2023: NESG proposes six-point agenda for political leadership

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has proposed a six-point agenda to nudge Nigeria’s prospective political actors towards actualising the immediate yearnings of Nigerians and effecting sustainable economic change.

The NESG National Economic Dialogue which held in Abuja was attended by high-profile political leaders, private and public sector stakeholders, civil society and academia.

The NESG’s six-point agenda urges government to rethink what socio-economic development outcomes mean for an average Nigerian, rethink the role of market and the private sector and deepen sectoral reforms to support broad-based growth and competitiveness. 

Other points of the agenda urge the nation’s leadership to facilitate integrated national and sub-national approach to economic inclusion and development, pragmatic and actionable social sector reforms and develop workable and inclusive national security strategy in all dimensions.

In his keynote speech, Asue Ighodalo, Chairman of the group emphasised that the process by which parties select their candidates during the primaries; the characteristics and capacity of persons chosen were crucial to the Nigerian dream. 

He said: “The Nigerian government has a pivotal role in addressing, with utmost urgency, six critical challenges causing economic dysfunction. These challenges are non-inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic stability, infrastructure deficit, human capital deficit and skills gap, national insecurity and weak economic competitiveness.

“We, the citizens, need to pay attention to the quality of our political system, processes, institutions and economic reforms. Our collective responsibility is to deliver a first-world country with happy and safe citizens. This is a call to national service. We must all be more involved, more selfless and tolerant, acting in the national interest.” 

Professor Osita Ogbu, Director of the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria, said “Enough emphasis is not placed on inequality. Inequality undermines the trust, solidarity, and mutuality on which good citizenship is based. 

“Once you have a non-inclusive growth economy, it’s a recipe for what we are already observing in this country. Poverty is pervasive; inequality is pervasive. It is not just a simple matter: there are few rich people and many poor people. It’s a matter of citizenship. It’s a matter of how can you expect people who do not have a stake in the country to regard themselves as citizens of this country? When people ask, what do we do to fix the economy, I always say fix the politics first. If you fix the politics, that’s a major step towards fixing the economy because major economic decisions are made by politicians.” 

According the NESG, the government needs partnership with the private sector to effect positive socio-economic outcomes. This demands a free-market orientation to support growth and inclusion, ensure appropriate pricing, and unlock private capital for economic development.

Meanwhile, external imbalances occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war provide compelling reasons for countries to look inwards and support domestic value-chain development. 

The NESG emphasised that this is applicable to the Nigerian situation. According to the group, the  government needs to prioritise value-added exports for commodities -particularly agricultural products and oil – to address cross-sectoral value chain constraints and drive economic growth. 

Reinforcing the urgency of adopting this strategy, Mr. Ari Aisen, Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Nigeria, said: “The global economy has been hit by the second shock of the Russia-Ukraine war. This puts the economy in a difficult situation. Allowing food production to satisfy the citizenry takes precedence over other priorities. 

“Food security is a big objective, and attention must be paid to this sector so it can provide enough food to keep Nigerians from suffering from the shock disproportionately.”

“When bad leadership ceases to have an effect, then the effect of bad leadership will cease,” said Dr Olisa Agbakoba, Senior Partner, Olisa Agbakoba Legal. 

It is believed that most states in the Federation currently experience internally generated revenue constraints and, as a result, live off the monthly subventions from the federation account. 

NESG in its argument, demanded an integrated national and sub-national approach to foster economic cooperation between subnational governments, boost intra-regional wealth transfer, and check socio-economic polarization and inter/intraregional divides. It cited the rice milling partnership between the governments of Lagos and Kebbi as one example of such successful projects that should be encouraged in Nigeria.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranking, Nigeria’s healthcare system is in 178th position out of 192 countries. Medical tourism and brain drain among health practitioners have also taken a huge toll on the sector, even as Nigeria also accounts for 20% of the global out-of-school children. 

The NESG added that a functioning and efficient social sector is critical to developing a resilient economy, and therefore advocated for pragmatic and actionable social sector reforms, particularly in education and health.

Dr Hussaini Abdu, Country Director, CARE International Nigeria, said: “As a country, we are experiencing a huge social development crisis. The crisis in the university reflects the larger crisis in the education sector. 

“The level of investment in healthcare is extremely poor. Seventy-seven percent of health service delivery in this country is out of pocket. This is how health service is being financed in this country, and it does not work anywhere. It means our health insurance system is not working. It only captures a few civil servants, and the poor are not getting good services.”

You might also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More