The Lagos Island Club Quarterly Business lecture held on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, featuring the PDP vice presidential aspirant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his campaign train.
The event, our correspondent learnt, focused on the urgent need to find solutions to the loss of jobs in the economy. Besides, it offered Abubakar an opportunity to unveil his Atiku Plan which he hopes to execute if voted into office.
Last year, it was reported that an estimated 20.9m people lost their jobs in an economy many believe is shrinking.
Also in attendance at the lecture were former president, Olusegun Obasanjo; the campaign DG of the PDP presidential campaign; Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus.
A curious attendee was said to have raised concerns about the future of SMEs in the country and how Abubakar hopes to deal with it in order to get Nigeria working again through SMEs. He also wanted to know how the Atiku/Obi candidacy could create jobs and reduce poverty through SMEs and encourage women and youths to key into the plan.
Atiku was said to have answered by recalling that he owns a micro-finance bank which has helped to bring out 46,000 families from poverty in Adamawa State.
Atiku on the power of SMEs and how it has turned the fortunes of many, particularly women in the North East region, stated that “80 per cent of the loans go to women. We have moved 45,000 families out of poverty in my area with small loans (N200,000), and we have a 98 percent recovery rate.”
He noted that “we will assist the SMEs to grow bigger and to be more productive. As we all know, small businesses offer the greatest opportunities for achieving inclusive, pro-poor growth, through increased self-employment.”
The PDP vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi, has always hammered on the use of SMEs to lift people out of poverty and drive the economy, in the same way, China did.
Abubakar was said to have been provoked to speaking more extensively when a curious attendee asked him how he intends to deal with the vexing issues of privatisation if voted into office.
It would be recalled that Abubakar had declared that he would privatise particularly the NNPC if he gets into Aso Rock Villa, a pronouncement that had provoked discussion across the country.
While throwing light on his plans, the former vice president frowned at the quantum of dealings going on in the organisation. He criticised the alleged unilateral award of $25bn contract by the NNPC GMD. He was unhappy that the NNPC head in 2018, gave a contract of $25bn, without going through due process. He contended that if NNPC was privatised, the humongous fraud allegedly going on in the agency would be a thing of the past since it would be run as an efficient and profit-oriented venture.
He said: “We will liberalise the economic space and privatise all ailing enterprises. “In particular, the Atiku Plan will undertake deregulation of the downstream sector of the economy, review the petroleum industrial bill and privatise all four state refineries that operate at only 10 per cent of their installed capacities.
“We shall channel the proceeds from the privatisation into a special fund for the development of education and health for Nigeria people.”
The keynote speaker emphasised, that the version of privatisation that the Atiku Plan would entertain, is one that allows for sales of NNPC shares to Nigerians on the Nigeria stock exchange so that Nigerians can benefit when the company is resuscitated.
The parley ended with donations and a vote of thanks.