SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE EXTENDED NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL’S NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT, AT THE BANQUET HALL, STATE HOUSE, ABUJA, ON FRIDAY, 14TH DECEMBER, 2018.
About nine months ago we convened a similar gathering here at the State House, along with some of our most supportive partners and philanthropists, to discuss this very fundamental issue of Human Capital Development.
The debate that followed made it very clear to all of us that this (human capital development) is perhaps the most important issue in our country today. In any event, what can be more important than the well being of the people we serve?
As a government, we are fully aware of this, and are committed to ensuring that we positively transform the Nigerian experience as it relates to the quality of life and well being of our people. Excellencies, your attendance here today, despite the heightened political activity as the general elections approach, is clear evidence of your commitment above all else to jointly cracking this fundamental problem.
There is no denying the fact that Nigeria has struggled with debilitating levels of poverty for several decades, in spite of our huge potential and huge earnings, especially from oil. Indeed, the last result of the poverty study undertaken by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2012 showed that 112 million Nigerians were living in extreme poverty.
When we came into office in 2015, three things were very clear: one, that we needed to move very quickly and ambitiously to respond to issues of poverty, malnutrition, disease and illiteracy. The second was that there would be no quick fixes or miracle cures. It would be a long and painful journey out of the status quo. And we would need to be patient and consistent in the implementation of all our interventions. Three, just as we are reaping presently the consequences of neglect and sometimes poor decisions that have been taken in the past, we can change the consequences that await us in the future by changing the decisions that we take now in the present, and by ensuring that we make the right decisions.
These realisations have guided us over the last three years, even as we have developed a vision for a Nigeria that is healthy, educated and positioned to fully unleash its development potential.
This is what informed the creation and implementation of our Social Investment Programme, which is now the largest of its type in Africa; a multi-faceted intervention simultaneously targeting poverty, hunger, unemployment, financial exclusion, and the absence of skills needed for our large youth population to thrive in the 21st century. Every country that has taken significant numbers of its population out of poverty, at least in the last three decades or so, has had to put in place a robust Social Investment Policy, such as we have at the moment. That includes India, Brazil, etc. India, which had the largest number of poor people in absolute terms did exactly what we are doing today; microcredit for the bottom of the rung on the commercial value chain, compulsory government jobs programme, school feeding, conditional cash transfers or just simply cash transfers. All of these are things other nations of the world that are committed to taking their people out of poverty have done, aside from several other steps that they’ve taken.
But since that March meeting, the Social Investment Programme has seen a significant expansion. We have added more than 2 million children to our School Feeding Programme. We now have in excess of 9 million school children being fed every day across 26 States.
N-Power, our jobs scheme for unemployed graduates and non-graduates, has more than doubled since then. We now have more than 500,000 beneficiaries of the N-Power programme all across the country in every single local government. And our TraderMoni Microcredit scheme for petty traders excluded from formal lending opportunities has now benefited well over a million petty traders. MarketMoni which started earlier, and obviously didn’t receive as much publicity, has also taken almost 400,000 beneficiaries.
In terms of healthcare, we have also recorded some landmark achievements: the setting up of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund, with seed funding of one per cent of our Consolidated Revenue Fund, as outlined in the National Health Act. I am pleased to say that Nigeria, for the first time, is complying with the stipulations of the Act since it was signed into law in 2014.
The Vision to accelerate Human Capital Development by 2030 has, as you’ve already heard, and if you look in particular at page 18 of the document, is all set out there. All what we have listed there are basically efforts and input of some of what I’ve just referred to now, of efforts that we’ve made. Ultimately it is the outcomes that are important. We must be able to show that all of what we are doing and investing is producing tangible results in the quality of lives of our citizens.
The end goal is a country where it is not a miracle for infants to live beyond the age of 5, where our children are in no danger of malnutrition, where every child is guaranteed access to quality basic education, where a basic minimum package of healthcare benefits is guaranteed to every citizen and no one is shut out on account of the fact that they cannot afford it.
Nigerians everywhere deserve to live healthy, educated and productive lives, regardless of where in Nigeria they live or whatever other peculiarities they may have.
By the sheer nature of our constitutional arrangements, the Federal Government must work with State governments and State governments must work with each other. The only way to succeed is by recognizing that this is a joint and several responsibility.
This is not and should never be a platform for blame-games and buck-passing. In the past, these have not worked, and will not work now. Nothing short of concerted collaboration is required from all of us, across all tiers of government and with the partnership and support of the private sector, traditional and religious leaders, community leaders and the international community.
There is much learning to be shared and exchanged, to ensure that we are not repeating mistakes that have already been made, and to ensure that we are allocating resources in maximally efficient ways.
Very importantly, there is the work of communication, of carrying Nigerians along, of carrying our citizens along, of making the vision clear and repeating it as often as possible, and making it simple, easy to understand, and transparently showing how the resources – which belong to them – are being deployed to work for their benefit. We must never underestimate the importance of communicating and ensuring that we get the best buy-in from the citizens on behalf of whom we are holding public office.
Last, but not the least is the importance of collecting credible data to support our programmes and policies, and to accurately measure their impact. What cannot be measured, it’s always said, cannot be managed. The wisdom of these words should always stay with us.
We must find ways of improving also the quality of the data we collect and the timeliness. And we must resist the temptation to play politics with these statistics, or be overly defensive when they don’t cast us in very good light. The lesson is to listen to what the data is telling us, and to vigorously look for ways to respond with policy interventions.
I have no doubt at all that we are on the right path. But we must stick to this path. We cannot afford anything that will slow us down or take us away from these commitments that we have started to implement.
We owe it to all of our people, young and old, male and female; especially the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us, to improve the quality of their lives, and the quality of healthcare, education and the jobs that are accessible to them.
I must commend your Excellencies for the patriotic cooperation across party lines in resolving many of our nation’s problems. I recall the summit of the National Economic Council on security, the summit on education, and now on Human Capital Development. All of these contributions that you’ve made and all of the time and resources that have been spent have been done with complete patriotism, and this is the way that we should go.
We have made our commitment and we pledged our support. Now is time to get the job done. It is now my very special pleasure to present Nigeria’s Vision to Accelerate Human Capital Development by 2030.
I thank you for listening.