Insecurity: Presidential retreat proposes private sector collaboration

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

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Participants at the two-day Presidential Policy Retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, have proposed collaboration between the Nigerian government and the private sector to address the country’s security challenges.

This was one of the eight proposals that President Buhari reeled out in his remarks to mark the end of the retreat on Thursday.

Other proposals made at the retreat included the stimulation of significant investments in the industrialisation of agriculture, development of policies that will facilitate private sector participation in infrastructure projects and introduction of policies and regulatory changes that will unlock potentials in the petroleum sector – both upstream and downstream.

President Buhari also said that experts at the retreat recommended that the Nigerian government consider policies that would “aggressively improve the ease of doing business by reducing bureaucracy and improving inter agency collaboration; providing incentives for investors especially in agriculture and power sectors; and facilitate construction of mass and affordable housing to propel economic growth and reduce the massive housing deficit.” 

The Nigerian government was also advised to look into the “launch of a consumer credit scheme with the banking sector for citizens to have access to long term and affordable mortgages and consumer credit; fix the power sector by addressing some of the regulatory uncertainties and operational shortcomings of the key players ; and drive efficiency in public service delivery through realignment of the Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDAs) and implementation of e-governance solutions.” 

Cabinet discussion
President Buhari said the proposals from the retreat would be discussed with the ministers when the cabinet for his next tenure is formed.

“As you are aware, some of my Ministerial nominees are currently undergoing their screening at the National Assembly. God willing, the proposals from this session will be discussed and finalised with them in the coming weeks as they take on their portfolios. 

“Although most of the proposals were targeted at the Federal Government, I also want to remind the State Governors to do their part especially in the areas of education and health care, which are within their constitutional responsibilities.”

Benchmarking Nigeria
President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria’s laws, regulations, culture, geography and history must be considered in benchmarking Nigeria’s development against other countries.

President Buhari observed that the presentations made at the retreat showed that different countries adopted strategies that suited their peculiarities in their development processes.

According to the president the agricultural programme of his administration provided cheap credits for farmers, while the food security programme gave capital to large scale food processors that enabled to off-take grains from farmers.

“During these two days, several case studies were presented on how different countries successfully addressed various issues confronting them. 

“I listened carefully and attentively throughout all the presentations and the subsequent exchanges in the question and answer sessions. What was very obvious is that the journey for each country was different. 

“A good example is on infrastructure development. The path adopted by Ethiopia is from my understanding, the complete opposite of Brazil.  

“This is also the same when it comes to agriculture, where Brazil adopted large scale mechanised agriculture while Ethiopia took the out grower and contract farming model. 

“The same can be said when you compare the oil and gas policies of Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States as shown in one of the presentations. 

 

“Like my brother, the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia mentioned, the only right answer is the one that is tailored to your specific needs. This means as we benchmark Nigeria against other countries, we must not lose sight of the laws, regulations, geography, culture, history and many other factors that makes us Nigerians. 

“ Some of you may remember me saying some years back that what we need are ‘made in Nigeria solutions for our uniquely Nigerian problems’”. 

Fertilizer Plants
President Buhari said Nigeria partnered with the Kingdom of Morocco to revive dozens of abandoned fertiliser blending plants across the country and introduced the Anchor Borrowers’ Program that provided cheap credit to small scale farmers to buy the right inputs that will lead to enhanced yields.

He said his administration developed food security programme that provided capital to large scale food processors to enable them to off-take the grains produced by these farmers and introduced policies that restrict imports to support the consumption of locally produced food items.

“Through these interventions, we were able to systematically address some of the value chain issues confronting agriculture. This led to significant job creation in the rural economy and savings in our foreign reserves. They also led to a lowering of food prices.

“On infrastructure, through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, we are investing in strategic projects across the country such as the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos Ibadan Express Way and the Abuja – Kaduna – Kano highway. 

“ As you can see, in Agriculture, Government was just an enabler. We linked the farmers to input suppliers and off-takers while providing extension services. In infrastructure development, we decided to build the roads ourselves for now.

“As a nation, the limited experiences we have on road concessions have not been very positive. But that said, we will continue to explore.” 

President Buhari said the goal of his administration was to implement initiatives that would lift Nigerians out of poverty through mass employment and social safety nets.

 

Nnenna.O