Nigeria reaffirms commitment to partner with private sector

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

From left -Minister of Petroleium, Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enalamah ; Minister of Budget and National Planing , Udoma Udo Udoma and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during the Inauguration of Joint Working Group for the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Focus Labs at the State House Conference Centre in Abuja on Tuesday ( 6/02/18).

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has reaffirmed the commitment of the Nigerian government to partner and work with the private sector to achieve the economic objectives of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Professor Osinbajo was speaking on Tuesday as he inaugurated the Core Working Teams for the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, Focus Labs at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

“Our administration fully recognises that the private sector ought to be the driver of the economy, mobilising and deploying the bulk of capital required to deliver growth and prosperity; and the role of government should essentially be to create the environment for the private sector to thrive,” he said.

Professor Osinbajo noted that the principle on which the ERGP focus labs were designed was one that creates enabling environment for the private sector and stated that government was committed to the principle.

“I want all of us who will be participating in these labs to see this as central.  We want to listen to what investors are saying; we want to listen to what the private sector is saying; I want to see in what ways we can bend over backwards to accommodate what they are saying so that we can achieve our objectives,” he explained.

Bringing together private and Public sector participants
Osinbajo said the ERGP Focus Labs were meant to bring together private sector and public sector participants as well as potential investors to think through the implementation of the specific areas of focus for the labs, including agriculture and transportation; manufacturing and processing; and power and gas.

He said the labs, which would be launched in March, were targeted at achieving the ERGP’s goals of achieving seven per cent growth by 2020 and of creating jobs.

Challenged Economy
Presenting the focus labs, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, recalled that the Buhari administration inherited a challenged economy, but through deliberate policies, it was able to arrest the slide and put the economy back on the path of growth.

The sector specific focus labs were being rolled out to provide the private sector the needed leverage to drive the economy to enable it to attain the targeted seven per cent growth.

Udoma explained that the focus labs would be kick-started with three selected areas, “reflecting our priorities of the ERGP.”

“We are starting in agriculture and transportation, manufacturing and processing, power and gas supply. The  pre-lab phase which started on January 15 would run till March 4.

The main labs would run from March 5 till April 15 after which there would be post-lab.

Targets 15 million jobs
Udoma said the main objective of the labs was to get new investments for critical projects to create jobs.

He explained that, “We have a target of 15 million jobs and we must achieve it,” he stated, explaining that the labs would also be used “to resolve complex inter-agency problems that inhibit private sector investment.”

Retains Malaysian consultants.
The Minister said government would retain the Malaysian firm, PEMANDA Associates, who ran similar labs in Malaysia to support the implementation of the focus labs.

“They are supporting us; they are not running it for us. The labs would be run by an implementation unit in the Ministry of Budget and Planning,” he noted.

Udoma said  the president would be at the head of the structure and would be reported to while the Central Steering Committee would be chaired by the Minister of Budget and Planning.

The ministers of Agricultute, Transportation, Industry, Trade and Investment, Mines and Steel development, Finance, Power, Works and Housing, Justice, minister of state, petroleum resources, representatives of the president and that of the vice president and the coordinator of the labs would be members of the Central Steering Committee.

Others who spoke at the event were the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and Planning, Samson Adewale.

Confidence Okwuchi