Osinbajo: FG Working to End Recession, Promises 200, 000 Jobs in Weeks

  • Says Sharia Law is impossible

By Shola Oyeyipo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has assured Nigerians that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government is working round the clock to reverse the current recession and tackle hunger among the citizenry by improving food production.

Osinbajo, who disagreed with those arguing that the current government should desist from blaming previous administration for the woes betiding Nigeria, gave the assurances yesterday during a state of the nation colloquim organised by Pastor Wale Adefarasin-led Coalition of Nigerian Apostolic Leaders which held at Guiding Light Assembly, Parkview, Lagos.

He attributed the regrettable state of affairs in the country to unsustainable economic structure, over-dependence on crude oil to the detriment of agriculture, vandalisation of oil installations; largely import dependent economy, dependence on foreign exchange and previously untamed high spate of corruption.

The two main reasons for where we are obvious; drop in oil prices and two, corruption. Anything else you’re looking at is just a manifestation of the two. When Trans Focado was bombed, we lost 40% of gas generation. Once there is problem in the oil sector, there would be problem in the economy.

“We could have avoided what happened in the North-east but $15bn arms fund was stolen. There is no economy that can withstand that kind of shock. When people say we should not talk about what has happened in the past, it is ridiculous. If you lose half of your foreign reserve, there is a shock on the economy”, he noted.

He said as part of efforts at blocking leakages that allowed for wasteful spending of scarce resources, government is embarking on fiscal prudence methods, particularly with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the I-pay policy.

“With the fiscal prudency, we are controlling how government fund is spent for efficiency and that has saved billions. With the TSA, we are able to ensure that government revenue is well accounted for and to control how government expenditure is received and spent.

“You heard when they said a high placed military officer receives N585 million from others’ salaries. With the electronic platform, I-pay, those kinds of anomalies are no longer possible. Then government is working to increase tax compliance. 700,000 new companies have been registered.

“Now we are trying to improve Value Added Tax (VAT) compliance. We are still at about 5% while other countries like Ghana have about 10% and our coverage is only 12%. So, it is better to increase coverage for VAT so that more revenue can come in,” he said.

He also noted that the federal government’s decision to deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry was yielding positive results and uncovering the massive corruption in the subsidy regime.

According to him, while under the subsidy regime, Nigerians were made to believe that we consume about 55 million metric tons daily, but immediately after the removal, though shooting up the price of fuel, it became clear that only about 28 – 32m metric tons are consumed.

“The sharp drop shows the extent of subsidy fraud and the deregulation made us reflect more on what the actual cost of petrol is”, he stated.

He however expressed great optimism that when the Dangote refinery in Lagos with the capacity to produce 650 barrels per day becomes operational, it will save the country about 30% of the much needed foreign being expended on the importation of petroleum products.

The Vice President also hinted that no fewer than 200,000 Nigerian job seekers will be engaged through the government’s proposed 500,000 volunteer corps programme.

“We are working to create jobs. Of course, the best way to create jobs is through the private sector but government must provide an enabling environment and that is what we are doing. Through the 500,000 volunteer corps programme, we are creating opportunities for young graduates to enable them earn some money and they would have a device with a module that will allow them learn.

“Close to a million people have registered and in 14 days, we would start with 200,000″, adding that government is investing heavily on infrastructure.

Addressing the audience who expressed concerns over bill seeking to entrench the Sharia Law in all the 36 states of the federation and which seems to be getting favourable attention from the National Assembly, Osinbajo said it is erroneous to assume that government was interested in the bill.

“First of all, it is not right at all that the federal government is interested in any Sharia bill. Every bill that is a government bill must come from the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF). This Sharia bill was presented by somebody within the National Assembly and my understanding is that it has not even passed the second reading. But let’s even assume that it did, you cannot change a Nigeria law without a constitution amendment. Sharia is in the constitution since 1979 and it applies to Muslims on issues of marriage, inheritance and others. Any change, whatsoever, cannot come by the way of amendment within the National assembly; it has to be by constitutional amendment.

“Aside from both the Senate and House of Representatives, amendment of Constitution must go to two-thirds of the states; 24 states must say they want it. So, it is not possible, we should not waste our time and energy on it”, he argued.