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… APC Commonsense Solutions To Nation’s Problems

By Kamal Tayo Oropo
24 May 2015   |   3:00 am
BEYOND the political sloganeering, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in few days time would shed the toga of opposition and firmly sit in the driver’s seat, piloting the affairs of the nation.
Two Heads Better Than One

Two Heads Better Than One

BEYOND the political sloganeering, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in few days time would shed the toga of opposition and firmly sit in the driver’s seat, piloting the affairs of the nation.

The party, in the document encapsulating its pact with Nigerians, called Commonsense Solutions, rightly noted that in the past, political manifestos in the country were hardly different from mere platitudes and general statements to which the drafters could not be held accountable.

Against this backdrop, APC stated clearly that the situation would be different under its government.

The party identified six key priority areas for which it should be held accountable at all times: National Security, Good Governance, Human Capital Development, Economic Development, Land and Natural Resources and Foreign Policy.

The APC, through its national chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, went further to declare that its developmental plan would be implemented through coherent health, education and social welfare policies.

The party will, therefore, promote a healthy lifestyle, availability of balanced nutrition and preventive and curative healthcare.

The party pledges to ensure the availability of quality education at all levels and strive to create a pool of skilled Nigerians that will form the bedrock of economic development agenda. Here are the promises

Three Million Jobs Annually

NOTING that the most effective way of tackling poverty is through job creation and radical reduction in unemployment, the APC promised it would embark on macro and micro economic policies that focus like a laser beam on job creation. Job creation will be the APC government’s first priority. “In the short term, we will get Nigeria back to work by launching a robust investment programme in infrastructure. We will also create millions of permanent jobs by using our natural resource wealth to invest in valued-added sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture,” the party stated.

The country’s “infrastructure is crying out to be rebuilt, modernised and expanded, ranging from modern roads, airport, waterways and rail networks to a new generation of power stations, to a desperate need for new schools, clinics, potable water and housing,” the party said. Adding that its government will put the country to work, building a modern economy through a series of massive public works programmes. This will provide million of new jobs, channeling money into the wider economy.

“Nigeria needs to diversify its economy – we cannot continue our heavy reliance on oil. Therefore, the incoming APC government will embark on a process of rapid industrialisation to achieve a level of growth in the productive sectors of our economy that will help us progressively reach and then sustain the creation of three million new jobs a year,” it said.

Healthcare For All
IN recognition of the regrettable situation in the healthcare sector, the APC-led government noted that the country needs a modern healthcare system where every citizen has access to the basic health services. Consequently, the party promised that its first focus will be on preventive care, as it is cheaper and easier to stop people becoming ill than curing them.

“Our preventive strategy will be based on a new network of local-level community health workers and midwives. We recognize the urgent and immediate need for more public health officers, for more access to clean water and for cleaning the environment to make it disease-free.

“However, we also need to urgently improve our healthcare infrastructure, with a new network of local clinics and dispensaries providing free drugs and services. The recent Ebola outbreak only emphasised the importance of this – it was only because APC Governors in Lagos and Rivers States had already invested in improving local healthcare provision that they were able to act so quickly to prevent a public health catastrophe,” the party stated. It promises to coordinate more effectively the work of the numerous Federal healthcare agencies; Immediately increase the proportion of federal government spending on healthcare from 5.5 percent to 10 percent, with the aim of bringing it to 15 percent by 2020; Build a network of local and mobile clinics providing free health services and drugs, with the aim of ensuring that no Nigerian lives farther than 5km from a free clinic; and improve life expectancy through a grassroots national healthy living Programme.

Guaranteeing Free Education
IN the words of the party, the country’s education system is a scandal. Alluding to the UNICEF figure, which proclaims that there are at least 10.5 million school age children out of school, the APC also noted that half of those actually receiving an education, half leave primary school still unable to read and write. Such students generally do not make it to secondary school. Even worse, too many of our girls are denied access to even these most basic levels of education.

“The objective of our education plan is to first eradicate illiteracy and simultaneously develop a skilled and talented workforce that can get the country back to work, produce quality goods and services, employ the larger population and thus reduce unemployment drastically,” the party said. Promising to increase the proportion of students moving from primary to secondary education and then into the tertiary and university sectors.

As part of its Commonsense Solutions, the APC will triple education spending over the next 10 years, from the current 8.5 percent to 24.5 percent. The party also promises to commit to the eventual eradication of illiteracy by guaranteeing and enforcing nine years of compulsory basic education to every child, as the minimum level of formal education. This commitment includes, Tsangaya, Nomadic and other special education.

In addition, the party will reinvigorate technical and vocational education nationwide by giving adequate material support to schools. This, according to the APC, implies the review of the current 9-3-4 system. It will also introduce a national core curriculum for all public schools, while setting out the minimum standards. The party will prioritise the improvement in quality and quantity of teachers and healthcare professionals with improved infrastructural facilities, enhanced working environment, better conditions of service and merit-based reward systems in recognition of their foundational and critical nation building responsibilities.

Primary Schools
UNDER the APC government primary school children in public schools would eat free daily school meals. The party will also decentralise management of primary schools to parents and communities.

Secondary Schools
FOR secondary schools, the party is set to undertake a major national programme of secondary school construction and repair funded through Public Private Partnerships. Tax incentives will be provided to businesses who participate in this programme.

Like their primary school counterparts, children in secondary school may look forward to a free school meals programme, though in phases and after it has been established in primary schools. Also, the government will raise the transition rate from primary to secondary schools to at least 75 percent by the time its first term in office terminates in 2019. Other freebies include, the restoration of teaching of Nigerian languages in secondary schools; establishment of six centres of excellence to address the needs of special education; and provision of communal internet-ready desktops at all secondary schools in the nation by 2019, in phases.

IF the APC is true to its words, the near-proscribed Teachers Training Colleges may return. The party plans to launch a programme for the redevelopment of this arm of tertiary education. The party will also establish no less than two Local Technology Institutes (LTIs) in every state in the nation. It will ensure the full optimization of the capacity of existing technical, vocational centres and tertiary institutions, and expand where necessary or establish new ones.

The local technology institute is expected to focus on providing free training courses to youth and unemployed in the basic skills necessary to sign up to the infrastructure public works programmes that the party is proposing. The party will establish a standing committee of pertinent government ministries and agencies and representatives of the private sector in order to shape educational curricula to the country’s needs and realities of the global economy; Embark on vocational training, entrepreneurial and skills acquisition schemes for graduates along with the creation of a Small Business Loans Guarantee Scheme, to create at least one million new jobs every year, for the foreseeable future; Ensure a greater proportion of expenditure on university education is devoted to Science and Technology with more spaces allocated to science and technology-oriented courses and; Emphasise and encourage closer relationship between town and gown. Universities to relate with local industries and focus research on advancing and promoting local technology.

Housing, Urban Renewal
THE APC’s main objective in this area is to make decent housing affordable to all. Consequently, the APC-led government will work with the states to reduce slum-living in cities, upgrade housing and provide access to key services by promoting private sector investment in urban renewal through land reform and investing in local infrastructure, such as water and sanitation services.

As part of its Commonsense Solution, the party will establish a National Housing Policy in co-operation with various state governments with a target of raising enough finance to build up to one million new houses a year over the next decade. It will also develop new urban planning schemes through this authority, both in existing cities and new model towns to meet housing needs.

The APC will create an obligation on private housing developers to build or contribute financially to the building of social housing projects as part of the planning approvals process. In addition, it will create a mortgage market by reforming land ownership to give ordinary Nigerian easy access to title deeds.

Tackling Poverty
ACCORDING to the party, the country must put the welfare of its citizens at the core of its development policy; a people centered development. The APC-led government is keen on following the examples of Brazil and India by introducing a system of direct social security payments to the poor.

To tackle this, the party will create a phased Social Insurance Scheme to assist certain groups in the population with social welfare payments programme, starting with young people under 30 and the unemployed; the senior citizens of over 70, the disabled and armed service veterans.

It will also ensure that retirees receive their gratuities on the effective date of their retirement and that thereafter, pensions are paid as and when due. It will appoint a federal ombudsman for people with disabilities to combat discrimination against the disabled.

Keeping The Country Safe
THE challenge before the APC, beside the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents, is that on a daily basis ordinary Nigerians increasingly experience militancy, kidnapping, armed robbery and an inability to obtain legal redress and protection from abuse by government or powerful interests.

“While addressing the fundamental causes of insecurity such as poverty and disempowerment, we also need to put in place a robust and well thought out Security Sector reform, which includes effectiveness and efficiency of this sector based on respect for Human Rights and Fundamental Civil and Political Liberties. The APC government will ensure that our security and Law Enforcement agencies are fit and ready to meet 21st century security challenges,” the party stated.

In confronting Boko Haram, the party said it would urgently increase the capacity and capability of the country’s military, police and other security agencies through the employment of additional personnel, provision of modern equipment, and a commitment to professionalism, merit and excellence in the respective services to meet the needs of our growing population.

The APC-led government will work with neighbouring countries to use military force to destroy those factions of Boko Haram who refuse to lay down their arms. In addition, the party will not hesitate to use both military and non-military means to secure the release of all those who are still being held captives by the insurgents.

It will introduce a time-limited partial amnesty for rank-and-file Boko Haram members who have been coerced into the group in return for laying down arms and participating in a programme of reintegration into society; establish a compensation scheme for victims of the insurgency; address the underlying problems of unemployment, poverty and social injustice that caused the insurgency through a Comprehensive Economic Development Programme for affected states and communities; establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address human rights abuses that occurred during the insurgency, as well as the fundamental issues that underlie the insurgency, and: rigorously enforce Agreements, Treaties, and Regulations seeking to limit and reduce the incidence of illegal trade in and movement of small arms across the West African sub-region and into Nigeria.

The party also vows to support the security services by carrying out a national security audit to determine the state of affairs, capacity and capability deficits in our armed forces, police and other security agencies, as well as, improve the security forces – in return for increases in funding, modernised equipment and more personnel they will be kept to new higher standards of accountability, openness and professional management. It will also urgently review the management structures of the five security services – the Police, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Intelligence services; Introduce an immediate pay increase for all five security services; Immediately commence a capacity building initiative for the Nigerian Police and Armed Forces to improve their professionalism and service delivery; Increase personnel levels in the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and other Security services to meet current challenges and ensure that they are well trained and equipped for their constitutional responsibility, and; Urgent review of death and disability insurance to a minimum of N1m (One Million Naira) only, from the current level.

The effort will also include, ensuring accountability and delivery by creating a Federal Anti-Terrorism Agency (FATA), with properly trained and professional staff combining elements of both the Police and the State Security Service, which would be fully accountable to the National Assembly to conduct anti-terrorism and counter insurgency operations.

The party also promises to develop, promote and implement a public accountability framework to enhance the operational autonomy and efficiency of the military, police and other security agencies in the discharge of their constitutional mandates; to devolve the oversight of local policing, including the nomination of the State Police Commissioner and management of the prison service to the state; to establish a Federal Police Complaints Authority and Ombudsman to provide a transparent process for ordinary Nigerians to raise complaints over police conduct, and: to promote peaceful and harmonious coexistence by ensuring that Nigerians are free to live, work and worship in any part of the country without let or hindrance, and introduce legislation to outlaw inflammatory hate speech.

Building Modern Infrastructure
IN contrast to the last decade and a half the next ten years could see Nigeria begin to fulfil her potential, according to the APC. “We believe that in order to do this the Federal Government urgently needs to follow the example of APC-led Lagos and embrace modern development planning, so that we can map the critical path to modernising our economy,” the party said.

The World Bank estimates that boosting Nigeria’s infrastructure to the level of other middle income African countries would boost the country’s economic growth by as much as five percent a year. In order to achieve this, the country will have to more than double its current annual level of $6 billion infrastructure investment for the next decade.

The APC-led government would conduct a nationwide audit to identify the key gaps in the nation’s infrastructure, and develop a target list of priority investment schemes at a state and federal level as part of a new National Development Plan (NDP). The development plan is expected to set out realistic and achievable investment goals in key economic sectors, which will then be used as a blueprint to attract investment, both from abroad but also from domestic sources within Nigeria.

This will be in addition to the establishment of a new position within the Presidency, which will be mandated to coordinate all government actions aimed at achieving the National development objectives. The commonsense solution will also involve revamping the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) into a new agency promoting both foreign trade and inward investment – invest Nigeria – and place it under the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Industry.

EASILY the most fundamental problem facing the country, the APC Commonsense Solution will take off with undertaking an urgent power audit of the country’s energy needs. This is expected to lead to ensuring that the country meets all its power needs within the next ten years.

The government under the APC will encourage power generation companies to build a new generation of power plants, as well as, extend the country’s national and regional power grid and gas pipelines to improve energy generation, transmission and distribution across the nation.

Other proposed steps include, increasing the country’s refining capacity so that the nation can shift more of its gas supply to domestic power stations to end erratic power supplies; expanding the rural electrification programme and promote the use of independent ‘off-grid’ renewable energy schemes for isolated communities, as well as, encouraging development of sustainable renewable energy taking account of regional factor endowments.

COMMITMENT to an urgent reconstruction of all interstate highways that form the backbone of the country’s road transport network as a way of reconnecting Nigerians and to make road travel a pleasant experience, would be the watchword of the APC-led government; that is the promise the party made as a way of tackling problems in the transport sector.

Also, the APC promised its government’s commitment to a strategy of rehabilitation and maintenance programme that will ensure that all existing federal roads are safe and motorable. This will be in addition to embarking on a National Infrastructural Development Programme that will ensure the construction of 3,000km of Superhighway including service trunks and building of up to 4,800km of modern railway lines.

States with sprawling urban centres would also be encouraged and financially supported to embark on intra city metro lines and bus systems.

While the party promises to improve and modernise the nation’s aviation infrastructure, ensuring all the nation’s airports and aircrafts are compatible with international safety standards, it will also renovate, enlarge and modernise the nation’s ports to cope with growing maritime traffic, construct two deep sea ports and create a functional inland waterway transport system.

ICT and Mass Communications
IN this regard, the APC government will build a national information superhighway by developing a fibre optic network. It will also establish tax-free ICT parks for technology companies with full infrastructure, centred around university clusters; promote the creation of a new ICT Techno City through PPP with international investors; prioritise electrification of schools and colleges as a key first step to increasing the nation’s technological capacity, as well as, use ICT for outreach education in fields as diverse as health education and farming extension.

Sports And Culture

THE APC, recognizing that sports and culture are important instruments for social cohesion and national integration, promised to invest a lot of resources in promoting these sectors. They are also avenues for engaging meaningfully the nation’s preponderantly youthful population.