Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called on religious leaders to support the federal government in implementing health and economic policies, and programmes in the country.
He said religious leaders had specific roles to play towards influencing their followers to understand the importance of government programmes that were meant to improve the health and economic status of the country.
Osinbajo stated this while speaking at the Demographic Conference held in Abuja yesterday, tagged ‘Harnessing Demographic Dividend for Sustainable Development in Nigeria: The Role of Muslim Religious Leaders.’
Demographic dividend is the economic growth that may result from changes to countries’ age structure.
The vice president stated that achieving demographic dividend required sustainable multi-sectorial investments in health, education, young people, employment, women and girls, trade and industry, economic growth, and governance by the government.
“To achieve demographic dividend, federal government has since 2015 begun to bring out large number of people out of poverty. It is investing in critical human development issues especially healthcare, education and employment.
“We have now employed directly under Npower programme 500,000 graduates and we are giving micro credits to over 2 million petty traders in every state of Nigeria. We are also targeting our cash transfer to over 400,000 of the poorest Nigerian farmers.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said that available data indicated that working with religious leaders to improve maternal, new born and child health was an important cost effective and sustainable strategy in disseminating Maternal Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) information across a large population.
He said it was also critical to persuade communities to change established behaviour and attitudes. According to him, it has also led to improved perception on family planning spousal communication.
“The Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNFPA and other numerous partners is calling on all Religious leaders to help in making the change that would translate into positive contribution to Nigeria’s economic development through investment in Youths and Young people that will fast track our harnessing the Demographic Dividend”. Adewole said.
Also speaking, the UNFPA Regional Director, West and Central Africa, Mr. Mabinggue Ngoma represented by Acting Country Reps, UNFPA, Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy described religious leaders as the most important personalities in the societies as they provide information, counseling, guidance to groups and individuals.
He said the information provided by religious leaders saved as moral frame work for the demand of social services, such as healthcare, education among others at both individual and family level.