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In order to bring about a society and economy that works for all especially the poor and vulnerable, Nigeria’s national development plans must among other things, promote economic diversification, be modern, ambitious, realistic, flexible enough to absorb shocks and adapt to swiftly changing national and international conditions, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Friday in a keynote address delivered virtually at the 19th meeting of the National Council on Development Planning themed “National Development Planning in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges”.

According to the Vice President, “It is generally agreed that the primary purpose of planning in our economy is to accelerate growth and development outcomes that will improve the lives of Nigerians.

“To be meaningful, our planning processes must lead to tangible outcomes in the form of growth that exceeds population growth. Indeed, our plans must bring about an economy and society that works for all Nigerians.”

Referencing the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) as an example of deliberate efforts aimed at ensuring inclusive growth, the Vice President said that an aspect of national planning that is often overlooked is how to manage distributional outcomes in a rapidly changing economic environment.

“This point is readily understood if we recall that the strength of feelings on issues like the national minimum wage or indeed the deregulation of PMS prices is related to their expected impact on the poor segments of society.

“It is accordingly important when drawing up national plans to take account of the interests of the more vulnerable members of society. This is why social investment and social protection are at the heart of the Buhari Administration’s policy interventions.

“Indeed, top of mind for Mr President is how to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in this decade as we radically re-engineer the productive base of our economy in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and the digital and creative sectors,” the Vice President explained.

Summarizing the core objectives and targets of a desirable national development plan for the country, the Vice President emphasized that “our development plans must be inclusive and promote economic diversification”.

His words: “They must promote coordination among the various tiers of government as well as coordination between ministries, departments and agencies at all levels.

“Our plans must also be modern and ambitious and yet realistic and flexible enough to absorb shocks and adapt to swiftly changing domestic and international conditions

“Our plans must accelerate domestic resource mobilization and build capacities for planning, implementation and must create the best possible environment for the private sector to invest and operate

“At the core of thinking in our planning must be the aggressive incremental eradication of poverty and the creation of wealth and good-paying jobs. Our planning must be capable of meeting the aspirations and opportunities for a huge and growing youth population.”

The Vice President also tasked stakeholders to work hard to overcome challenges of implementation and coordination in the execution of the development plans noting that “implementation remains the Achilles Heels of our planning efforts. And another make or break issue for planning is coordination.”

Participants at the meeting include the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed; the Minister of the FCT, Alhaji Mohammed Bello; the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Mr Clem Agba; Commissioners for Budget and Economic Planning from the 36 States, among others

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ICT

The Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has once again reiterated the role of ICT and telecommunications in promoting development and engendering national unity.

He spoke at a Quarterly Public Lecture in Abuja, organisaed by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), themed: Imperial Cultural Illusions, Delusions and Hallucination: Major Sources of Africa’s Contemporary Development Crises.

The EVC who was represented by Deputy Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Mrs. Grace Ojougboh said that “Aside driving ubiquitous access to telecoms services, NCC takes it upon itself to constantly educate consumers of telecoms services on responsible use of our ICT resources for promoting development and engendering national unity.

According to him, the effort of the commission “resonates with the Institute’s primary responsibility of harnessing our cultural resources to meet the challenges of social integration, peace, unity and national development.”

“The NCC recognizes the power of telecommunications in leapfrogging our national development in these important respects. This is the reason the Commission accords priority to strategic objectives in its regulatory mandate” he said.

He added that NCC ensures proper registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards while also ensuring the ongoing implementation of the Ministerial Directive on the linkage of SIM and National Identity Number (NIN) data in order to ensure credible citizens’ database.

“This, the Federal Government believes will enhance efforts at curbing criminal activities such as terrorism, banditry, kidnapping while boosting confidence in economic transactions” he said.

The EVC recalled contributions of the telecoms sector during the recent COVID-19 lockdown, “We witnessed, first hand, the potential positive impact of telecommunications and ICTs across all the key sectors of the Nigerian economy.”

He pointed to report by the Federal National Bureau of Statistics, that “the telecoms sectors’ positive contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Quarter 4 of 2020 is one of the reasons Nigeria was able to marginally exit from recession.”

Adding that “What is left for us, therefore, as a country, is to ensure we leverage technology functionally to promote our economy and address other critical development challenges.”

Further addressing the theme of the public lecture he explained that, “world civilisation and culture have been greatly impacted by the advancement in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and telecommunications to the extent that the way we socialize, carry out businesses, engage in learning and participate in other life endeavours have changed in unprecedented ways.”

“Indeed, the theme of this event finds cognate expression in technological determinism theory and cultural imperialism conception. While the former presupposes that the society’s level of technology adoption determines the development of its social structure and cultural values; the latter is seen as the process and practice of promoting one culture over another and access to technologies plays a vital role in this.”

“Over the years, technology has revolutionised our world and daily lives and created amazing tools and resources, putting useful information at our fingertips.”

“In recent times, Nigeria has put greater emphasis on digital economy, through her National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2010-2030, courtesy of the visionary leadership of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami).”

“Indeed, the world is witnessing greater advancement in ICT with next-gen technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, Fifth Generation Network (5G), Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Realities (VR), Blockchain and Big data, among others. These newest technologies are fast evolving to redefine our sociocultural orientation in the 4th Industrial Revolution of the 21st Century.”

“With all of these revolutions, technology has made our lives easier, faster, better, and more exciting, but it has wrought a devastating effect on our national and traditional ethos. The emergence of the so called ‘digital natives’ or ‘ Millennial’ presuppose a generation that is fast losing touch with our time honours traditional and cultural values which are the  very essence of our  identity as a people.”

The convergence of information technology and communications technology with the attendant pervasive wholesome adoption that straddles virtually all facets of social, economic and cultural life underscore the fact that this is a major source of Africa’s contemporary development crises.”

“As the independent national regulatory authority for the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, the NCC has, over the years, been creating an enabling environment for competition among operators in the industry as well as ensuring the provision of qualitative and efficient telecommunications services throughout the country for rapid and orderly socio-economic development.

“The Commission drives broadband penetration and access to next-gen technologies that impact life. In addition, it advocates responsible use of the technologies, especially the Internet in a way that helps to address our socio-economic, cultural and national security challenges.”

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Economy, Government

*Osinbajo: We won’t allow vast majority of our people suffer

*New ICUs, Molecular Laboratories & Isolation Centres underway in 52 Federal Tertiary Health institutions

*Pharmaceutical industries get N1bn support for unused raw materials

*Bio-vaccine laboratory expected soon

*4000km federal, rural roads projects advancing steadily

*5.8 M farmers enumerated under Mass Agric scheme

With the release of about N288B out of the N500B appropriated for COVID-19 intervention programmes under the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), at least 2.1 million jobs have been saved, including new ones created, while over 4000km of federal and rural roads are at least 30% completed since the commencement of the ESP months ago.

These were some of the highlights emerging from today’s meeting of the Economic Sustainability Committee presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, at the Presidential Villa.

While noting the considerable progress recorded, Prof. Osinbajo affirmed the President’s resolve to always look out for the Nigerian people, and urged members of the committee “to bear in mind that the vast majority of our people are not allowed to suffer.”

Ministers and heads of agencies executing the Buhari administration’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) reported significant improvement in the implementation of the plan, as the Federal Government ramps up funding for projects across sectors to impact more Nigerians. Already more than 50% of the appropriated sum for the ESP has been released.

Under the Survival Fund scheme specifically, 1.3 million jobs have been saved, and another 774,000 jobs created from the Public Works Programme. This is apart from the total 26,021 jobs created from construction and rehabilitation works.

Other highlights include the release of 100% (i.e. N5bn) appropriation for the COVID-19 Aviation intervention; 50% funding (N26bn) for the Public Works scheme hiring 774,000 persons across the country, among others.

Commenting on the reports presented by ESC members at the meeting, Prof. Osinbajo said “I think that it will be fair to say that on account of the very good work that you all have done, we were able to get out of recession much faster than anyone would have imagined, although only marginally.”

Urging ministers and heads of agencies implementing key programmes of government not to rest on their oars, the Vice President noted that “it is important for us to continually bear in mind that we really have a duty to ensure that the vast majority of our people are not allowed to suffer. So, I feel we should be thinking more about the next thing that we need to do.”

In digital skills support for youth and women, anchored by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr Clem Agba reported that N1.5b which is 50% of the amount appropriated for the scheme primarily targeted for job creation has been released to the ministry.

He added that priority programmes for the intervention is the training of 600 youths (100 from each of the 6 geo-political zones) on VSAT technologies who will also be supported with laptops and stipends.

The Minister noted that the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs has received N625 million (representing 50% of appropriated funds) to implement an empowerment scheme for women through capacity building in innovation and vocational training.

For the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports, the Minister said N2.6 billion representing 50% appropriation was released for implementation of youth employability improvement scheme through;

*Capacity building in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies

*Positioning Nigerian youths for digital remote jobs

*Equipping of youths digital/robotic training centres across the 6 geo-political zones.

Another key highlight of the progress report is the release of N1.25 billion (50%) to the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons for implementation of programmes for vulnerable and displaced persons, specifically:

*The construction of 400 housing units for persons of concern in Zamfara, Yobe, Katsina, and Edo states; 8 PHCs and others

*Empowerment of 900 persons of concern with skills, starter packs and startup capital.

The Minister also reported that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development received N2.45 billion representing 7.5% of N32.45 billion for cash transfer to the poor and vulnerable, while the balance of N30 billion is being processed.

In strengthening health system, the Minister said 52 Federal Tertiary Health (FTHs) Institutions received N23.57 billion (N853m each) for the establishment of ICUs, Molecular Laboratories and Isolation Centres.

The progress report presented by the minister showed that in 38 FTHs implementation is at an average of 47% completion with procurement process completed and equipment supply in progress.

Expected outcomes from the interventions in the sector include 520 fully equipped ICU beds available in FTHs; 52 Isolation wards with an aggregate of 1040 beds and associated patient monitoring equipment and 52 molecular labs with the capacity to carry out a minimum of 150 PCR test a day.

Other releases for the health sector, according to the minister include, N10 billion for the establishment of a bio-vaccine laboratory; N5.02 billion representing 50% to the Federal Ministry of Health for implementation of the following projects:

*Surveillance and Epidemiology

*Establishing Laboratory

*Point of Entry;

*Infection Prevention and Control

*Case Management

*Health-related communication

*Research and Development

In his presentation, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Mohammed Nanono, said N17 billion has been released for rural roads project under the ESP while about 5.8 million farmers enumerated out of which the data of 3.6 million have been validated.

In the works sector, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola said a total number of 4,350 direct jobs were recalled and 18,321 indirect jobs were created through the engagement of the contractors and suppliers handling different works across the country.

Members of the ESC most of whom attended the meeting include Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; Trade and Investment Minister, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Mohammed Nanono; Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Mariam Katagum; Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr Clem Agba; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari.

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Energy

Nigeria is expected to generate $600 million from new Marginal Fields, according to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva.

Speaking at the fifth edition of the Special Ministerial Briefings coordinated by the Presidential Communication Team, held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday, Sylva stated that the process for the acquisition of the marginal fields had been completed and there were 161 winning bids and they had been notified.

“We have started to receive signature bonuses paid by the winners.

“At least from the last account report I got from DPR, almost 50 per cent of the winners have paid. What we are expecting from the whole process is about 600 million dollars.

“And of course, we have also given allowance for people to pay in Naira so you have to pick which currency to pay in – in Naira or dollars.

“So, at this point we cannot give any figure in any currency but just to tell you that payments have been encouraging and they have up to April 20, 2021.

“So there is some time although the jury is still out but we believe that by April we would have got a lot of them to pay,’’ the minister said.

On why the government is investing 1.5 billion dollars on rehabilitation of Port-Harcourt Refinery when at the same time it is talking about privatization and commercialization of the oil and gas industry, the minister said:

“I have always said that our refinery cannot survive with the regime of subsidy; because you cannot be refining at a cost and selling at a subsidized rate.

“Now that constraints will be taken away by deregulation – that is the more reason why we must fix our refineries so that our refineries can now function optimally.’’

The minister maintained that it would be better for government to privatize a functional refinery as it would fetch more revenue for the treasury.

“A functional refinery will definitely fetch more for the government than a non-functional refinery.

“That’s why we feel that we gave to rehabilitate this refinery and then the government will later decide on whether to privatize, whether to commercialize.

“But at this point we want to give Nigerians a functional refinery,’’ he said.

According to him, the government resolved to rehabilitate the refinery based on the recommendations of experts.

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