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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the administration was on the right path in improving Nigeria’s business environment and diversifying the economy.

Osinbajo made the submission in an interview with the Financial Timess, where he also said that the federal government’s investment in infrastructure would improve local manufacturing capacity, according to a script of the interview released by Mr. Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.

Osinbajo said that there had been a lot of damage to the environment in terms of business and others, but effecting the correction would take a while.

He said that the administration is barely three years old, but is focused on doing the right thing.

“The moment you have the right people and you put the right structures in place, you can do a lot, and I think we have been blessed with an incredibly good team.

“We wanted us to be much farther ahead in terms of manufacturing. But a lot of these things are also infrastructure constraints that cannot be developed overnight, which explains why we are investing heavily in infrastructure.

“We focus a great deal on diversifying; agriculture, manufacturing; we’ve focused on trying to diversify as much as possible, and we think that that is the path to go. There is no other way of doing this.

“And if you look at the figures, there has been tremendous improvement, even export of raw materials, agriculture produce, even manufacturing has improved. I think that we are on the right path. I am convinced that we are going to stay the course.”

Akande reproduced the interview conducted by Mr David Pilling, the Africa Editor of Financial Times on Thursday, May 31 at Eko Hotels and Suites.

Below is the transcript

Q: Views of critics that the Buhari administration didn’t make the most opportunity of the recession to diversify the economy.

Vice President: First, the nature of the crisis, of course, even beyond low oil prices, we were also experiencing considerably reduced oil production. At some point, we were producing less than a million barrels of oil per day, that being the major source of revenue at the time. But I think that what we did during that period was also very important in bringing the strong outcome that we are seeing today.

In terms of corruption, I think that we were able to deal with grand corruption. By that, I mean the sort of corruption where you found huge sums of money missing from the treasury and all of that. And because we were able to control grand corruption, we were able to do more with far less. So, for example, we invested N1.3 trillion in 2016 on capital for the very first time in almost 10 years of the country’s economic history.

So, if we were able to invest more when oil prices at some point, were $50 or $60, than when oil prices were at $110, $114; especially on infrastructure and capital; I’m sure anyone could say that there is something wrong with that. I think we managed to do far more with less.

Q: What else had been done by the administration?

Vice President: If you look at the different sectors, let’s take agriculture, for example, we have recorded very significant growth in agriculture. We are looking to gain at least 3.6 per cent growth in agriculture. That is particularly important to us, because in thinking of diversification of our economy, agriculture is, of course, a fitting point, and we closed that gap. Take rice for example, we were importing rice in the order of about $1.6 billion a year, which is about $5 million every day. Today, we are down to importing just about two per cent of the rice that we consume. So we have at least, ramped up rice production, we are practically self-sufficient.

Q: What role did government play in this regard?

Vice President: No, it is creating the right environment. For example, the Anchors Borrowers Programme was an important programme in getting people back to the farms, and also, which is one very part of this whole process, we supported the big millers in being able to increase a lot of the paddy rice that was being produced.

So there was a genuine effort to ensure that we are able to not just ramp up the production of rice, but also milling, and we found that the private sector responded to that, and we found the big millers, WACOT and others. Dangote is now investing about a million metric tonnes of milling capacity. I think that at this stage, agriculture has recorded significant improvement.

Also mining, because of the focus on mining, growth continued through the recession and growth has continued even now…

Q: Nigeria’s manufacturing capabilities.

Vice President: We are trying to create the right environment for manufacturing, and for business generally. And we took time to focus on the business environment with our Ease of Doing Business initiative, and we worked on various areas, including access to credit, access to registration of title, company registration, taxation and all of those things.

We looked at all of the different areas in our Ease of Doing Business, with a view to making life easier, to creating the right environment for manufacturing and for business generally. And we’ve recorded significant growth and this we are seeing in the growth that we are seeing today.

I’m sure you are familiar with how our World Bank rating went up and we were also considered one of the best reforming countries in the world.
Of course, there has been a lot of damage to the environment in terms of business and all that, but correcting that would take a while, don’t forget that we (this administration) are barely three years old. And we are focused on doing the right thing.

Q: What areas hasn’t the administration been able to achieve all that it had planned to?

Vice President: I think the one thing we wanted was for us to be much farther ahead in terms of manufacturing. But a lot of these things are also infrastructure constraints that cannot be developed overnight; which explains why we are investing heavily in infrastructure; rail, road and power, especially rail. This is the significant part of the investment that we are doing; concessioning the Lagos-Kano to General Electric, the narrow gauge, developing the standard gauge is important in terms of just movement of goods and all that. A lot of these initiatives would be a great help in moving goods.

Q: Why hasn’t Nigeria signed the African Free Trade Agreement yet?

Vice President: Nigeria has one of the most vibrant private sectors. Manufacturers associations, in particular, and several others felt that we shouldn’t go into this without further consultations, and we wanted to know exactly what specifically in terms of negotiations that will follow the signing of the framework. And it was the President’s opinion that it would be much wiser for us to suspend the signing until all of those engagements had been done to the satisfaction of the private sector. We work very closely with the private sector in practically everything that we have done.

For us, it is important to sit back, take a look at those negotiations first before heading into the framework, which is really what we are doing at the moment. So, where we are is that we are looking at the nitty gritty and we are trying to be sure how it is going to play for our private sector people, for industry, for trade, etc. We are not saying we are going to renegotiate the framework; the framework is already there. Our greater concern is for the specifics. And we are at a point where before we go into that, we will certainly make sure that we are happy with the terms and conditions.

Q: How is the administration tackling Nigeria’s security challenges?

Vice President: First of all, let me say that the nature of the security threats is asymmetric coping with it. And this is the same with countries all over the world; coping with terrorism is the sort of thing that most countries are grappling with.

I think that we are dealing with that as well. And my take is that the way we are going about it is the right way, in other words, we are working with partners in the sub-region to ensure that we are able to stem the flow of small arms for example.

We are also working on developing our local capacity. One of the strong initiatives that we are pushing is community policing; because a lot of the terrorism that you see are the sorts of opportunistic attacks that require local policing. And one of the strong initiatives that we are pushing is the whole question of the state police; more local and community policing, and we are working on those initiatives with the governors, like in the National Economic Council, which I have the privilege of chairing. We are trying to see how we can do more in terms of local policing, intelligence gathering, in order to be able to respond much more quickly to some of the threats that we see.

For example, in Benue State, we have deployed Special Forces now to several of the places where we have the disturbances. So, it is an ongoing engagement, and, as I said, asymmetric threat of this nature means that we just have to keep planning ahead as much as we can.

Q: Criticisms of government’s efforts in tackling herdsmen/farmers clashes.

Vice President: If you look at the herdsmen/farmers clashes, it is a different type of problem (to the issue of Boko Haram) and it has to be dealt with differently. Note that this crisis did not start with the Buhari government. These clashes have been going on for years. I think we are at a point that we believe that the right response; our response, has to be robust to ensuring that we are able to keep communities safe, which is what is going on. We are doing that in various parts of the North central.

Q: On Nigeria’s dependence on oil revenue.

Vice President: I think that what we are doing is that we are managing our finances far better. Today oil prices are about $80 a barrel. Our reserves are at $47 billion, which is the highest in about 10 years, comparable to 2013 when oil prices were higher. So beside the Sovereign Wealth Fund, we have invested far more; we’ve almost tripled our investment in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

I think the question about whether you spend or you don’t spend is really more a question of how you manage the resources in the first place. For us, I think that the management of resources has been a strong point. I think we have managed our resources well. Which explains why we focus a great deal on diversifying; agriculture, manufacturing. We’ve focused on trying to diversify as much as possible, and we think that it is the path to go. There is no other way of doing this.

And if you look at the figures, there has been tremendous improvement, in the export of raw materials, agriculture produce, even manufacturing has improved. I think that we are on the right path. I am convinced that we are going to stay the course.

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There will soon be respite for motorists plying Agege-Pen Cinema axis in Lagos, as State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu assures accelerated completion of the abandoned Pen-Cinema Bridge.

The Governor spoke on Sunday while inspecting ongoing rehabilitation work on major roads in Iju area of the state by Lagos State Public Works Corporation.

Sanwo-Olu, in company of his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said the contractor handling the bridge construction was being prepared for re-mobilisation back on the site.

Expressing concern over the pains residents go through due to regular gridlock on the alternative routes occasioned by abandoned project, Sanwo-Olu said his government would compensate for the discomfort by ensuring timely completion of the bridge.

He said: “I can assure you that we are currently in talks with the contractors handling key road projects in Ikorodu, which are Igbogbo and Ishawo roads, and also a critical project in Agege area, which is the Pen-Cinema Bridge. Our promise is that, if it is not by end of this month; then, by next month, the contractors will be fully mobilised back on sites to complete the work.

“We are particularly concerned about the pain motorists are going through because of the incomplete construction of Pen-Cinema Bridge. We are hoping that the contractor handling the bridge construction, too, will be mobilised back on site. Once we push these three critical infrastructures and get them completed, relief would come to residents in these areas.”

The Governor said the ongoing road repair across the state was an outcome of his Executive Order, which declared emergency rehabilitation of critical roads.

Sanwo-Olu said the repair was being carried out in six segments, pointing out that the highways and arterial carriages were captured in the first set of repair across the state.

He said repair work would begin on roads captured in other segments in succession. The Governor urged commuters to be patient while the repair is being carried out.

He expressed satisfaction on the level of work done, while assuring that the road rehabilitation would be ongoing to until 100 major roads marked for repair in all Local Government Areas across the state get done.

Sanwo-Olu said his administration would continue to be responsive to the challenges confronting the people, assuring the actions of his government would focus on bringing relief to taxpayers.

“We have risen up to the expectations of Lagosians and we believe there is still a lot more to do. It is a work in progress. But we can feel the immediate relief that are coming to residents of all the areas where the rehabilitation work is being done currently,” the Governor said.

Also joining the Governor during the inspection is the Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola, and General Manager of Lagos State Public Works Corporation, Engr. Daramola Olufemi.

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EDITORIAL: Healthcare Reforms in Nigeria; A Mere Political Statement Lacking Commitment



By  Manny Ita

Nigeria has since her independence in 1960 had a very robust verbiage or policies by successive gobernments on health reforms but with very little progress or success recorded in what might well be a lack of political will in reforming the health sector.
Over 90% of the Nigerian population are without health insurance coverage. The inability to effectively address the country’s numerous public health challenges has contributed to the persistent and high level of poverty and weakness of the health system.
Political instability, corruption, limited institutional capacity and an unstable economy have also been major factors responsible for the poor development of health services in Nigeria. Households and individuals in Nigeria bear the burden of a dysfunctional and inequitable health system – delaying or not seeking health care and having to pay out of pocket for health care services that are not affordable.
The health challenges of the country include:
National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS),
National Immunisation Coverage Scheme (NICS),
Midwives Service Scheme (MSS)
Nigerian Pay for Performance scheme
After many attempts at implementing legislation on health insurance since 1960, NHIS, although established in 1999, was eventually launched only in 2005 with the goals to ensure access to quality health care services, provide financial risk protection, reduce rising costs of health care services and ensure efficiency in health care through programmes such as the: Formal Sector Social Health Insurance Programme (FSSHIP), Mobile Health, Voluntary Contributors Social Health Insurance Programme (VCSHIP), Tertiary Institution Social Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP), Community Based Social Health Insurance Programme (CBSHIP), Public Primary Pupils Social Health Insurance Programme (PPPSHIP), and the provision of health care services for children under 5 years, prison inmates, disabled persons, retirees and the elderly.
The NHIS was expected to provide social and financial risk protection by reducing the cost of health care and providing equitable access to basic health services with the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria including children, pregnant women, people living with disabilities, elderly, displaced, unemployed, retirees and the sick.
Free health care services and exemption mechanisms are expected to provide financial risk protection for the most vulnerable populations but evidence suggest that they are ineffective and have failed to achieve this aim.
The maternal mortality ratio for Nigeria remain quite high at 814 per 100000 live births according to 2016 World Health Statistics. Across the country, pregnant women and children under five years are generally charged fees when accessing health care services, despite the federal government’s declaration of free health for pregnant women and children under five years in 2005.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole in 2016 announced the Federal Government’s plan to provide free health services to 100 million Nigerians in the next two years. Under this new health agenda, pregnant women across Nigeria are expected to enjoy free maternal and delivery services at the primary health care (PHC) level.
Unfortunately, Free health care services and exemption mechanisms often arise as campaign promises of political actors to the electorate and fall short in meeting the health needs of the most vulnerable populations. According to Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) in 2013, over 60% of pregnant women aged 15-49 deliver their babies at home without any antenatal care visits. In rural areas, this value reaches 76.9%. The situation is critical in North East and North West regions of Nigeria where over 79% of pregnant women age 15-49 deliver their babies at home. Over 60% of pregnant women in Bayelsa, Plateau and Niger deliver at home rather than a health facility.
The cost of health care and the low quality of care by the public have been argued to be the reason for the poor utilisation of maternal and child health services in Nigeria.
In addition, health spending in Nigeria is low and this is responsible for the over-reliance on out of pocket payments for health care services.
Despite its launch in 2005, NHIS covers less than 10% of the Nigerian population leaving the most vulnerable populations at the mercy of health care services that are not affordable. This means the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria are not provided with social and financial risk protection. Poor people constitutes about 70% of the Nigerian population. They lack access to basic health services, which social and financial risk protection should provide, because they cannot afford it.
CBSHIP was expected to meet their health needs as well as provide social and financial risk protection to this group, which mostly reside in rural areas. As evidenced in the high rate of out of pocket payments for health care services , poor people financially contribute more to health care than official care and funds programmes in Nigeria. Out of pocket payments for health care services limit the poor from accessing and utilising basic health care services.
The quality of health care services delivered is poor and remains a huge source of concern. Most of the PHC facilities that are supposed to meet the health needs of the poor and rural dwellers are in a poor state due to poor budgetary allocation.
In trying to solve these issues, healthcare in the country must be tackled headlong in order to stem the detyeriorating development therein, which could portend grave danger for citizens of the country in the no-ditant future.
Policy makers and political actors need to devise health care reforms to address the lack of social and financial protection for the poor and vulnerable populations. Part of this reform is the expansion of the NHIS. States should be mandated to provide health insurance coverage to all residents. Making health insurance optional for states over the years has affected the ability of the NHIS to increase the level of coverage for the people.
While the mandatory CBHI scheme is being scaled-up as a supplementary measure, state governments should enrol poor residents in a private health insurance plan and bear the responsibility of paying the monthly premium per person to Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs). It is not enough to have a national health insurance policy, it is important to ensure that health insurance coverage is provided to the poor and most vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health.
Although the NHIS Act made provision for children, who constitute the largest population in Nigeria, many children still have to pay for health care services in spite of being born into poor families that do not have the ability to pay for health care services and suffer financial hardship as a consequence. The free health policies and exemption mechanisms provided by some states, targeted at children, pregnant women and the elderly, are not social and financial risk protection policies, as these groups are largely responsible for the cost of health care with the free health care programme barely covering their basic health care services.
Another way of providing social and financial risk protection for poor and vulnerable populations is by establishing a legislative framework for a UHC scheme and setting aside funds for it. Evidence from Thailand has shown the effect of UHC schemes through PHC on expanding access to health care for the poor and vulnerable populations.
Political actors, policy makers and all stakeholders in the health sector should establish a government funded social and financial risk protection scheme through a general tax financing system for the poor and vulnerable, and invest in basic infrastructure for health care in rural areas for quality health care service delivery. UHC schemes are important in addressing the problem of poor coverage, limited access to health care, and poor quality of health care services.
Nigeria is yet to adopt innovative ways to protect the poor and vulnerable populations against financial risk of ill health. It is important to guarantee by law the right to health care of all citizens in Nigeria. Although the National Health Act (NHA) that was signed into law in 2014 stated that all Nigerians are entitled to basic minimum package of health care services, it is not clear if the provisions made in the NHA are capable of achieving UHC in Nigeria. In addition, the NHA is yet to be implemented over two years after its signage into law.
Some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have been able to provide social and financial risk protection schemes for poor and vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health. Therefore, there is a need to provide social health protection schemes targeted at these groups in Nigeria. The poor and vulnerable populations should not become impoverished because of failure to obtain much needed health care services. Governments must reduce out of pocket payments for health care services by households through the adoption of a tax financed non-contributory UHC scheme.

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Protest Rocks Alausa Over Supreme Court Verdict On Agidingbi Community



Scores of community leaders and residents of Agidingbi area of Ikeja on Thursday embarked on peaceful protest against the judgment of Supreme Court which awarded ownership of 398 acres of landed property in the community to a traditional land-owning family, Akinole-Oshiun.

The possession order is said to cover a large section of the Lateef Jakande Road, Acme Road, Fagba Close, and other streets around the area, totaling over 2000 buildings.

The protesters, who marched from Agidingbi to House of Assembly complex in Alausa, said Akinole-Oshiun family, which is the judgment-creditor in the case, had already given them seven days ultimatum to vacate their houses, urging the government to quickly intervene to avert bloodshed.

They displayed placard of various inscriptions such as “There is no ancestral link between Akinole and Agidingbi Land, Land Grabbers are enemies of Lagos State,” among others.

Leader of Ojodu Legislative Arm, Hon Wasiu Bolaji-Seidu who is also a community leader in Agidingbi said the news of the possession order came to the community as a big surprise as nobody from the area was served with the court process that led to the judgment.

He said: “On Friday, they (judgment-creditor) brought a judgment and placed it on our houses and said they have taken over the entire Agidingbi land. The issue is Agidingbi was not mentioned in the judgment; nobody from Agidingbi was part of the case and I don’t know how you will enforce a judgment against a person that was never part of the case.

“Agidingbi has been in existence for over 200 years ago. I was born and bred in Agidingbi; my forefathers were born and bred in Agidingbi and I don’t see any reason why somebody will just wake up and say they are the owner of the community.

“I am over 50 years; my father lived for over 90 years in this community before he died; my great grand-father died at the age of 150 years and I don’t know where Akinole is coming from and we have people like Habibatu Mogaji who was the Yeye-Oba of Agidingbi; we have Femi Okunnu who is our father in the community and we don’t know where Akin-ole came from.”

He particularly urged the State Government to activate the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law of the State, and prevent the matter from degenerating into a full blown crisis.

“To the best of my knowledge, I know that Lagos State has enacted a law duly signed by the Governor prohibiting land grabbing in the State because this is a clear example of such case. That is why we are here to call on the Lagos State House of Assembly to look into it and find a lasting solution, failure of which there will be bloodshed,” Bolaji-Seidu said.

Also speaking, Baale of Agidingbi, Chief Ganiyu Ayinde Haruna, said they were embarking on the peaceful protest to call the attention of government to the silent crisis that is brewing in the community.

Narrating how it all began, Haruna said: “On Friday last week, we woke up to see people posting possession order on our property and we don’t know these people. We have been living here for several years and the issue is we don’t know this family that is laying claim to ownership of our land.

“We have never heard any relationship with this Akinole family and so it is surprising to us. Nobody knew anything about the court case. I mean how can you enforce court judgment against a party that was never part of the case?  We are peaceful people and we are urging the Lagos State Government especially Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the House of Assembly to intervene urgently in this matter because we don’t want bloodshed in our community.”

Also speaking, an 83-year old resident and Iyalode of Agidingbi, Evang Dorcas Faworaja said her great grand-parents were born in the area, therefore the claimant cannot just come from anywhere and lay claim to the community.

Receiving the protesters, Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Hon Olumuyiwa Jimoh commended them for conducting themselves peacefully, assuring that the House would look into their case.

“Let me assure you that we are going to look into your petition without any fear or favour and I can assure you also that you will receive judgment at the end of the day,” Jimoh said.

Agidingbi Community leaders presents their petition on the Supreme Court judgement to the Deputy Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Jimoh Olumuyiwa Wahab (2nd right) on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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