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Why govt economic team excludes private sector


Yemi Osinbajo

Yemi Osinbajo

• Officials to focus on agric, solid minerals
• Govt silent on details of planned summit
• NLC seeks action on past confab reports

FOR optimal results, the Economic Management Team (EMT) of President Muhammadu Buhari is to operate differently from that of his predecessor.

It will have no private sector membership. The private sector is being excluded because of the alleged abuses the presence of its members brought into governance in the past. The EMT will, however, continue to interface with the private sector so as to get its contribution to the economic development of the country. “The simple difference is just that they are not members of the team, but consultations will be on a regular basis,” a source reiterated at the weekend.

But the Federal Government is reluctant to give details of its planned economic summit because it is a joint venture with the state governors who must be carried along .

“We are being very careful. The FEC (Federal Executive Council) members are almost all appointees of the president, but the NEC (National Economic Council) which consists of the 36 state governors is like a voluntary association of those with independent executive powers, so we need to work the details and agenda with them before we go public. I can assure you that those details are being worked out,” the source said.

In media reports, the members of the Economic Management Team, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo were listed as including the Chief of Staff to the President Alhaji Kyari; Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye; Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu; Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; and the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO).

Others are Agriculture Minister, Audu Ogbe; Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed; Special Adviser on Economic Matters, Dr. Oluyemi Dipeolu, a former director in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The presidency source said further: “This economic team does not have permanent private sector members like before, this is one of the changes. They have been around since the formation of FEC, and they meet regularly, at times more than once in a week.

“This is the major point about this team: they do not want any kind of fanfare at all; the attitude is that the country has important economic challenges and they just want to go to work. That is why you didn’t see any kind of public outing. They say this is the time for us to go and work, serious economic challenges the country is facing, let us just go and get the work done.
“The whole economic direction of government is what they have defined. One of the key mandates that the president has given to the team to work on is in the area of the ease of doing business in Nigeria. Issues like delayed approval, people having to wait for two years to get licences. More important than that is the issue of diversification of the economy. It is a very big deal they are working on.”

It was also learnt that the team is working out modalities for self- sustainability in core areas of rice, cashew and poultry production for a start, so as to save the foreign exchange being expended on these items. “The idea is to look at the entire value chain of agriculture to salvage the economy. Already about 10 northern states are working with the Federal Government in the area of rice production,” he added.

On solid minerals, the presidency source said that following the discovery that many licensees on solid minerals are speculating with the licences they have, government is clamping down on them as well as illegal minerals prospectors so as to strengthen the sector. The sector, the source added, had been left untapped, but with the dwindling resources, the EMT is recommending that it be thoroughly explored.

On the oil sector, it was learnt that the cash calls that have been a problem in terms of financing will become a thing of the past as government is considering concretising the relationship between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and International Oil Companies (IOCs) to have a corporate entity which should be free to go and raise funding from anywhere to do business the way it is doing elsewhere. “All these that the EMT is working on are tentative until the president, whom they advise, accepts and it is announced from his office,” he stated.

In the meantime, with the interest shown in the much-talked about economic summit by the private sector, eager to see the country out of its economic malaise, it was learnt yesterday that a committee was already busy putting together the modalities and issues to be put on the table.

Meanwhile, Labour and leaders of opposition parties in the country have cautioned President Buhari against organising a full-blown economic summit to address the dwindling fortunes of the nation, as Nigeria has had a series of summits and conferences in the past without the implementation of the robust recommendations that came out of them.

The leaders said the Federal Government could go ahead to hold the economic summit if it would only address the implementation of the recommendations of the past conferences, including the 2014 National Conference conducted under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) chieftain and Secretary General of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), Mr. Aremu who spoke in Kaduna yesterday on the state of the nation, said “it is commendable that President Buhari plans a national dialogue on the state of the economy.”

Aremu, who advised the Federal Government to ensure that the recommendations of previous conferences and summits are streamlined and worked upon by the proposed economic summit of the current administration, said: “What Nigeria needs is a national consensus on the economy and not another elite consensus that has proven to lead to nothing in the past but corruption and under-development.”

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