PDP candidate Obi said Nigerians now live in a country with the highest number of poor people in any nation in the world.
Aidoghie Paulinus and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Vice Presidential candidates of the five political parties that participated in the debate organised by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) and Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) yesterday, disagreed on the state of affairs in the country.
The parties and their candidates include the Vice Presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Peter Obi, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima, Alliance for New Nigeria (AAN), Khadijah Abdullahi-Iya, and the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Umma Getso.
The debate which was in preparation for the February, 2019 presidential election was moderated by Imoni Amarere of the African Independent Television (AIT).
In his remarks, Osinbajo emphasised on the infrastructural strides of the Buhari administration, which he said, is a departure from the past.
He said presently, the Buhari administration has begun one of the largest projects in the infrastructural history of the country.
“We are building railways between Lagos and Kano. That medium gauge railway, we are at the first phase of it; that is, the Lagos-Ibadan part of it, it will be ready in January,” Osinbajo said.
He further said the government has also done the Aladja-Warri section, adding that the Kano-Maradi rail which is one of the oldest commercial routes in the country has just been awarded.
Osinbajo also said the government is looking at the Lagos-Calabar rail, even as he said in every state of the country, the government has a major road project, whilst also listing other infrastructural developments of the Buhari administration.
On the nation’s economy, particularly the oil sector where fuel subsidy has become a thorny issue, he said unlike before, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is the sole importer of petroleum.
He added that it is on the balance sheet of the NNPC that the subsidy is being taken. He also said if petroleum subsidy is removed, the price of fuel could go up as high as N220 per litre.
He added that there is no country in the world that does not run one subsidy or the other.
“For example, America subsidises agriculture, subsidises production, subsidises all sorts of things. Now, if you have a petrol subsidy, and I am not saying that it must be there forever, but petrol subsidy helps because the moment you remove the subsidy, prices go up. We experienced it earlier on in the regime. Prices went up from 86 to 145 naira per litre,” Osinbajo said.
But the PDP candidate, Obi said Nigerians now live in a country with the highest number of poor people in any nation in the world.
Putting the figures at 86 million, the immediate past governor of Anambra State added that the number grows at six percent every minute.
“Our country today has the highest number of out-of- school children in the world; our HPI has dropped from 152 to 157; our global competitive index has dropped from 124 to 127. In terrorism, we have moved from seven to number three just behind Iran and Afghanistan,” Obi said.
He also said the nation’s inequality has worsened in the misery and sense index, while also adding that unemployment has moved from 24 to 40.
Obi differed with Osinbajo’s submission, declaring that what the nation is subsidising is inefficiency.
“What we are subsidising today is inefficiency. So, you get it right, the price will still come down, there is no way a country can have a budget of N340 billion for health which translates to five naira a day for a citizen and then lay a trillion for subsidy,” Obi said.
The issue of corruption also cropped up during the debate. Obi said you can’t shut down a shop and be chasing criminals, but Osinbajo fired back by saying that if you allow criminals to steal inventory in the shop, there will be no shop.
On her part, Abdullahi-Iya of the ANN said she is concerned about everyone of the over 2.1 million children in the North East and internally displaced persons’ camps scattered across the country.
“I am also concerned about the 13 million children who are out of school. As a wife and a mother of seven, I am committed in every resource of authority at my disposal to ensure that every child, every young person, every mother and every father, gets the opportunity that they desire in the pursuit of happiness,” she said.