By Rukayat Moisemhe
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, says a deepening of engagement between public and private sectors on infrastructure development is essential for jobs preservation and modernisation of Nigeria’s economy.
Osinbajo made the assertion at a webinar organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) 2020 Presidential Policy Dialogue on Friday in Lagos.
The vice president said that collaboration would not dwell on major infrastructure projects based on its time frame and the ongoing path-breaking infrastructure investments under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF).
He explained that the plan called for leveraging on savings, which included pension funds in a derisked environment for infrastructure development.
“Already, government and the PIDF have already provided extensively for infrastructure.
“Greater emphasis is placed on rural roads to facilitate the evacuation of agricultural produce because of their huge jobs potential creation.
“We recognise that national infrastructure needs to go beyond these mega projects, and so we strongly believe that the private sector has a key role to play in the provision of infrastructure.
“We can leverage pension funds in a derisked environment for infrastructure development and this has to be done commercially.
“The Azurra Edo Power Plant is a good example of how government can support and enable the private sector.
“It is important as a nation to build on such successes, bearing in mind that it is the responsibility of the government to help derisk such investment, if they are actually going to be made.
“These kind of collaborations are important as we go forward and the Federal Government is ready to provide the necessary guarantees,” Osinbajo said.
On the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian economy, the vice president said that execution of the sustainability measures contained in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) intended to boost production, prevent business collapse and provide liquidity, were underway.
He added that the ESP would also engender the promotion of labour intensive methods and direct labour interventions in key areas like agriculture, manufacturing, housing and facility maintenance.
Osinbajo also disclosed plans to deepen the Social Investment Programmes and safety nets in areas like cash transfer, N-Power, extension of homegrown school feeding programmes to all states of the federation, among others.
“Nigeria, like all other countries, has been quite seriously impacted in various ways by the COVID-19 pandemic, either as households or businesses, and is clear that both the pandemic and its effects would remain for a while.
“The priority of the Federal Government to the challenges posed by COVID-19 is essentially to ward off a deep recession and to save jobs by a mixture of stimulus measures to support local businesses.
“Some of its key provisions include: jobs for food creating a targeted five million jobs for Nigerians; increased infrastructure investment on roads, bridges, solar power and communication technologies.
“Also is the jobs through homes, which would engage teems of young artisans and improve local manufacturing by the intentional use of local products for construction.
“Part of the stimulus package is to make government the buyers of last resort.
“This is to ensure that the whole question of demand, which is weakened at the moment, is strengthened as government stands ready to be purchaser.
“We are not under any illusions that we can achieve this on our own as everything would have to be done lockstep with the private sector,” he said.
Osinbajo added that the ESP also included a solar powering project targeted at providing electricity through the private sector for five million households with solar power in rural or underserved areas.
“The future of jobs programme in technology would engage our creative youths in productivity, while preparing our economy to engage in services such as global outsourcing.
“We are trying to see how we can take advantage of these times to support the digital industry on Nigeria to be able to become a hub for outsourcing of engineering services, instead of call attendants or trouble shooting supports,” he said.
Also, Chief Niyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, highlighted the current administration’s strategy at improving the nation’s ease of doing business situation by the creation of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).
Adebayo said that the current administration had adopted a call to action approach in tackling security challenges as evident in the budgetary allocation to provide necessary tools and equipment for respective security forces.
“Nigeria requires an estimated three trillion dollars over the next 30 years to upscale its infrastructure.
“The current administration has also taken steps to resolve power generation issues in its plan to revitalise the sector and improve power generation to 25,000 watts by 2025.
“On corruption, government is persistently restructuring its implementation agencies such as the ICPC and EFCC to limit the level of corrupt practices in the public sector,” he said.
Adebayo reiterated the current administration’s disposition at taking significant steps to address the nation’s infrastructure challenges in spite of its limited resources.