·Says decision was taken to avoid conflict of interest,
·Denies selective recruitment in CBN, FIRS, others
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
For the first time on Thursday, the presidency addressed the non-inclusion of the private sector in the federal government’s Economic Management Team headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, as was the case in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, stating that the decision was taken to prevent conflicts of interest.
It equally denied reports alleging secret recruitment of children and cronies of government functionaries at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and other agencies and parastatals of government, saying that the reports were “inaccurate”.
The vice-president’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, who spoke with journalists in Abuja yesterday, said it was the government’s responsibility to manage the economy.
“We have to understand that the attitude of this presidency is that it considers the management of the economy as a government responsibility.
“It is not something that this government believes should be done by bringing in some private interests into the economic team to take decisions that they will be directly involved in.
“So our stand is that the management of the economy is a government responsibility,” he explained.
He however pointed out that the private sector was not totally excluded from making suggestions to government, as members of the organised private sector such, as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), were being engaged by government.
“For instance, we have started meeting on a constant basis with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). There have been meetings with representatives of the economic sector of the country. There have been meetings with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and some other economic interests with companies, making presentations.
“But generally, this thing is a government team and the team has been able to set out before the budget was finished to figure out what the budget ought to focus on.
“After the budget was presented and eventually signed into law, there was also the publication of the strategic implementation plan which was produced in a reader friendly format.
“All of these are the outcomes of what an Economic Management Team does and it is also in the team where you have the heap of the whole fiscal and monetary policies, and don’t forget that monetary policies are always the duty and responsibility of the central bank which is an economic arm of government,” he said.
Asked when the nation would begin to feel the impact of the decisions taken by the economic team and indeed the first fruit of the regime, Akande said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was committed to charting a new way forward for the country.
Also speaking on reports by some online media organisations, which claimed that the CBN and FIRS had recruited the relatives and cronies of government officials secretly, he said the government was sanitising the recruitment process and indeed the public sector to make them more transparent.
According to Akande, “These reports were inaccurate. What we have is government is working to ensure that we develop, going forward, a more transparent process. We are committed to ensuring that some of these procedures are refined, fine-tuned and made more transparent.”
In his view, the drastic reduction of corruption within the public sector was a laudable feat of the administration.
“As much as we try not to say this, we know as a matter of fact that officials of the past administration, most of them have come out to say they did not save for the rainy day.
“So we are dealing mostly with situations that have been caused even before this administration took over power.
“The president and his team are working hard and planning not only to tighten public expenditure and increase savings, but to also diversify the economy like never before.
‘So we are sure and we believe that going forward, things will begin to pick up again. It is taking a while because of the extent of the damage left behind.
“The first fruit is already in place because we have started rebuilding. I think to some extent, that question presupposes that rebuilding is still ongoing, no!
“The rebuilding of the resources of this country has stopped. I believe that a huge factor in the way Nigeria is today economically is corruption.
“We can’t run away from that and the president has made it clear and I think everyone in the country now understands that and it is not going to continue. Effectively, he has reduced the corruption in Nigeria,” he said.
He attributed the delay in the implementation of the social welfare package for unemployed graduates to the late passage of the 2016 budget into law.
He said: “You have to agree that we did had some delay in the whole process because of the timing of the budget approval. For instance, when we came in at the end of May, there was no way the government could implement some of those social welfare schemes because it was not budgeted for.
“So we had to wait for the budget process to kick in so that we can begin to implement the policies, and since the budget has now been signed into law, we are taking off,” he stated.