•Says unemployment unacceptably high
•Bars uninvited govt officials from attending UNGA in US
•Edun: We inherited bad economy
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu yesterday, urged the 45 Ministers that constitute the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to do their best towards turning around for better, the nation’s ailing economy.
Also, yesterday, Tinubu directed the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop forthwith, the processing of visas for all government officials seeking to travel to New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) without proof of direct participation in the official schedule of activities of the global event.
Addressing the opening session of the maiden FEC meeting held in Abuja, that was also attended by Vice President Kashim Shettima and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, the president charged the Ministers to look beyond titles and offices and stay focused on the day-to-day task of their individual and collective contributions to the transformation of the economy for the upliftment of Nigerian households.
According to him: “You and I know that expectations are high, and these are tough times. We must work hard and move ourselves to create a buoyant economy that will serve Nigeria.
“We have an employment rate that is unacceptable, and we are facing threats from climate change. In order to turn things around, you have been selected to perform your utmost best. Our policy implementation will reform the economy, ensure inclusive growth, and strengthen security for peace and prosperity. Without security, there can be no investment.
“We shall evolve a homegrown re-engineering of our finances, a reimagined stewardship of our resources, and we will let the economy work for the people of this country. There are so many things we can and will do. Yes, some cynics will say it is impossible. But in your own dictionary of service, everything is possible, and it must be possible.”
Tinubu told the new Ministers that the hopes and aspirations of 200 million fellow Nigerians rested on their daily actions and that he would relentlessly provide the focused leadership required to stop failure in its tracks so that sustainable progress can be achieved.
“We have the talent. We have the level of intellectual capacity required to turn this country around. We will make sure that the country is on the right path to succeed on behalf of more than 200 million Nigerians who rely on us,” the president affirmed.
Emphasising that anyone thinking that his or her appointment was for a fixed term appointments was making mistake, the president expressed confidence that the carefully selected cabinet members knew that his government was a new one with a new approach and a new mandate to deliver for Nigeria without any lamentation or excuses.
He noted that the country would rely on the experience, skill, intellect, and networking of those who had been appointed to make headway in the challenging times, and failure would not be explained away under his watch.
Tinubu reminded his cabinet that he was only one man and that their innovative thinking to solve problems would shape his leadership as a president who listens.
“It is in your hands now. I am ready to listen and to cooperate. I am ready even to be corrected. Only God is perfect. You have been asked to fetch water from a dry well. The challenges are great, but we will deliver for Nigerians. I am happy to be the captain of this vehicle.
“It is a great commitment that you have made to the country. Since your inauguration as a Minister, you have become a servant for the people, serving all of the people, all of the time,” Tinubu further said.
Briefing newsmen after the FEC meeting,
some Ministers said the inaugural meeting centred around plans of the administration to revive the economy.
Five Ministers namely Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris; Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun; Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Ali Pate; Agriculture and Food Security, Abubakar Kyari; and that of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Anite, took turns to address the press on what transpired at the meeting.
Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun said he presented, “Roadmap for the Economy” during the meeting noting that the Council agreed that the economy was not where it ought to be.
According to him, FEC examined eight priority areas and identified targets to deliver in the next three years or thereabout, adding that the president has directed the Ministers to roll out policy and programme to turn the economy around.
He said: “First the President congratulated everybody and emphasised the high expectations of Nigerians and he encouraged us to be bold and courageous and innovative and to act with urgency in delivering a better life to all Nigerians.
“Essentially we went through an exercise of looking at where things stood, regarding the economy, the growth rate, the exchange rate, inflation, unemployment and so on.
“The overriding conclusion is that we’re not where we should be and we also examined the President’s eight-point agenda, that is the eight priority areas for moving the Nigerian economy forward and for delivering to Nigerians and those are basically food security; ending poverty, economic growth and job creation, access to capital, particularly consumer credit, inclusivity in all its dimensions, particularly as regards youths and women, improving security, improving the playing field on which people and particularly companies operate, rule of law, and of course, fighting corruption.
“It is around the matrix that the plans and the targets of what will be delivered in the next three years or so were identified, discussed and imputes were given by various ministers and we’ll now go away with the marching order to refine further the targets in particular and within weeks to start rolling out policies and programmes to turn around the economy and make things better for all Nigerians. That really is the substance of what the discussion was all about”.
Commenting on the economy and what was inherited by the present administration, Edun said the Tinubu administration inherited a bad economy with an unacceptable high rate of unemployment, with inflation standing at 24 per cent.
His words: “Per capital has fallen steadily, inflation is at 24 percent, unemployment is high, you know they are rebasing the way in which it’s calculated. Either way, it is high and youth unemployment is even unacceptably high, these are the key metrics that we have met.”
Asked to be specific on the kind of economy the Tinubu administration inherited, the Minister said, “We met a bad economy and the promise of Mr. President is to make it better”.
He also said the federal government was not in a position to borrow money at this time, adding the emphasis was on how to create a macroeconomic environment where both local and foreign investors will invest and increase production.
“Clearly, the federal government is not in a position to borrow at this time. Rather, the emphasis has to be on creating a stable, macroeconomic environment.
“Stable inflation, stable exchange rate, an environment within which people can come and invest and thereby increase production and further grow the economy.
“Improve and create jobs and reduce poverty. So, the aim of all reforms at this time is to focus on what we call equity to focus on investment to attract investment by Nigerians.
“Investment by foreign direct investors and even investment by portfolio investors that want to invest in the financial aspects of the Nigerian economy, such as the stock market, such as the bond market.
“So that is the plan. That is the expectation and it is that there will not be a reliance on borrowing. Rather, as revenues increase, as the benefit of removing fuel subsidy and the subsidy on the exchange rate, those mean more money for government at all levels.
“Because, of course, through oil revenue, the federation earns dollars and if those dollars are feeding through, at let’s say, N700/N750 or so to one dollar as opposed to N460 where it was before; clearly, that is repairing the finances of government are federal state and local government levels”, he said.
Also speaking, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Anite, said the president plans to create 50 million jobs.
According to her: “In Mr. President’s manifesto during his campaigns, he promised 50 million jobs and that’s our target. We will take it in phases; we are looking at different sectors of the economy that will contribute to this job creation chief among them is the creative industry and the digital economy, and then the agric sector, agro-processing zones, and mining, oil and gas. So we’re very confident that we will achieve this.”
Tinubu Bars Uninvited Govt Officials from Travelling to US for UNGA in Sept
Meanwhile, Tinubu has directed the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop forthwith, the processing of visas for all government officials seeking to travel to New York for the UNGA without proof of direct participation in the official schedule of activities of the global event.
The move, according to a statement issued yesterday, by presidential spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale, formed part of a broader effort to reduce the cost of governance in Nigeria,
To prevent any sharp practice in this regard, the United States Mission in Nigeria was accordingly guided on official visa processing while Nigeria’s Permanent Mission in New York had been directed to prevent and stop the accreditation of any government official not placed on the protocol lists forwarded by the approving authority.
By this directive of the President, all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies are mandated to ensure that all officials, who were approved for inclusion in the UNGA delegation, strictly limit the number of aides and associated staff partaking in the event, it added.
“Where excesses or anomalies in this regard are identified, they will be removed during the final verification process,” the president warned.
The president also affirmed that, henceforth, government officials and government expenditure must reflect the prudence and sacrifice being made by well-meaning Nigerians across the nation.
Tinubu had on Sunday, declared that the nation would no longer sustain failed economic theory that sees to the wastage of 90 per cent of its scarce revenue in external debts service amid many development challenges facing the country.
He had said: “We cannot have the country we desire without the reforms we have initiated. It is painful at the beginning, in the short and medium term, but we must do what we have to do to take this nation to its great destiny.
“It is not about you and it is not about me. It is about our generations yet unborn, for whom we must bequeath a great and prosperous country.”