The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has disclosed the readiness of the Federal Government to carry out aggressive audit of all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
This move, according to him, is aimed at identifying bureaucratic bottlenecks and removing them in a renewed effort to further improve the country’s business environment and economy.
Osinbajo, who made this known at the fifth anniversary of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) held at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja, yesterday, added that this step would in turn encourage more local and foreign investments, create more jobs and opportunities for Nigerians.
While noting that in some of the government agencies, the heads “commit to change, but down the line the system either resists or is simply not well designed to function properly”, the vice president served notice that what must be done in the coming months is for the Federal Government to work with the agencies to implement a more aggressive audit.
He said: “Where we identify the specific bottlenecks in systems possibly down to the particular desks where these problems arise; we may then come for agencies and officials who have failed or resisted change.”
Osinbajo stressed that to improve the country’s business climate and making it more attractive for foreign and local investors, creating jobs was government’s priority, while the biggest job creator is the private sector, particularly small and medium enterprises.
“We must ensure that they are not hindered from doing business easily, so they can produce the opportunities our nation needs,” he stated.
Despite the challenges in some areas, the vice-president detailed how PEBEC’s reforms and efforts have been instrumental in improving Nigeria’s business environment in the last few years under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
For instance, Osinbajo stated that since its inception, PEBEC has achieved the delivery of over 150 reforms and completed sixth National Action Plan (NAP).
According to him, “As a result, Nigeria has moved an aggregate of 39 places on the World Bank Doing Business index since 2016, and was twice named as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world in the last three cycles. Nigeria was also named one of only two African countries to make this highly prestigious list in 2019.
“Similarly, the 2018 Subnational Doing Business report on Nigeria recorded unprecedented improvement, with 100% participation of states in the Right-of-Reply exercise. The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its 2018 Global Competitive Report, also recognized Nigeria’s business environment as one of the most entrepreneurial in the world, and highlighted Nigeria’s improved competitiveness in the enabling business environment.”
He affirmed that PEBEC’s reforms have “proved what is possible if we are hands-on and intentional in making it easy to do business in Nigeria.
“We were fortunate to have a smart and visionary team led by the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole who, with her team of public and private sector members, designed the series of reform initiatives and internationally recognised homegrown National Action Plans (NAPs) – 60-day accelerators designed to coordinate the effective delivery of priority reforms of select Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) annually.
“At the federal level, the PEBEC secretariat also actively supports 15 priority public facing agencies and tracks 55 MDAs on the implementation of Executive Order 001 on Transparency and Efficiency of Public Service Delivery and the Council’s feedback mechanism – ReportGov.NG,” he said.
According to the vice president, with the implementation of more of such reforms, most of the systemic problems can be solved, because “these systems work elsewhere and can work in Nigeria”.
PEBEC, which is chaired by the vice president with the membership of several ministers and collaboration with the Legislative and Judicial arms of government, was established by Buhari in 2016 to improve Nigeria’s business environment by removing the bottlenecks and obstacles.
According to him, the initiative was to solve the problem of a business and trading environment that many had noted was hostile and difficult both for local and foreign investors.
He added that PEBEC’s mandate included seeking “to change the orientation of regulatory authorities and public servants who interface with businesses seeking government licences, approvals and other regulatory requirements”.
Osinbajo acknowledged the challenges raised by some businesses such as complaints about import and export delays, long waiting periods for product approvals and assured the audience that these would be resolved.
World Bank To Fund $30bn Projects In Nigeria, Others
The World Bank has said it is set to disburse a total of $30billion to fund existing and new projects in Nigeria and other countries as part of a global response to combat the ongoing food security crisis.
According to the bank, it is working with countries on a $12billion new projects fund for the next 15 months.
It said the projects are expected to support agriculture, social protection to cushion the effects of higher food prices, and water and irrigation projects.
It added that most of the funds would go to Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and South Asia.
The global bank disclosed this when it announced how it plans to be part of a comprehensive, global response to the ongoing food security crisis.
It stated that it intends to roll out this fund in existing and new projects in agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation.
It said, “This financing will include efforts to encourage food and fertiliser production, enhance food systems, facilitate greater trade, and support vulnerable households and producers.”
World Bank Group President, David Malpass, said, “Food price increases are having devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable.
“To inform and stabilise markets, it is critical that countries make clear statements now of future output increases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertilizer, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage.”
The bank added that its current existing portfolio includes balances of $18.7billion in projects with direct links to food and nutrition security issues, covering agriculture and natural resources, nutrition, social protection, and other sectors.
It stated, “Altogether, this would amount to over $30billion available for implementation to address food insecurity over the next 15 months. This response will draw on the full range of Bank financing instruments and be complemented by analytical work.”
FG Postpones FAAC Meeting Over AGF’s N80bn Probe
The Federal Government has announced the postponement of May, 2022 Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting.
The sudden postponement may not be unconnected with the ongoing investigation of the suspended Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over alleged fraud to the tune of N80billion.
The FAAC meeting is a monthly meeting where the federation allocates monthly revenue among the three tiers of government.
The meeting had earlier been scheduled to hold virtually between May 18 and 19, 2022.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, said this in a letter signed by Director, Home Finance,Stephen Okon.
The ministry said the meeting was postponed due to “certain circumstances.
“I am directed to inform you that the Federation Account/Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings earlier scheduled to hold/virtually on the 18th and 19th May, 2022 have been postponed due to/certain circumstances,” the circular reads.
“In view of the foregoing, I am to further inform you that the new date for the meetings will be forwarded to you in due course.
“While we regret the inconveniences this change might cause you, please accept the assurances of the Minister’s warm regards,” the letter read in part.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on Monday arrested and detained Idris over an alleged N80billion fraud.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, announced indefinite suspension of Idris, last Wednesday.
Ahmed said the suspension “without pay” was to allow for “proper and unhindered investigation” in line with public service rules.
Nigerian Out-Of-School Children Hit 18.5m
Nigeria has 18.5million out-of-school children (OSC), the highest number in the world, and out of the figure, 10million are girls, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said.
The Chief of UNICEF Field Office in Kano, Rahama Farah, stated this at a media dialogue on ‘Girls’ Education under the Girls’ Education Project 3, GEP 3’, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and implemented by UNICEF.
“For those lucky to be in school, their condition is also not enviable given the situation of public schools in the country. Only recently, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), said 50per cent of schools in Nigeria lack basic furniture”Farah said.
The Executive Secretary of the commission, Hamid Bobboyi, said this in Abuja at a one-day civil society organisations’ CSO-Legislative Roundtable Meeting where some National and State Houses of Assembly members were present.
According to him, emerging constraints in basic education delivery in the country may necessitate an increase in the consolidated revenue funds from the current two per cent to four per cent.
He buttressed his position for an increase in funding on the security challenges bedevilling the country, insisting that rising student population also poses urgent need for teaching facilities.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Basic Education, represented by Senator Frank Ibezim, decried the failure of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs), to sustain some UBEC-initiated projects such as classrooms and libraries earlier introduced by the commission in all constituencies in the country.
While commending UBEC over the construction of classrooms in schools across the country, he lamented the poor maintenance culture, noting that there is no school in the country that does not have a dilapidated block.
A representative of MacArthur Foundation, Mr Dayo Olaoye, called on stakeholders to review the impact of the country’s annual budget on education, stressing that it was not enough that the country is increasing its budget to the sector.
“As we think about reforms, let us think beyond buildings that have been delivered, let us start thinking about how many children have been brought to school,” he said.
“If classrooms are dilapidated, and there are not enough furniture, what about teachers and the quality of the ones available? The Registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, said there are over 300,000 unqualified teachers in the system.
“Education is very important to be left in the hands of quacks and that is why at TRCN, we are stepping up efforts at ridding the system of unqualified hands. We implore teachers and their employers to take advantage of the various windows TRCN is providing to improve the quality of teachers in the country so as to get better results from our education system,” he said.
For the General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr Mike Ene, there is need for better funding of the education sector.
He noted that in many states, teachers are overwhelmed by the number of pupils and students they handle.
“In so many states, there is inadequacy of teachers. Some states have not recruited teachers in the last 10 years and yearly, teachers are leaving the system through retirement, resignation or even death. Worse hit by poor staffing are schools in the rural areas. Such schools are called hard-to-staff schools.”
It is in that regard that the welfare packages announced by the Federal Government are very much necessary,” he said.
Also speaking on the issue, the National President of the National Association of Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, decried the manner some state governments are implementing the Basic Education Policy of the government whereby pupils and students in primary and junior secondary schools are to enjoy free education and are given textbooks in some core subjects.
“Some states are not doing well in that respect. They have abandoned the programme. They are not funding education as it ought to be funded. Even counterpart funds that some states should put down to complement the funds from UBEC are not provided. Some states have even misused UBEC funds and are suspended from getting further grants.
“We are talking now about our tertiary institutions that are grounded by workers’ strikes, the basic education level, which is the foundation, is not faring better too. Something urgent must be done to redress the situation before the sector collapses finally,” he noted.
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