Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday declared that militants in the Niger Delta caused the ongoing recession in the country.
His views are different from President Muhammadu Buhari, who during the Sallah celebration in Daura, Katsina State, attributed the economic mess to the bad governance of the country by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for 16 years.
The President had said that he inherited nothing from the PDP.
But when he hosted the Quarterly Business Forum with private sector operators at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday, Osinbajo underscored the heavy blow the economy suffered from the activities of the Niger Delta militants, which has halved the country’s crude oil production.
While pledging the government’s readiness to address power sector challenges, Osinbajo, however, said it would require a “revolution” to shore up electricity supply to an adequate level nationwide.
He said: “Perhaps it’s important for us to understand the nature of this recession in which we have found ourselves. In discussing this issue of recession, there is the tendency for people to generalise, a lot depends on what sort of recession and how we got here.
“If we did not have vandalism in the Niger Delta region as we are currently suffering, we will not have this recession today,” he said.
“Moreover, in looking at the solutions, we should try to focus on the type of problem we have and what instigated it; then we can begin to come up with better solutions,” Osinbajo said.
He further explained that “we are doing a whole lot by interfacing with the private sector because we realise their role in the economy.
“If the Dangote refinery comes on stream, it will help us overcome some of those challenges, like the sub-sea gas pipelines that will take care of vandalism,” he said.
Osinbajo was confronted with the damage done to businesses by the Federal Government’s economic policies and scarce foreign exchange by his guests.
It was the second economic summit to be hosted by the Presidency in one week as it intensifies efforts to salvage the economy.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last Thursday in Abuja convened an emergency economic retreat for members of his cabinet and selected economic experts who served as resource persons.
Among the private sector players at yesterday’s meeting with Osinbajo were members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
They listed the major challenges facing them as limited access to finance, high interest rates on loans, high energy costs, access to foreign exchange, transport and infrastructure deficit, weak export support from government, and policy somersault.
Others are bottlenecks in approving company documents, low support for domestic manufacturing, delays by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS’) officials as well as sundry security challenges.
They said the challenges were responsible for businesses that looked promising and vibrant at the onset, but are now folding up within their first five years.
The stakeholders therefore called on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to address these problems to get the economy back on track.
The President of LCCI, Mr. Michael Cole, advised the government to show consistency in its policies if it was serious about reflating the economy and sustaining national development.
He, however, lauded the Presidency for initiating the quarterly forum, saying the government could measure its progress by getting regular feedbacks from ordinary Nigerians and the relevant stakeholders.
The President of MAN, Mr. Frank Udemba, commended the administration for realising that the private sector is the engine room for growth.
He asked the government to pump more money into the development of infrastructure and sale of some government assets in order to rake in more money.
According to Udemba, “it is a wonderful development, the fact that government now engages the organised private sector and recognises the fact that the private sector is possibly the engine of growth, the driver of the economy.
“So, we are happy about that and this has given us the opportunity to air our views concerning the policies they have and how to get this country out of the current recession.
“It is something that should be encouraged and we hope that it will continue; that they will sustain this initiative. Already the government has promised to sell off some assets to beef up the foreign reserve, that is good,” he said.