The Daily Trust Board of Economists has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to take measures to reverse the classification of Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world within the first one year of his second tenure.
This was contained in the communiqué signed by the Chairman of the Board, Prof Ode Ojowu and released in Abuja yesterday. The decision was reached at the Board’s meeting held on March 30, to consider an ‘Economic Agenda for Buhari’s Second Term’.
“The Board expresses embarrassment for the classification of Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world. The Board cannot reconcile the ‘successes’ recorded in the agricultural sector with the classification of Nigeria on the poverty index where inadequate access to food is the major factor,” the Communique stated.
On how to stem poverty, the Board recommended capital releases that support small-scale projects that can enhance employment opportunities and family-based approach to food nutrition that can serve as an alternative framework to the school feeding programme.
The Board backed local government autonomy to ensure increased capital spending in rural areas as part of the strategy to stem poverty.
On the budget, the Board advised lawmakers to accord priority to the passage of the 2019 budget so that it would not be pushed beyond the lifetime of the 8th Assembly.
Expressing disappointment with the consistent time lag in the presentation of the budget, the Board was concerned that the political intrigues on the ascendancy to leadership positions in the National Assembly and the jostling for cabinet positions in the executive may overshadow the need for the early passage of the 2019 budget.
It called for the restoration of a national development plan as the surest way to effective national budgeting to meet the aspirations of the Nigerian people.
The rising cases of rural banditry, kidnapping, and clashes between farmers and herders across the county threatening food security in the country were part of the issues considered at the meeting.
“The Board is concerned that if these security issues are not tackled in the second term, the economy will be adversely affected as rural residents in particular cannot attend to their farms, travel to markets and engage in social activities,” the Communique stated.
In order to avoid the rural populace adopting self-help measures that may make insecurity ‘self-sustaining’, the Board recommended strong inter-agency cooperation, strengthening of security agencies, including intelligence gathering and sharing and strong oversight of the National Assembly to secure rural areas, save lives and avoid food shortages.
“Inter-governmental cooperation and coordination should be a priority for the Buhari’s government in the next four years. Some instruments of coordination already exist, such as the National Economic Council and the Sectoral Councils, but these appear as routines with little effectiveness,” The Communique stated.
The Board appreciated the government’s efforts in executing high-profile capital projects through the Presidential Infrastructure Investment Fund (PIIF), but expressed concern about its contribution to the rising national debt burden.
It recommended that the bulk of infrastructure funds coming into the country should be negotiated on a Public Private Partnership basis while the comatose Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission’s laws and policy guidelines should be reviewed and updated in line with international best practices to become the link between Nigeria and investors seeking infrastructure projects.