ago, we wanted to build a successful business, but we also wanted to make people’s lives better. We believed computers could revolutionize the way people lived and worked. But back then only big companies could afford them. We wanted to give everybody access.

As I got older, traveled more, and learned more about the world, I realized that billions of people had a problem that computers couldn’t solve. They lacked the basics of a good life: food, shelter, health, education, and opportunity.

And so I started my second career with my wife Melinda. With the money I’d been lucky enough to earn at Microsoft, we started working toward a different goal: a healthy and productive life for everyone.

That’s why I come to Nigeria, and that’s why Melinda and I will continue coming for as long as we are able. Our foundation’s biggest office in Africa is here. We have committed over $1.6 billion in Nigeria so far, and we plan to increase our commitment. We have strong relationships with the federal government, state governments, businesses, NGOs, and civil society organizations. We are eager to support you as you work to make Nigeria a global economic powerhouse that provides opportunity for all its citizens—as you strive to fulfill this country’s immense promise.

I’m blown away by how much Nigeria has changed in the past decade.

Consider the technology sector. That energy I talked about during the early days of Microsoft, our passion and our eagerness to take risks…. That’s the same energy that powers technology hubs across Nigeria like Co-Creation and Enspire.

The novelist Chimamanda Adichie, who my wife especially admires, captured the country’s spirit when she said her fellow Nigerians have “big dreams and big ambitions.”

This line graph of Nigeria’s per capita GDP shows where those dreams and ambitions can lead. With the exception of the recent recession, the slope goes straight up. As a result of this growth, Nigeria is now the biggest economy on the continent. You are rapidly approaching upper middle income status, like Brazil, China, and Mexico.

But growth is not inevitable. Nigeria has unmatched economic potential, but what becomes of that potential depends on the choices you make as Nigeria’s leaders.

The most important choice you can make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people. Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive.

If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities—the “human capital” we are talking about today—then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognize that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.

You see this risk in the data. From the point of view of the quality of life, much of Nigeria still looks like a low-income country.

Let me give a few examples.

  • In upper middle income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle income countries, it’s 68. In low income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still: just 53 years.
  • Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world, ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad.
  • One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.

I do not enjoy speaking to you this bluntly when you have been gracious enough to invite me here. But I am applying an important lesson I learned from Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Recently, Aliko and I were having a conversation with several governors about their states’ official immunization rates. Aliko’s way of stressing the importance of accurate data was to tell us, “I didn’t get rich by pretending to sell bags of cement I didn’t have.” I took from that that while it may be easier to be polite, it’s more important to face facts so that you can make progress.

On immunization, you are already living that lesson: last year Nigeria revised its immunization coverage numbers downward to reflect more accurate sources, and I applaud you for those lower numbers. They may look worse, but they are more real, which is the first step toward saving and improving more lives.

I urge you to apply this thinking to all your investments in your people. The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies “investing in our people” as one of three “strategic objectives.” But the “execution priorities” don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital.

To anchor the economy over the long term, investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. People without roads, ports, and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports, and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.

In preparation for my visit, I asked a research institute at the University of Washington to model Nigeria’s economic growth under three scenarios related to health and education, the core of how economists define human capital.

Here you can see Nigeria’s per capita GDP growth from 2000 until today. If current education and health trends continue—if you spend the same amount in these areas and get the same results—per capita GDP flatlines, with economic growth just barely keeping up with population growth.

If things get worse, it will decline. Unfortunately, this scenario is a very real possibility unless you intervene at both the federal and state levels. Because even in the worst-case scenario, your national income level is about to make you ineligible for certain kinds of development assistance and loans that you’ve been relying on to fund your health system and other priorities. Without more and better spent domestic money, investment in your people will decline by default as donor money shrinks—a lose-lose scenario for everyone.

However, if you commit to getting better results in health and education—if you spend more and more effectively—per capita GDP will stay on its remarkable pre-recession trajectory.

This is the scenario we all want: Nigeria thrives because every Nigerian is able to thrive.

And the data makes it clear that this scenario is entirely within your reach.

What do I mean by investing in your people? I mean prioritizing health and education, the factors included in the model I just showed you. I also mean continuing to open up opportunities in the agriculture and microenterprise sectors, as the government has proposed in the ERGP. I mean creating the conditions where Nigerians can reach their goals while adding value to the economy—the win-win scenario.

Our foundation doesn’t invest directly in education here, but the World Bank World Development Report that just came out makes it clear that education leads to improvements in employment, productivity, and wages.

Today, though, more than half of rural Nigerian children can’t read and write.

The conclusion is inescapable: Nigeria’s economy tomorrow depends on improving its schools today.

The same is true of health, our foundation’s primary focus area.

In 1978, Dr. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, who later became the Nigerian minister of health, helped establish primary health care as the global standard. We now know that a strong primary care system takes care of 90 percent of people’s health needs.

Tragically, 40 years after Dr. Ransome-Kuti helped other countries set a course for the future, the Nigerian primary health care system is broken.

The evidence for this can be found in the epidemic of chronic malnutrition, or stunting. As the name suggests, chronic malnutrition is not a disease children catch. It is a condition that develops over time because they are deprived of a diverse diet and the services a strong primary health care system provides.

The consequences of stunting are devastating. Though stunted children are defined as shorter than average, we’re not particularly concerned about their height. What we’re concerned about is their brains, or what Akin Adesina calls “gray matter infrastructure.”

This is a picture of the brain of a single normally developing infant. And next to it is a picture of the brain of a single chronically malnourished infant. Every brain and every child are different, but you can clearly see the difference in the number of neural connections in these two brains. And once this kind of damage is done, it’s very hard to repair.

In Nigeria, one in three children is chronically malnourished and could therefore be at risk. This is a tragedy for each one of these children; it is also a huge blow to the economy. According to the World Bank, addressing the stunting crisis in Nigeria would add almost $30 billion to the GDP.

So what will it take to solve stunting? It will take a focus on agricultural development, nutrition, and primary health care.

A functioning primary health system has six features.

  • Adequate funding.
  • Good facilities located in the right places.
  • Skilled and dedicated health workers.
  • Ample stocks of essential equipment and medicines.
  • Patients who know about the system and want to use it.
  • And a mechanism for collecting the data needed to improve quality.

I believe the Nigerian primary health care system is not adequately funded. But it also doesn’t get the most out of its current funding. I want to re-emphasize that last point about data. More transparency would lead to more accountability, which would strengthen governance, leadership, and management, which would improve quality across the board.

I visited a health clinic in Bodinga LGA in Sokoto yesterday, and it reminded me why I do this work. I’d like to ask all of you to spend one hour at a health center in the next month. I think you’ll see how the system can be improved—and how much good it will do when it is.

I know Nigeria can build up its primary care system, because I’ve seen what you accomplish when you meet health challenges head on.

As many of you know, we’ve been very close partners in your fight against polio.

As you can see on this graph, the hard work of hundreds of thousands of local leaders and health workers since the turn of the millennium has paid off. Nigeria has not had a case of wild polio virus in more than a year.

But the graph also shows that you’ve reported zero cases before, only to learn that the disease was still circulating in tiny pockets hidden by insecurity. It would be catastrophic to let your guard down when you’re on the verge of eliminating the disease once and for all.

I believe—because I have seen your work in the field as recently as yesterday—that you will do what it takes to end polio in Nigeria. We will be here, working side by side with you, until you do.

Though health is our foundation’s primary area of expertise, it’s not the only thing we do, and it’s not the only thing I mean when I say Nigeria should invest in its people. Healthy people need opportunities to thrive.

One of the most important of these opportunities is agriculture, the sector that nourishes most Nigerians and supports half the population, especially the poorest.

The agricultural sector is a pillar of the Nigerian economy. It accounts for a large proportion of your GDP, and during the oil price collapse and recession, it helped cushion the economy. But it still has a lot of potential to grow.

The majority of Nigerian smallholder farmers lack access to the seeds, fertilizer, and training they need to be more productive, and they lack access to the markets they need to profit from their labor.

The government has taken important steps to fill these gaps, with both more investment and a series of smart policies to encourage private sector investment.

These reforms lay the foundation for a booming agricultural sector that feeds the country, helps end chronic malnutrition, and lifts up tens of millions of smallholder farmers. I urge you to build on this good work.

One of the barriers that continues to prevent smallholders from thriving is their lack of access to finance. Like good roads, finance connects farmers to opportunity, yet only 4 percent of Nigerian farmers currently have a loan to grow their business.

In a country where three quarters of people have mobile phones, digital financial services provide a solution to this problem. In fact, digital finance offers the potential to boost the economy from top to bottom.

Right now, more than 50 million Nigerian adults are at the whim of chance and the informal economy. With access to digital financial tools, they can cope better with disasters that threaten to wipe them out, build assets and a credit history, and gradually lift themselves out of poverty.

Consider the impact this would have on businesses. Of the 37 million micro, small, and medium enterprises in Nigeria, more than 99 percent are micro. Their lack of access to finance is a leading reason why these businesses can’t grow. With digital payments, savings, and credit, they will finally have the resources to plan for the future.

According to the best estimates, digital financial services will create a 12.4 percent increase in Nigeria’s GDP by 2025. Meanwhile, oil accounts for about 10 percent of Nigeria’s GDP. Imagine adding another oil sector and then some to the economy, but one whose benefits spread far and wide and reach almost every single Nigerian.

There is another benefit to digital financial services that will make everything I’m urging you to do much easier: it will vastly improve the government’s ability to tax and spend efficiently.

Let me pause for a moment to say, I am confident that one thing you’ve been thinking as I’ve been talking is that, while you would like to spend more on health and nutrition and education and agriculture, you don’t have the money to do everything. I appreciate the fact that what you can spend is a function of what you raise.

Nigeria’s government revenue as a percentage of its GDP is by far the lowest in the world, at 6 percent. That makes investing in your people difficult. The next lowest country, Bangladesh, collects 10 percent of its GDP. If you got yourself up to second-to-last in the world, you would have an extra $18 billion to budget. Obviously, you’re aiming higher than that, but it gives you some idea about the scale we’re talking about.

We want to support you in your work to mobilize more resources to invest in your country. That’s why our foundation is working with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to help states track internally generated revenue.

Ultimately, raising revenue to invest in growth will require delivering on the government’s commitments to the Nigerian people, and convincing them that they will get a return on their taxes.

Right now, Nigeria’s fiscal situation is at what you might call a low equilibrium. In return for low levels of service, people pay low levels of tax. We hope to help you reach a higher equilibrium rooted in effective and transparent investments in people. This equilibrium would trigger a virtuous cycle.

More government revenue would lead to more money to spend on health and education. Better health and education, and investment in sectors like agriculture, would lead to more productive farms and factories. More productive farms would lead to more prosperous farmers who could expand their farms or invest in other businesses, especially if they had access to credit and other financial tools. These thriving farms, factories, and new businesses would lead to more government revenue. And the cycle would start again.

Triggering that cycle will require bolder action—action you have the power to take as leaders, governors, and ministers focused on Nigeria’s future.

 

CONCLUSION

Nigerians are known around the world for their big dreams and big ambitions.

Together with the Dangote Foundation, we will be here to help you achieve your dreams and ambitions. You have the support of the international community. The Nigerian private sector will continue to invest. We are eager to help, but we know we can’t lead. You must lead.

I believe in the grand vision of Nigeria’s future. I believe in it because I’ve seen it. It’s represented by this line—the line that depends on healthy, educated people and the surge of economic activity they will unleash.

And that means that the future depends on all of you—and your leadership in the years to come.

Thank you.

 

Bill Gates, Dangote Challenge FG To Invest In Human Capital

Philanthropist and Founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates has challenged the Nigerian government to invest in human capital development, saying it would lay a good foundation for the nation’s prosperity.

He made this known on Thursday while delivering a speech at the Expanded National Economic Council on Investment in Human Capital held in Abuja.

According to him, although Nigeria has enormous potentials, they can only be maximized when the citizens are well equipped.

Making reference to the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, he, therefore, urged the Federal Government to take practical steps in prioritising human capital development.

 

“Nigeria has unmatched economic potentials but what becomes of that potential depends on the choices you make as Nigeria’s leaders. The most important choice you can make is to maximise your greatest resource – the Nigerian people.

“Nigeria Will Thrive when every Nigerian Is able to thrive, If you invest in their health, education and opportunities, the human capital that we are talking about today, then that will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity.

“If you don’t, however, it is important to recognise that there would be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow,” he stated.

“Much of Nigeria still looks like a low-income country. Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth.

“With the fourth-worst maternal mortality rate in the world, ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad. One in three Nigerian Children is chronically malnourished.

“The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies investing in our people as one of three strategic executives but the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs – prioritising physical capital over human capital,” he stated.

Also addressing the issue, President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, asked the Federal Government to provide solutions to human capital challenges experienced in the country.

 

He stressed that human capital is a critical component of Nigeria’s future economic growth , noting that while the nation has largely achieved growth by extracting natural resources, the youths have to be equipped both physically and mentally to drive the nation’s future success.

“In Nigeria, we have largely achieved growth by extracting natural resources and we’re not building on that through our physical infrastructure. But we must also remember that it is our young people that will drive our future success.

“By 2050, Nigeria is projected to be the 3rd largest economy in the world.

“For this next generation to thrive as adults and drive economic progress, we need to invest in their health and well-being and in their ability to learn and apply new skills.

“As a business leader, it is my responsibility to offer jobs and opportunities but I can only do that when people themselves are healthy and have basic skills.”

 

Speaking further, the business mogul explained how nutrition and infrastructural development also play a huge role in equipping the youth for the future.

According to him, malnutrition has been identified as one of the biggest factors undermining the potentials of children and for Nigeria to be able to truly compete globally, we must prioritize investment in health, education and other key sectors.

He said: “As a philanthropist and development expert, I have seen first-hand and critical gaps and proven interventions that can help set those young people up for success especially the poorest.

“A key example is nutrition; a primary focus for the Dangote Foundation.”

“Today, one of the biggest factors undermining our progress is malnutrition. Poor nutrition prevents children from realizing their true potentials, stunting not only their physical and intellectual growth but also educational and employment opportunities.

“As a business leader, I feel the consequences of malnutrition. An inadequately skilled workforce is a constraint to my businesses. Again as a philanthropist and development expert, it is the kind of challenge I am committed to helping solve.

“By this, is where my two roles converge because all sectors, businesses, philanthropy and especially government will need to step up to address the human capital challenges we are now facing in Nigeria.

“For Nigeria to truly compete globally, we must prioritize investment in the health, education, and opportunity of our people alongside other critical areas like infrastructure,” he stated.

PHOTONEWS: Bill Gates Meets National Economic Council

Governor Rauf Aregbesola on Thursday attended a joint meeting between the National Executive Council, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Aliko Dangote Foundation at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The meeting was chaired by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.

 

Photos Credit: Dolapo Julius

Governors Approved $1bn For National Security – Osinbajo

Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Tuesday revealed that state governors resolved to approve money for national security after a national security summit organised by the National Economic Council.

The Vice President who presided over NEC gave the explanation at the opening of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Secretaries to State Governments’ retreat at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He explained, “It was after a national security summit of the National Economic Council that Governors at their forum decided to approve some money for national security.”

The Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, Abdulaziz Yari, had at a NEC meeting last Wednesday announced that the governors had asked the Federal Government to withdraw $1bn from the Excess Crude Account to fight the insurgency.

The decision had, however, attracted controversies from groups and individuals, including the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose; and the opposition Peoples
Democratic Party.

Governors, Ministers Back Sale Of Assets To Fight Recession

There was an insight yesterday into the Federal Government’s battle against the recession that has hit the economy.
The government’s plan to exit the recession which got the backing of the National Economic Council (NEC) includes
assets sales;
advance payment of licence renewals;
infrastructure concessioning; and
implementation of fiscal stimulus.
The NEC is the highest economic decision body chaired by the vice president. Other members are governors and key ministers in charge of the economy and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor.
Some experts and leading politicians have suggested the sale of some assets, saying this will provide the cash to reflate the economy, reopen factories and put money in the people’s pockets.
Pushing this view are business giant Aliko Dangote, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Muhammad Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and Senate President Bukola Saraki, among others.
But Labour has condemned the idea, saying it will make a few to amass the wealth of all and deepen the seeming despair in the land.
Yesterday’s meeting, which started about 11.10am, was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
No fewer than 23 governors attended it. They include Governors Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Abubakar Mohammed (Bauchi), Willy Obiano (Anambra), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Abdufatah Ahmed (Kwara), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa).
Deputy governors of Rivers, Nasarawa, Katsina and Lagos represented their bosses.
A statement from the media office of the Vice President on the meeting said: “Rising from its monthly meeting today at the Presidential Villa, members of the National Economic Council, NEC, presided over by Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), expressed support for the plans and proposals of the Federal Government to steer the country out of recession.
“While acknowledging the current economic challenges and difficulties, governors at the meeting also endorsed the work of the President’s Economic Management Team and specifically commended the Budget & Planning and Finance Ministers.”
Among the measures for economic revitalisation, he said, are a plan to generate immediate larger injection of fund into the economy through assets sales, advance payment of licence renewals, infrastructure concessioning, and use of recovered funds etc to reduce funding gaps, implementation of Fiscal Stimulus/Budget Priorities.
“Council members in response commended the Economic Management Team and generally welcomed the presentation and expressed support for the plan to steer the nation out of recession.
“Under AOB, Council members expressed confidence in and unanimously commended the EMT and both the Budget & National Planning and Finance Ministers for the presentations to the Council, praising their efforts, competence and capabilities.”
The NEC also expressed confidence in the capability of Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma and Minister of Finance Mrs Kemi Adeosun.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and a few other senators on Wednesday pushed for the removal of Udoma and Adeosun for their ‘poor’ handling of the economy and the recession.
But, speaking with reporters at the State House yesterday at the end of the NEC meeting, Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu said NEC praised the handling of the economy.
He was accompanied to the briefing by Ajimobi and Ogun State Deputy Governor Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga.
Bagudu said: “The National Economic Council met today at its sixth meeting of the year, which is the 70th National Executive Council meeting and the Ministers of Budget and National Planning and the Central Bank (of Nigeria) Governor made presentations and the highlights of the presentations were the sad news that the economy was in recession largely due to the dependency on single commodity which is crude oil, which prices we do not control.
“Oil price collapsed to less than $30 per barrel in first quarter of 2016 and market expectation is that it will remain low for a longer period.
“However, this crisis holds a silver lining to restructure the economy towards other areas that we believe we have comparative advantage.
“Fast track procedures through legislation and strategic implementation plan of the budget, meaningful diversification of the economy which will cut down importation.
“The members of the council responded and acknowledged with commendation the presentation by the economic team and support the plan to steer the nation out of recession.
“And, in particular, it was noted that our economic managers the National Economic Team are responding in competition with economic managers elsewhere. So it is not an easy task, it is a very difficult task and we crave the indulgence of our nation to give them a chance for the measures to take effect.”
Ajimobi said the Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform (PTCLR) presented the draft regulation on Land Use Act 2013 to NEC.
According to him, the regulation seeks to make provisions to streamline mortgage transactions and clearly delineate the rights, duties and obligations of a mortgage.
Ajimobi said the Minister of Finance made a presentation on Public Private Partnership (PPP) Initiatives on Affordable Housing.
Highlights of the presentation, he said, included target of N1 billion fund to operate PPP (N500 billion initial) to create a blended pool of long term funds to intervene in housing development finance and mortgage provision
He said the fund will deliver family housing for as low as N2.5 million up to N18 million delivered in a ready to occupy condition with essential services (water and power connected).
Ajimobi said: “The delivery target is 400,000 to 500,000 housing units per annum. The ultimate aim of the programme is to channel funds from savers to borrowers, so that builders have the required capital to construct and prospective buyers can access credit to purchase.
“The fund will attract low cost local and international capital, including from domestic pension and insurance funds, Federal Government funding, as well as contributions from state governments and other agencies.”
The states are to designate a liaison with whom Family Homes Fund can interface, expedite building plan approval process and security of land title, invest in enabling infrastructure, such as Federal roads.
Other benefits, Ajimobi said, include improved urban planning and development, employment generation and skills enhancement, and expansion of tax base.
Mrs. Onanuga said the NEC was briefed that the balance on Excess Crude Account (ECA) as at 20th September, 2016 was $2.453 billion.
She said Adeosun and CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele briefed NEC on best options for managing the floating forex policy introduced by Emefuele.
Highlights of the presentation, Mrs Onanuga said, included CBN -introduced cautious Monetary Policy orientation as dictated by consumer price and exchange rate, adoption of policy tightening measures for flexible forex rate to address persistent pressures caused by scarcity and speculative demands, improving market dynamics by CBN, interventions to states in the area of salaries and in commercial agriculture.
She said that the presentation also noted that controlling inflation is key to stabilising other macroeconomic indices and the current stance of monetary policy is expected to continue to help lock-in inflation expectations.
On the update on Budget Support Loan facility, Mrs Onanuga said the minister of finance reported to Council that N50 billion had so far been disbursed to state governments while the facility was ongoing.

As Economic Retreat Ends, FG, States Enter Into 71 Agreements

The two-day retreat of the National Economic Council (NEC) ended Tuesday in Abuja with federal authorities and the country’s 36 states agreeing on at least 71 proposals they believe will reinvigorate Nigeria’s wobbling economy.

The NEC is chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, and its membership include the 36 state governors and some Ministers and heads of relevant government agencies.

At the end of the meeting, with theme: ‘Nigerian States: Multiple Centres of Prosperity’, participants took far-reaching decisions to urgently rescue the economy from collapse.

Decisions were taken in the areas of agriculture, solid minerals, revenue generation and fiscal stability, infrastructure and services, investment, industrialisation and enabling monetary policies. Proposal were also made on survival of the states and on how to invest in the Nigerian people.

A steering committee to implement the proposals was formed at the meeting. It is to be headed by Vice President Osinbajo.

Also constituted was an implementation monitoring committee headed by Zainab Ahmed, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning.

President Muhammadu Buhari had delivered an address at the opening of the retreat, saying there is unanimity of opinion in Nigeria that the nation’s economy is in bad shape.

The president said four key areas, namely agriculture, power, manufacturing and housing, requires urgent attention to revive the economy.

Below are the proposals agreed at the meeting.
NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL RETREAT HIGHLIGHTS

Theme: Nigerian States: Multiple Centres of Prosperity

The following are highlights of the just concluded NEC Retreat:

1. Agreement reached for concerted and consistent efforts to diversify revenue sources

2. Expand compliance on VAT, adopting a gradual plan for rate increase

3. Increase expenditure through borrowing, which should be invested in infrastructure

4. Federal and State Governments to focus on fiscal responsibility as a critical element in macro-economic balance

5. Increase investment in infrastructure through public private partnership (PPP)

6.Develop financial inclusion strategies to cater for the poor and vulnerable population

7. Maintain a minimum level of capital expenditure of 30% in the budget

Thematic Areas – Agriculture

1. The Federal Government to re-position Bank of Agriculture to enhance its capacity to finance agriculture.

2. Funding for Agricultural sector is considered critical and sources of intervention funding from the Central Bank of Nigeria should be considered

3. A single digit interest rate for agricultural loans should be considered while duties and taxes for Agricultural products and equipment should be waived

4. Develop strategic partnerships between Federal and State government. Each State should make specific commitments to crops in which it has comparative advantage and request Federal Government intervention

5. National targets for self-sufficiency should be set for identified crops, which should be monitored. Tomato paste – 2016, Rice – 2018, Wheat – 2019

6. The Federal and State Governments should roll out agricultural extension services nationwide

7. The Commodity Exchanges should be established for price regulation and avoidance of losses due to lack of markets. The Abuja Commodity Exchange should be revitalised

8. The National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) should be re-established

9. Federal Government should develop an Agriculture Implementation plan whereby State Governments are encouraged to identify at least two crops in which they have comparative advantage

10. States should open up of rural/feeder roads to facilitate transportation of agricultural produce to be supported by the Federal Government

11.The Federal and State Governments should establish minimum price guarantee for farm produce

12.The Federal Government should provide immediate funding to upscale efforts of Agricultural Institutes of Research and Development across Nigeria

13. State Governments should also be encouraged to fund research and development in agriculture through technical colleges, universities and research institutions

Thematic Area – Solid Minerals

1. Ministry of Solid Minerals Development to complete and present the solid minerals development roadmap. This framework should address issues of illegal miner, licenses, taxes and royalties by 31st March 2016

2. Federal government to engage with state government on the roadmap and agree any amendment that may be required by 30th June 2016

3. Initiate relevant legislative changes that maybe necessitated by the agreed roadmap by 31stJuly 2016

4. Conclude the revalidation/recertification of all mining leases by 30th September 2016

5. Agree with states and local government on respective responsibilities for developing feeder roads and other critical infrastructure for solid minerals development

6. Federal Government and States to set deadlines to achieve self-sufficiency in Bitumen/Asphalt and tiles (to discourage/stop importation)

7. Make and communicate final decisions on operationalization of Ajaokuta steel plant by 30th June 2016

8. Establishment of joint committee to address issues of data on quantity and quality of minerals exploited and exported

9. Setting up of mining cadastral zonal offices for proximity to States for the purpose of issuing licenses and easy monitoring by States

10. Discourage use of wood for cooking by promoting use of coal briquettes

11. Guarantee access to finance solid minerals development via intervention funds and private sector capital

12. Block revenue leakages in the sector through effective monitoring of activities in the mining sector

13. Organise artisanal/small-scale miners as a mechanism for reducing illegal mining and Establish Mines Surveillance Taskforce by September 2016

Thematic Area – Investment, Industrialisation and Enabling Monetary policies

1.Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment (MITI) to develop a matrix of actions to be taken by Federal and State Governments towards achieving the targeted improvements in Ease of Doing Business ranking by 30th April 2016

2. Present an incentive scheme for States taking actions towards improvement of the investment climate in their States including grants by 30th September 2016

3. Forge strong links between the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) and the State Investment Promotion Agencies

4. States to collaborate more actively on regional basis on investments and industrialization

5. The Federal Government should work with the States and other stakeholders to create an enabling environment for trade and investment through the implementation of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) to encourage industrialization

6. Make environment conducive for the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises to create jobs for the unemployed and undertake deliberate policies to create access to funds

7. State and Federal Governments must emphasize the patronage of “Made in Nigeria” products. “Import competition” rather than “import substitution” should be emphasized

8. Governors to set up task forces to monitor implementation of trade/ investment policies and strengthen planning institutions by linking federal and sub-national planning; in this regard, a monthly meeting between the Minister of Budget & National Planning and State Commissioners for planning will be institutionalised

9. States to set up one-stop shop for investors where they do not currently exist to attract investment and improve on IGR Safeguard competitive market economy

10. Promote regional cooperation on investment and industrialisation

11. Implement institutional and structural reforms as a way of improving the efficacy of monetary policy including greater consultation with the National Economic Council

12. Predictability and consistency of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s communication to key stakeholders is required to manage expectations

13. The Central Bank of Nigeria should carry the States along in some of their reforms in areas of SMEs and Agricultural funding initiatives

14. Long-term development goals should anchor policy decisions

15. Effective regulation & supervision to improve confidence in the soundness and stability of the banking system

Thematic Area – Infrastructure and Services
1.Develop infrastructure delivery plan considering current financial capabilities driven principally by the goal of improvement of the quality of life for the populace

2.Develop financing model for infrastructure projects

3. Integrate training and job creation components in infrastructure projects

4. Implement empowerment and entrepreneurship policies to foster inclusive growth

Thematic Area – Investing in our people

1. Federal and State Governments to work collaboratively to ensure sustainability of the school feeding and other social protection programmes

2. Cooperation from the States’ Ministries of Education and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEBs) for the Teacher Corp program

3. Provide logistics support on the proposed upgrade of 75 existing National Directorate of Employment (NDE) facilities (across the various States) to Empowerment Centers

4. Cooperation and coordination with the States on their specific job creation efforts

5. State Government support on identified needs such as infrastructure and/or space for innovation hubs

6. State Government support for artisan training, scoping and support for existing artisan cultures, use of existing training facilities

7. Institutionalize a single register as a platform for targeting the authentic poorest and vulnerable for safety net programs; for government, donor agency, organizations or individuals

8. Creating a delivery mechanism that ensures efficient, consistent timely and direct payments in the remotest parts of the country

9. Boost productivity and financial inclusion for the poorest and most vulnerable

Thematic Area – Revenue Generation and Fiscal Stability
1. There is need for deliberate effort to generate relevant data on the respective economies of the states and the nation generally in order to drive revenue generation

2. FIRS and SIRS need to invest in relevant technology to support efforts to improve tax collection

3. There is a need to develop incentive schemes for federal and state revenue generating agencies

4. FIRS and SIRS need to actively collaborate on initiatives to improve tax collection, including joint audits of major corporate tax payers

5. All state governments are encouraged to establish efficiency units to review/enhance the quality of expenditure as well as plug revenue leakages

6. Focus on property and consumption taxes will help in improving revenues in a fair manner

7. Tax-payer education should be intensified to expand the tax base and avoid political back-lash from intensifying tax collection

8. State Government are encouraged to rationalise number of Ministers, Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries

9. Cost control measures should be identified and implemented on an ongoing basis; in this regard various examples from Nigeria and other countries are recommended

Thematic Area – Survival of States and Beyond

1. Strengthen States Peer Review Mechanism under auspices of the Governors Forum and the National Economic Council (NEC) to promote sharing of good practices between the Federal and States Governments
NEC RETREAT – IMPLEMENTATION STEERING COMMITTEE FORMED:

• To oversee the work of the implementation committee
• To provide appropriate steers to the Implementation Monitoring Committee to ensure that the resolutions agreed at the retreat are duly followed up

HE Prof. Yemi Osinbajo
Vice President and Chairman of NEC
Chairman

HE Abdulaziz Y. Abubakar
Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum and Governor of Zamfara State
Member

HE Adams Oshiomhole
Governor of Edo State
Member

HE Abdulfatah Ahmed
Governor of Kwara State
Member

HE Rauf Aregbesola
Governor of Osun State
Member

HE David Umahi
Governor of Ebonyi State
Member

HE Badaru Abubakar
Governor of Jigawa State
Member

HE Mohammed Abubakar
Governor of Bauchi State
Member

Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma
Hon. Minister of Budget and National Planning
Member

Mrs. Kemi Adeosun
Hon. Minister of Finance
Member

Dr. Okechukwu Enelama
Hon. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment
Member

Chief Audu Ogbe
Hon. Minister of Agriculture
Member

Dr. Kayode Fayemi
Hon. Minister of Solid Minerals
Member

Mr. Babatunde Fashola
Hon. Minister of Works, Power and Housing
Member

Mrs. Nana F Mede
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and National Planning
Secretary
NEC RETREAT – IMPLEMENTATION MONITORING COMMITTEE FORMED

• To follow up the implementation of the resolutions of the retreat

• To receive steers from the Steering Committee regarding the follow up of the implementation

• To provide progress reports to the Steering Committee on the implementation

NAME
DESIGNATION
ROLE

Mrs Zainab S. Ahmed
Hon. Minister of State, Budget and National Planning
Chairman

Mrs Yosola Akinbi
Senior Technical Adviser to the Vice President on the National Economic Council
Member

Mr. L.O.T. Shittu
DG, Nigeria Governors Forum
Member

Mr. David Olofu
Commissioner for Finance and Planning, Benue State
Member

Mr. Mohammed Kauji
Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning, Borno State
Member

Dr. E.A. Onwiodokif
Comm. for Economic Planning, Akwa Ibom State
Member

Mrs. Aisha M. Bello
Comm. for Budget and Planning, Kano State
Member

Mrs. Aderenle Adesina
Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Ogun State
Member

Mr. Mark Okoye
Special Adviser, Economic Planning and Budget, Anambra State
Member

Mr. Tunde Lawal
Director, Macroeconomic Analysis Department, Fed. Min. BNP
Member

Mr. Kayode Obasa
Director, Economic Growth, FMBNP
Member

Mr. A.B. Saadu
Director, Special Duties
Member

FG To Stimulate Economy With N350bn In Next Quarter

The Nigerian government says it will inject N350 billion to stimulate its economy, which is facing a severe crisis occasioned by falling oil prices.

Nigeria’s economic growth in the last quarter stood at 2.1 percent. The total growth recorded in 2015 was 2.8 percent, the slowest since 1999, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS.

Briefing journalists at the end of a two-day National Economic Council (NEC) retreat at the conference hall of the Presidential Villa, the minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said the N350 billion would be spent mostly on capital projects and job creation.

“From the Federal Ministry of Finance in anticipation of the approval of the budget, we have virtually lined up about N350billion which we would be pumping into the Nigerian economy in the forthcoming months.

“We explained our rationale and the processes that we have put in place, safeguards to ensure that this money actually achieve the desired objective, which is to stimulate the economy.

“We are already discussing with some of the contractors who will be paid these monies and the objectives from the overall criteria is how many Nigerians would be re-engaged.

“We are specifically looking at contractors who have laid off staff and how many Nigerians are you going to put back to work as a result of this money that we are planning to release.

“We believe this would bring significant economic activity,” she said.

Ms. Adeosun said the retreat, which was the first by the present administration, deliberated extensively on the drop in revenue, particularly as to how it affects the state government and their ability to pay salaries and fulfil other obligations.

According to her, the general resolve of the council was that there was a need to bring in more cost efficiency in the operations of government, specifically the setting up an efficiency unit within the state governments, to rationalize expenditure and to increase IGR.

She said there was a need to generate data because data is the basis of any revenue collecting efforts, just as there was a need to develop incentives for both federal and state revenue generating agencies to ensure alignment of interest between the two arms of government.

The governors, Ms. Adeosun said, were tasked to focus on property and consumption taxes in their states to help improve their revenue in a fair manner.

“Tax payer education must be intensified and to expand the tax base and ensure that there is a buy-in in the revenue collection agencies from the populace” she said.

State governors were also encouraged to, where possible, rationalize the number of commissioners and general political appointees as well as adopt cost control measures to be able to sustain their states.

NEC also discussed the need to review the counterpart funding needed to access the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund from 50 percent to 10 percent.

The states currently need to have a counterpart fund of 50 percent to access the UBEC grants,

Upon review, it would become 10 and 90 percent contribution.

According to the minister, this will release an estimated “58 billion naira that is currently un-accessed”.

The minister said the council discussed that with N53billion, Nigeria could revamp at least 1,000 of the worst classrooms in each of the 36 states.

She said the council also discussed getting a “legislative approval to change the need for counterpart funding on the part of state governments”.

National Economic Council Announces Two-day Retreat To Discuss Volatile Economy

The National Economic Council (NEC) says it would hold a two-day retreat next week in order to stimulate the Nigerian economy.

The retreat is set for Monday, March 21 to Tuesday the 22nd to steer out policy actions for states and the federal government.

In a statement by the Laolu Akande, senior special assistant on media and publicity to the Vice President, the team said President Muhammadu Buhari would deliver the keynote address during the formal opening session on Monday.

Akande added that this is by no means the emergency economic conference as suggested by some parties.

“The objective of the NEC Retreat is to provide a forum for in-depth discussions by NEC members of the policy actions that the state and federal governments can consider in order to stimulate local production, cut costs and enhance public revenues among other measures to stimulate the economy,” he said.

“Contrary to suggestions, the retreat is not an emergency national economic conference. The idea was mooted at the last regular NEC meeting in January, where members requested an intensive session to review economic trends and evolve strategies to cope.”

Akande said the Vice President and chairman of NEC, would preside over the retreat with governors from the 36 states of the federation attending.

Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the budget and national planning minister, Udo Udoma, are among other top government functionaries expected to speak at the retreat.