Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria held a town hall meeting with his countrymen and women living in Germany on Sunday evening in Berlin, where he assured them of the federal government’s determined efforts to solve the country’s major problems.
Prof Osinbajo took questions from a cross-section of Nigerians on burning issues, including inadequate electricity supply, security, deficient infrastructure and unemployment.
Tagged “2019 and the Next Level” the event, which took place in the prestigious Adlon Hotel near the iconic Brandenburg Gate, was moderated by Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany, Hon. Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, and attended by his counterparts from France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, among other dignitaries.
Osinbajo explained the challenges the government of President Muhammadu Buhari faced on assuming office in 2015 which forced it to redraw its priorities.
He talked about the parlous state of federal revenues caused by the sharp drop in the global price of crude oil and the insecurity in the Niger Delta which at a time forced a reduction of crude exports to a historic low of less than 1 million barrels per day. For a country whose daily production capacity hovers around 2.5 million and foreign exchange revenue mainly dependent on crude export, the government was hit by a revenue drop shock. This prevented the government from being able to fund critical sectors of the economy as it wanted, Osinbajo explained.
Despite these challenges, the Buhari administration had performed well in leading the country of an economic recession into which it fell just after it came into office, the vice president said.
Osinbajo mentioned the massive investment the government was making in infrastructure, citing the ongoing projects such as the Lagos-Ibadan highway, the 2nd Niger Bridge and the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressway.
On unemployment, Osinbajo listed the steps taken by the government to ameliorate the problem, such as directly hiring more than 500,000 young graduates under its N-Power scheme to training programmes to equip hundreds of thousands of youths with vocational skills.
Loans were also being given to young entrepreneurs to stimulate start-ups as well as through other social investment programmes like MarketMoni and TraderMoni, he added.
The vice president also dwelt on the growth of agriculture since the government took over, promising that Nigeria would soon be self-sufficient in rice production. Young people were now more interested in farming with incentives the government was offering such as loans under the anchor borrower programme.
Osinbajo also talked about the actions of the government to improve electricity supply in the country, reminding his audience that power generation and distribution was now privatised with only transmission in the hands of the government. The vice president listed the challenges facing private power companies including power theft, which prevents the companies from generating the needed revenues for new investment. “The federal government had to give a payment guarantee of 700 billion naira to finance the whole power value chain,” he revealed. The government was also investing in new transmission infrastructure to improve the distribution of power produced by the generating companies.
On the emigration of young Nigerians, Osinbajo said the Buhari government was impressing it on its European partners to invest more in Africa’s largest economy to create jobs and reduce the pressure to migrate out of the country.
Osinbajo said the problem of Nigeria was poor management of its financial resources. “The resources that have been stolen could build Nigeria five times over,” he said. “The problem of Nigeria is grand corruption.”
He called on Nigerians to hold their leaders at all levels to account as it’s the surest way to stop the stealing of the country’s resources.
In his opening remarks at the event, Ambassador Thuggar reminded the audience that there are three tiers of governance in Nigeria – federal, state and local, making it clear that it’s wrong to blame the central government for the failures of the other tiers.
The vote of thanks was delivered by the deputy head of Nigerian mission in Germany, Ambassador Mobolaji Ogundero.
Vice-President Osinbajo addresses the German business community in Berlin today and will hold talks with the country’s political leaders before returning to Nigeria on Tuesday.