By Adewale Sanyaolu
Despite its crushing revenue challenges occasioned by dwindling oil sales, the Federal Government yesterday, said it added $500 million to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and another $87 million into the Excess Crude Account (ECA) in the last two years.
Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who stated this in his Democracy Day speech to commemorate the second year anniversary of the Buhari-led administration, said government has now taken seriously saving for the rainy day.
‘‘We have taken very seriously our promise to save and invest for the future, even against the backdrop of our revenue challenges, and we have in the last two years added $500 million to our SWF and $87 million to the ECA. This is the very opposite of the situation before now, when rising oil prices failed to translate to rising levels of savings and investment.
“Admittedly, the economy has proven to be the biggest challenge of all. Let me first express just how concerned we have been, since this administration took office, about the impact of the economic difficulties on our citizens.
“Through no fault of theirs, some companies shut down their operations, others downsized; people lost jobs, had to endure rising food prices. In some states, civil servants worked months on end without the guarantee of a salary, even as rents and school fees and other expenses continued to show up like clockwork,” he said.
On the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Osinbajo said the Federal Government is institutionalising safeguards and deterrents having expanded the coverage of the TSA by introducing more efficient accounting and budgeting systems across board while it has also launched an extremely successful Whistleblower Policy. According to him, the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance has succeeded in plugging leakages amounting to billions of naira, over the last two years by ending expensive and much-abused fertiliser and petrol subsidy regimes.
Nigeria’s economy had contracted for five quarters since the administration took off in 2015. But government has rolled out the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan to halt the current recession.
Osinbajo, while underscoring the successes recorded in the Federal Government Social Investment Programme (SIP), which kicked off at the end of 2016, said its Home Grown School Feeding component was now feeding more than one million primary school children across seven states and would be feeding three million by the end of the year.
On the other hand, he explained that N-Power, another component of the SIP, has engaged 200,000 unemployed graduates, none of whom needed any ‘connections’ to be selected, adding that beneficiaries are already telling the stories of how these initiatives have given them a fresh start in their lives.
According to him, “micro credit to a million artisans, traders and market men and women has begun, just as conditional cash transfers to eventually reach a million of the poorest and most vulnerable households has also begun.
He explained that road and power projects were ongoing in every part of the country, while rail project was progressing with the plans to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to upgrade the existing 3,500km narrow-gauge network.
Osinbajo said government has also in 2017 flagged off construction work on the Lagos-Ibadan leg of its standard-gauge network with the intention to complete the first phase of Abuja’s mass transit rail system,’’ he stated.
… As Saraki advocates stronger economy to sustain democratic gains
The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has called for concerted effort by all Nigerians to build a strong economy as a means of sustaining the nation’s democracy.
He made the call in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, to commemorate the 2017 Democracy Day in Abuja on Sunday.
Saraki said it was only an economy that guaranteed high standard of living for its citizens and equitable distribution of resources that could boast of sustaining democracy, even as he commended the present administration for coming up with policies and programmes aimed at repositioning the country and called on Nigerians to continue to support the government.
He stressed that the present administration was endowed with the necessary political will to initiate changes that would lead to the overall development of the country.
He urged Nigerians to support the policies of government aimed at involving the private sector in key sectors of the economy.
“I want to congratulate all Nigerians for the successes we have recorded so far in our democratic journey. We cannot afford to remove our legs from the gas pedal. Government definitely is determined to make life more abundant for our people.
“All Nigerians deserve commendation. We have done well so far. We must strive more to make democracy a way of life. The successes recorded so far demonstrate the unwavering commitment of Nigerians to sustain and grow our democracy. Let us celebrate with hope that the present economic challenges will soon give way to a prosperous country we can all be proud of.
“Our democratic institutions need to be strengthened to perform their duties in the service of all Nigerians irrespective of the government in power,” he said.
Saraki further called on Nigerians to shun acts that could threaten the stability of the country, adding that it was only then that democracy could be strengthened.
He urged Nigerians to nurture the various institutions that make up a democracy, stressing that it was by building institutions and respecting the values they represent that the nation could guarantee stability, development and consistency.
The Senate President commended Nigerians for their perseverance, understanding and resilience in the face of the current economic challenges.