- Says Nigeria to partner neighbouring countries to curb smuggling
Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has said more support and encouragement are needed to shore up the fight against the systemic corruption in the country and to nail perpetrators of such acts.
Osinbajo who fielded questions from members of the civil society organisations under the aegis of the Civil Society Situation Room in Abuja yesterday, also highlighted the efforts of government to stabilise the economy saying that the administration has resolved to reorder the national budget cycle to run from January to December every year.
Against the background of criticism that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration had not secured tangible convictions on corruption cases in the last two years, Osinbajo said prosecution of cases was suffering delays due to institutional constraints.
According to him, beyond the legal challenges, the federal government’s war against graft has not got the needed support from Nigerians, especially from members of the organised civil society groups.
Regarding the magnitude of corruption in the country and the need to check it, the VP said: “I don’t think that the people, especially the civil society have shown enough outrage that one expects in order to consistently beam searchlight on the perpetrators.
“People come and ask where are the convictions but I say where are the campaigns, we should be able to point out these persons so that they will not be able to spend these monies. If we are sufficiently outraged about the delays being orchestrated by defence lawyers intentionally to frustrate such corruption cases, everyone will hail the move by the Chief Justice of Nigeria,” he said
Speaking on the economic challenges facing the country, Osinbajo said the genesis of the problem is traceable to the inefficient management of accruing proceeds from oil by the previous administration which put the entire country into crisis.
He said situation was so bad that when the APC assumed power in 2015, two thirds of the states were owning workers salaries.
“This is how bad the situation was, hence the decision to offer states bailout to see if they can offset the salty arrears. You can’t point to a single major infrastructural project at a time that oil was selling at $100per a barrel,” he said.
On the issue of agitations by various groups and the threat to national unity, the Osinbajo said that most of the clamour about marginalisation are not factual, not backed up with reason.
He said he has analysed the agitations and found out that almost every section of the country is feeling marginalised rightly or wrongly.
For instance, he said at a time when many APC states in the North-west of the country are complaining that all they have are junior ministers in this administration, most of the states in the South-east can boast of having senior ministers with the exception of one.
In the same vein, he said whereas the South-east have been complaining about the composition of the military service chiefs, the same zone enjoyed such dominance during the immediate past administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said beyond seeking for ethnic balance, Nigerians should begin to consider the issue of merit.
“What I am saying is that we must drop this tendency of becoming ethnic warlords and forge a national consensus on the use of merit in deciding appointments in the country,” he said.
On what the federal government has been doing with the recovered funds from treasury looters, the vice president said that the monies have been built into the current budget.
He also said that there is a dedicated account in central bank designated to house these recovered funds.
He further said government would soon make public how much more looted funds has been recovered in terms of amounts in local and foreign currencies as well as in real estates properties.”
As a means of dousing growing suspicions over the application of the recovered funds, Osinbajo said the government is considering deploying the money to some designated key road projects which would be made public.
He said the government was considering beaming searchlight on states regarding the allegations that some states operate an open budget was an issue worth considering.
On power he said one of the major problems is distribution and not generation, adding that presently generation capacity was about 7,000 MW.
He said the government was introducing a policy where independent persons can supply meters to electricity users and meter same which is a departure from when it used to be the exclusive preserve of the Discos.
Osinbajo also spoke on the problem of insecurity caused by herdsmen attacks, saying that there is need to deal with violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in a more wholistic manners with the states and other stakeholders.
“I think several herdsmen have been found with arms , arrested and are facing trial. President Buhari has given orders to security agencies to apprehend any herdsman found with arms or dangerous weapons and the same goes with anyone with illegal arms,” he said.
Also, Osinbajo said the federal government would partner neighbouring countries to ensure that the country’s porous borders are better policed to tackle smuggling and the influx of counterfeit products into the country, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed yesterday
Osinbajo, according to a statement by his spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, last night, said the move would further promote the patronage of Made-in-Nigeria products and boost the country’s manufacturing sector.
Akande said the vice-president made the remark when he received a delegation of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said MAN, which was led by its President, Dr. Frank Udemba Jacobs, presented to the vice-president a report on its advocacy campaign for patronage of Made-in-Nigeria products.
He said Osinbajo suggested that certain sections of the laws should be amended to attract stringent monetary penalties for defaulters to serve as a deterrent to others and also protect the quality of goods in the country.
“More importantly, the whole issue is that we are able to police the borders. Last week we had discussions with all the agencies connected; including the Customs, the Minister of Internal Affairs, NPA, and we were looking at how we can work with our neighbours, especially the Benin Republic, and our neighbours also in the North, to police our borders as much as we can,” he was quoted as saying.
The statement also said Osinbajo reiterated that the major focus of the Buhari administration’s Ease of Doing Business reforms was to increase patronage for locally manufactured goods and also create an enabling environment for the private sector and businesses in the country to thrive.
“The whole point of the Executive Order on promoting “Made-in-Nigeria” products was to set the ball rolling, to create an environment for this sort of initiative, and I am extremely grateful to MAN for the work that it has done in bringing this to the fore,” he added.
The statement said earlier, MAN’s president said the association’s advocacy campaign was not only aimed at improving the patronage of locally manufactured products by Nigerians, but to also help create more jobs for Nigerians in the local manufacturing sector by reducing imports.
It said the association requested for a 35 per cent margin of preference for Made-in-Nigeria products for government procurement, a statement he said the vice-president in responded to, saying “the 35 per cent threshold is entirely reasonable. We should be able to do better than that in terms of driving government procurement.”