Nigeria’s Economic Advisory Council: The Task Before Them

Nigeria’s Economic Advisory Council: The Task Before Them

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 4:22 pm

President Buhari meets with Members of Economic Advisory Council in State House on 9th Oct 2019[PHOTO CREDIT: Femi Adesina Facebook account]

Rasheed Akinkuolie 

The Nigerian government recently constituted a team of experts  to  advise the President on the management of the economy and address the numerous social challenges facing the country.

The council members  are well known figures in the private sector, public service, academia and the  international community.

They are expected to give special attention to challenges in sectors  such as:  education, health,   unemployment, high cost of living, Insecurity, out of school children, dilapidated infrastructures, the malaria scourge, drug abuse etc.

This is a daunting task which  may not necessarily require   breaking  new grounds to achieve set  objectives. There are several past  discontinued programs  which should simply be revived.

For example: DFRRI ,( Directorate of Food Roads and Rural Infrastructures,

(PTF) the  Petrol Trust Fund,

NNSC ( Nigeria National supply Company),

(FHA) the Federal Housing Authority

(NDE) National Directorate of Employment.

( NOA) National Orientation Agency

(Family Support)

The Low cost house policy and the educational program of Alhaji  Lateef Jakande, Governor  of Lagos State from 1979-83.

The advisory council may adopt the concept and programs of these organizations to produce Short, Mid and Long  term development plans which will stand the test of time. This was the practice in the past, especially during the first and second republics.

The 1970-1980 Development Master Plan  gave birth to infrastructures  such as : the National Theatre, Festac Town, Murtala Mohammed Airport, the Refineries, River Basin  agricultural and irrigation projects, Hydro Electric Power Plants, car and truck assembly plants, the Iron and Industries, expansion of Nigeria Airways fleet, The expansion of National Shipping Line fleet etc.

Rasheed Akinkuolie

These development plans were conceived  and implemented by ‘super Permanent Secretaries’ of that era; intellectual  giants of the like of : Phillip Asiodu, Alison Ayida,  Damcida, G Longe, Ime  Ebong ,  CO Lawson, Sule  Kolo, F Adesanoye,  M Daggash,  A Attah,  JTF Iyalla, SO Wey all backed  by their colleagues in the  Civil Service.

Although, cynics now  mock and  call civil servants ‘evil servants’ out of ignorance. Whereas, no government program can succeed without the inputs and cooperation of civil servants. And no country can rise above the quality of its civil service.

The advisory council members should be conscious of this fact and work with top CIvil Servants  in the various ministries, and most especially the National Planning Commission (NPC) to develop a plan which will guide government activities for immediate, Mid and Long Term implementation.

The social impact of DFFRI, The Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure) 1984-1993 during the regime of IBB cannot be ignored. DFFRI constructed roads, built clinics, schools, dug water boreholes,  provided electricity in rural communities  etc

PTF  ( the Petroleum Trust Fund) 1994-1999)headed by President Buhari was another  project which addressed  several social problems. The  PTF  rehabilitated / constructed over  17,000 kilometers of roads, supplied books to schools, rehabilitated and supplied medical equipments and drugs to hospitals, provided potable water and electricity to rural communities.

The Nigerian National Supply Company ( NNSC) on the other hand was a direct attack on hunger and poverty. Food  and provisions were sold to the public at moderate prices. The NNSC  sold rice, milk, vegetable oils, stock fish, canned fish, sugar to the public at controlled prices, such that, a 50 kilo bag of rice was sold for as low as 15 naira in 1980.

The dissolution of these agencies without replacement marked the beginning of government’s absence in the affairs and welfare  of the Nigerian  people. It led to urban migration, poverty,  and the generalized insecurity the country is facing today.

The advisory council may be guided by the following suggestions:

  1. Review and expand  DFFRI programs to address the problems of access roads, potable water and  run down schools in rural communities.
  2. Revisit  the Petroleun Trust Fund( PTF) and adopt its social development  programs, which was to provide  infrastructures in rural areas.

3.Revive the Nigerian National Supply Company ( NNSC) through which the so  called ‘Essenco’ or essential         commodities;  such as rice; vegetable  oil, milk, stock fish , sugar were sold directly  to civil servants and the public at controlled  prices. This program reduced hunger and extreme poverty in the country.

  1. Restore the role of the  Federal Housing Authoity (FHA)  as the government agency responsible for providing affordable houses to the public. The experience  and success of Festac town and Gwarimpa in Abuja are good examples .
  2. The oil refineries should be refurbished and made to work  by appointing  trusted administrators to manage them, or invite oil companies to buy or lease them.
  3. Strongly advocate for the construction of the  Dasin Hausa dam in Adamawa state which will hold  the water released  from Lagdo dam in Cameroon, and stop the floods   downstream in Nigeria.
  1. Advocate for  the rehabilitation of the dozens of abandoned dams all over the country to increase  hydro generated  electricity, provide water for irrigation and develop rural communities.
  1. Support the efforts to put millions of Nigerian children in school for  security reasons.
  2. Support the fight against malaria  by other means, such  as the use of larvicides bacillus  to destroy mosquito  larvae in their aqueous habitats.
  1. Reiterate the importance of education as the foundation and panacea to most social ills,  and without which all other efforts may simply be futile.

In conclusion, the advisory council is saddled with a task of critical national importance. Their achievements will  be judged by visible and concrete  achievements with impact , rather than figures,  statistics and excuses which have no bearing on the living conditions of the Nigerian  people.

-Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed was Director, Trade and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja

akinkuolie. [email protected]

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