Full Text: Peter Obi’s speech at the NESG presidential dialogue on economy

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1. Let me start with special thanks to NESG not only for this opportunity to interact this morning on Our Pact with Nigerians but also for all you have been doing for a better Nigeria over these years. Since its formation in 1993 by a group of very altruistic and patriotic Nigerians, NESG has consistently and most commendably maintained the creed of its formation- Unequivocal commitment to a sustainably growing and inclusive Nigeria. To diligently produce a transformative report with detailed suggestions for a better Nigeria every year for the last 28 years is not only uncommon but a testament that a New Nigeria is Possible!

2. I was also reliably informed that rather than being paid for your efforts for a better Nigeria, you pay by yourselves to serve! Thank you and God bless you all. A New Nigeria is indeed Possible! It is the inspiration we receive from patriotic organizations like NESG and individuals that propelled Datti Baba-Ahmed and I to offer ourselves to serve Nigeria! The theme of 2022 summit, NES 28 was- 2023 and Beyond: Priorities for Shared Prosperity. The keynote elucidated and summarized the summit with a focus on ‘THE NIGERIA WE NEED’.

3. Datti Baba-Ahmed and I are on the same page with NESG but Our Pact with Nigerians is deeper. It is a combination and consideration of many reports such as that of the NESG, the National Development Agendas and wide consultations with Nigerians on the pervasive challenges we face and the possible solutions. But let me say something which I think you will agree with me, the problem with Nigeria is not the paucity of development reports, plans and manifestoes. The problem is the absence of the right leadership to patriotically appreciate the efforts of organizations such as NESG for a better and inclusive Nigeria through a committed implementation of devoted reports.

4. As John C. Maxwell, a renowned leadership expert stated, ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership’. We implore NESG and Nigerians to believe and trust in our leadership so that Nigeria Will Grow Again! It is a new, transformational, and patriotic leadership that Datti Baba-Ahmed and I most sincerely pledge to offer. As our public and private sector experiences and records are public knowledge, an objective assessment and comparison with other contestants should reveal a big gap. We are different and committedly pledge in line with my mother’s counsel and upbringing that Nigeria’s resources will be prudently and transparently managed for a better Nigeria.

5. Our Pact With Nigerians summarized in 7 key priority areas is our implementable plan through which a New Nigeria, The Nigeria We Need, A Nigeria of Shared and Inclusive Prosperity will be achieved and sustained.
i. To secure Nigeria, end banditry and insurgency; and unite our dear nation, to manage our diversity such that no one is left behind.
ii. Shift emphasis from consumption to production by running a production-centred economy that is driven by an agrarian revolution and export-oriented industrialization.
iii. Restructure the polity through effective legal and institutional reforms to entrench the rule of law, aggressively fight corruption, reduce cost of governance, and establish an honest and efficient civil service.
iv. Leapfrog Nigeria into the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), through the application of scientific and technological innovations to create a digital economy.
v. Build expansive and world-class infrastructure for efficient power supply, rail, road and air transportation, and pipeline network, through integrated public-private partnerships and entrepreneurial public sector governance.
vi. Enhance the human capital of Nigerian youths for productivity and global competitiveness through investment in world-class scholarship and research, quality healthcare, and entrepreneurship education.
vii. Conduct an afro-centric diplomacy that protects the rights of Nigerian citizens abroad and advance the economic interests of Nigerians and Nigerian businesses in a changing world.

6. The above 7 key priority areas are highly interlinked, and our plan is to create what can be described as an Associational Nigerian Economy. As the precarious state of our economy with its litany of problems (insecurity, macro-economic instability, poverty, inflation, unemployment and many others) is a public knowledge, I will not dwell on all of them but please permit me to use some key economic issues to share insights on the immediate steps that we will take to rescue our dear country, Nigeria.

7. We will start Uniting Nigeria with the formation of a Government of National Unity within a week of being sworn in. Our institutions, particularly ones directly responsible for implementing Government policies will be diligently reformed to make them fit for purpose.

8. We will vigorously pursue all possible policies and interventions to secure our country, for example- 3-level policing structure.

9. We will restore Nigeria’s macroeconomic stability through:
i. Removal of Oil and other opaque subsidies.
ii. Fiscal and monetary policies properly and transparently aligned in line with our vision for a new Nigeria.
iii. Our creditors will be properly engaged for debt restructuring and possible cancellation/forgiveness.
iv. We will work with the CBN to reduce the ‘ways and means’ to what is allowable under the law and for a more transparent and liberalized foreign exchange market.

10. The cost of governance will be drastically reduced, and further reforms implemented to ensure that we have a fit for purpose size of government. A new budgeting system enshrined on the tenets of public accountability, objective setting, and program implementation will be utilized and supervised by the office of the President.

11. We will strive towards a zero-based national budget to overcome the mindset and reality of past non-performing national budgets routinely hampered by budgetary deficit overhangs. In addition to the above, all security agencies, EFCC and ICPC will be strengthened to support our determination to fight and significantly reduce corruption.

12. We will shift our emphasis from consumption to production starting with a proper reform and improvement of the power sector. We will overhaul the power sector, particularly the transmission sub-sector. Among other interventions, the $2.3b Nigeria-Siemens network improvement deal to achieve 7,000 MW stable capacity by the end of this year (2023), 11,000 megawatts by 2024, and 25,000 megawatts by 2025 will be diligently pursued and all opportunities in oil and gas sector faithfully explored to the benefit of Nigerians.

13. Dangote Refinery will be supported to start, and we will incentivize the mid-stream segment of the petroleum sector by facilitating gas processing plants and privately-owned small and medium-scale boutique refineries to reduce the importation of refined petroleum products.

14. All impediments to free trade and ease of doing business will be removed. We will prioritize the development of MSMEs through a set of incentives like new capital access, policies and regulations to support small business growth and strategic centres of excellence such as Enterprise Hubs, Business Incubators and MSME Industrial clusters across all the geopolitical zones. We will drive the expansion of the Nigerian content initiative with an emphasis on promoting made-in-Nigeria goods and services as a pillar of our administration.

15. We will increase the incentives for new growth industries, particularly technology-oriented industries. We will devise programmes for re-skilling our youths and establish a mandatory national certification for our blue-collar artisans. We will strengthen some of the existing tertiary schools of science and engineering to train the next generation of experts in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field.

16. We will strategically promote our creative and entertainment industries to become a significant revenue source. Our budgetary allocation to health and education sectors will be significantly increased to improve our Human Development Index (HDI).

17.While we will support all sectors of the economy, Agriculture particularly the versed arable lands of the North will receive special attention. Through targeted investments, policies, and partnerships, we will optimize all the comparative advantages of our 36 states and the FCT across key sectors particularly the agricultural value chains.

18. Both Rivers Niger and Benue will be dredged, many dams constructed and each state in Nigeria encouraged and supported to plant about 10 million economic trees for local usage, poverty elimination, export and revenue generation. With each economic tree projected to generate about N40, 000 every year, 10 million trees per state will give each state in Nigeria additional revenue of about N400, 000,000,000 (Four hundred billion Naira) every year which translates to additional revenue over 14, 000,000,000,000 (Fourteen Trillion Naira) to Nigeria every year.

19. To further increase our revenue, we will vigorously expand the tax net and possibly review the VAT rate. Expectedly we will support AfCFTA and implement policies to help Nigeria and Nigerians fully benefit from the emerging opportunities in both African and global trade. With the above reforms and strategic interventions, productivity and revenue will increase; unemployment, insecurity and inflation will decline among other positive outcomes through which a New Nigeria will be created and sustained.

20. Conclusion
While I will provide more insights during the Q & A time, let me conclude by reiterating that Datti Baba-Ahmed and I represent the transformational leadership Nigeria needs at this critical time of our nationhood. If we are in power, NESG is in power. We are the ‘NESG politicians’ through which your most patriotic recommendations will be committedly implemented. We have the competence, character, commitment, and compassion to lead in the creation of a New Nigeria characterised by sustainable peace, unity, prosperity, inclusiveness. Support us to lead Our Nation and A New Nigeria Will Indeed become Possible!