Critics of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s anti-poverty battle plan got a reply yesterday.

The government will go ahead with two of its key programmes to fight the scourge.They are:VICE-PRESIDENT-YEMI-OSINBAJO

one-meal-a-day for school pupils; and
Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) for 25 million “extremely” poor households.

To benefit from the CCT, there are two conditions. Beneficiaries must be vulnerable and fullfil their civic responsibilities. They must participate in polio vacination, school enrolment and support other government programmes.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who spoke on the administration’s plan, said the government would carry out “social sector investment”.

Osinbajo spoke at the 45th Annual Accounting Conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) in Abuja on “Repositioning Nigeria for Sustainable Development: From Rhetoric to Performance”.

He stated why poverty rate remained high despite rising oil prices, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and foreign reserves in the last 16 years.

In his view, the main reasons are: corruption, lack of transparency and unstable power supply.

“So why are most (of our people) poor despite rising revenues and GDP growth? Our main revenue earners, the extractive oil and gas economy, do not by themselves create many jobs,” Osinbajo said, adding: “Such is the irony of a top-down economic model when the major revenue earner is extractive and the value chain is poorly developed.”

The Federal Government, he said, will carry out social sector investment – investing in the people, education, job creation, national school feeding scheme, conditional cash transfer and reflating economies of the states. These are indices that will boost the economy, he declared.

According to him, the government has already put in place a bailout package for workers being owed salaries to reflate the economy.

“One of the most important interventions required in the education sector is capacity building to improve teacher quality. This programme is intended to drive teacher capacity development; boost basic education and attract talents to the teaching profession.

“Better educated population increases economic potential for productivity,” the Vice President noted.

He said the All Progressives Congress (APC) made a commitment to provide one-meal-a-day for all primary school pupils – a programme that will create jobs in agriculture – poultry, catering and delivery services.

The multiplier effects of the introduction of the scheme, he said, include 1.14 million new jobs; increased food production – up to 530,000 mt/a; attracting investor by investment – up to N980billion.

Osinbajo also identified conditional cash transfer as another avenue for alleviating poverty.

He said that the programme was intended to support the 25 million poorest households to incentivise vaccination, education and production.

The multiplier effects of the introduction of the programme, he noted, would include: lifting millions out of poverty; putting millions into rural production; and boosting rural economy.

He said the government needs to improve the power sector; have a one-stop shop for approvals; innovation and fighting piracy; diversify the economy in agriculture – self-sufficiency in rice and wheat (staples) production, manufacturing, entertainment and technology.

On the power sector, Osinbajo said: “Despite the challenges, there have been measurable improvements over the past three months (June to August 2015).”

“A 26% increase in operational generation capacity (June to August 15, 2015 compared to January to May 2015); decreased pipeline vandalism boosting gas supply; a 10% reduction in transmission losses (June to July 2015 compared to January to May 2015); reduction in red tape to remove delays blocking the 450MW Azura-Edo IPP and the 500MW Exxon Mobil Qua-Iboe IPP; the imposition of a September 2015 deadline for the submission of the DisCos’ revised tariff trajectories”.

Also yesterday, President Buhari expressed his commitment to boosting national productivity. He vowed to end incessant strikes by workers in vital sectors of the economy.

He spoke during a meeting with the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Onubuogo Clement Illoh, and other officials of the ministry.

Buhari said he was disturbed by the seemingly endless strikes in the health sector which have contributed to the fall in health services.

He directed the ministry to liaise with other stakeholders to work out proposals for ending the recurring strikes in the health, education, transport, oil and gas, power and other critical sectors of the economy.

Osinbajo, who was also at the meeting, urged the ministry to make an input into ongoing plans for the extension of welfare services to the poor and the disabled.

Illoh attributed incessant strikes to the inclination of some government officials to enter into agreements with financial implications without carrying the ministries of Finance and Labour along.

The Ministry of Labour he said, has introduced a Code of Conduct for government negotiators, barring them from entering into agreements with financial implications without the consent of the President.

Illoh told reporters that “at the end of discussion, the president and the vice president showed critical interest in three areas. First is the issue of national social insurance trust fund, that has to do with social security and social welfare.

“At the moment, the agency covers all sectors, both private and public, that is organisation employing five or more persons. You will also know that the ruling party has as its manifesto, the issue of providing social welfare. We have keyed into this.

“The second area is incessant strikes and lockouts with special reference to health sector. We listed the causes of strikes and how we can quickly ameliorate this in all sectors. One way of doing that is to curb impunity.

“And establish rule of law in the management of trade disputes. Towards this end, the institution for the management of trade disputes will be strengthened. Institutions of conflict mediation,industrial arbitration panel, up to the industrial court of Nigeria, there need for capacity development to be able to cope with the challenges associated with knowledge, technique, attitude and behaviour because if you look at the causal factor responsible for strikes and lockouts.

“It can be categorised into three individual. Some individuals have propensity for trouble making. There are policies that encourage strikes between management and workers and there are external factors.

“For instance, when Nigerians go on strike because of increase in prices of products, those are not directly related to work. These are factors outside the work environment but bear great influence to industrial relations and harmony.

“The third area is employment opportunities, which is the greatest problem challenging Nigeria. We are ready to show with statistics the different levels of unemployment from 2011 to June 2015 and shows the very dangerous trend.

“No household today in Nigeria that does not have unemployed persons in spite of the new tabulation of what unemployment means in reality, we know it is a concrete problem. President and vice president want to know our efforts in tackling this issue and we have a classified document that was developed through the instrumentality of international labour organisation that projects employment issues in 12 critical sectors of the economy with high propensity for job creation-entertainment industry, tourism, energy, ICT and maritime,” he said.

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