THE Federal Government yesterday explained that Nigeria’s economic response to the Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, Pandemic was largely targeted at saving jobs, protecting businesses, and attracting new investments. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated this during a webinar with some French business leaders under the auspices of the Franco-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Vice President in a statement issued by his Spokesman, Laolu Akande, said the administration hoped to achieve these by elaborately executing the Economic Sustainability Plan, ESP, which is currently being implemented.
Prof. Osinbajo noted that part of what the Buhari administration had done in its response to the pandemic was to “build a business environment that will be supportive of domestic and foreign investors.” According to him, “It is important to recognize that the pandemic, which really is the cause of the downturn, not just in the Nigerian economy, but practically all of our economies, all over the world, except perhaps China, also provides incredible opportunities for doing all manner of very innovative, and creative things.
“And I think that we are in a season where we are ready to experiment and ready to do a lot more. And if you look at our Economic Sustainability Plan, which is our response to the pandemic, what we tried to do was to do a few things that we thought would be game-changing. “For example, one of the important things that we are trying to do with respect to renewable energy is with solar power. We are collaborating with several solar power companies to provide, within the next 12 months, five million Nigerian households with solar home systems.
“This is partly to address the issues with the national grid by providing more off-grid capacity and provide more opportunities in the renewable energy space. What we are doing is to get the financing through the Central Bank of Nigeria as part of the Economic Sustainability Plan.” Speaking on the issue of backward integration and citing the example of Fan Milk Plc, Prof. Osinbajo said private sector commitment needs to align to the Federal Government’s backward integration policy. He said, “I am glad to hear that you are already doing 1.5 million litres of milk in Ogun State,” adding however that there is still a lot more to be done. He said, “For us, the issue of backward integration is right, front and centre, and it has been so for many years.
We believe that aggressive pursuit of it is really important for us as an economic policy. “The most important thing, as I said, is that we are committed to backward integration. Unfortunately, over the years, many companies have committed to backward integration but have simply not been as diligent and faithful with those promises. So, we really want to see the much greater commitment and a plan that is as aggressive as our aspirations.”
Participants at the forum included Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; and the Executive Secretary and CEO of Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Mrs. Yewande Sadiku. Others were the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Jérôme Pasquier; Chairman of the Board of the Franco-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Usman Mohammed, representatives of some French companies operating in Nigeria including Total Nigeria, Air France, Kwik Delivery, among others.