Viewpoint: President Muhammadu Buhari

This administration’s policy of “change” is to build a new Nigeria, which must reflect in the way we do things either as individuals or institutions. It is a change geared towards striving to be prudent in the way we manage our time, financial and material resources to ensure that we secure our country, rebuild our economy and make Nigeria stronger than it has ever been. The answers to our problems are not beyond us. They exist on our farmlands; in our corporations; in the universities; in the hearts and minds of our entrepreneurs; through the gallantry of our armed forces; and the resolute spirit of Nigerians, especially the youth, who have refused to give up in spite of all the obstacles confronting them.

We are coming from a background of dwindling government revenue occasioned by the sustained downturn in the price of crude oil in the international market, which has exposed the vulnerability of our monolithic economy to external shocks. This is a major setback to the attainment of the lofty aspirations of the current administration. Thus, a compelling imperative has arisen from the current trend to diversify the economy.

This requires a deliberate and concerted intervention to expand activities in underdeveloped sectors and to open new economic frontiers. The diversification is necessary to improve the utilisation of the country’s vast agricultural and mineral resources. Minerals processing, expansion of manufacturing activities, production and export of non-traditional products, and the further development of services sectors such as tourism are essential to the enhancement of economic prospects.

This administration resolved to diversify the economy by developing sectors of advantage and addressing the energy and infrastructure challenges to position Nigeria on the path of rapid and sustainable growth and development. We are building an economic agenda enabled by good governance, infrastructure and human capital development, and business climate reforms, with expected outcomes in job creation, poverty alleviation and development.

We especially recognise the private sector as the engine of growth and a partner in our economic agenda, and will give the fullest possible support to both foreign and domestic investors. We already have a strong and responsible private sector which would help implement a home-grown economic recovery.

Our specific focus areas will be sectors with a multiplier effect which will positively impact the economy, so agriculture and solid minerals development will drive our economic revival. We have stepped up efforts, introducing reforms and policies that will create a conducive investment environment for a private sector-led economy and for sustainable development. We are pursuing these objectives vigorously, with positive outcomes beginning to manifest. Despite the challenges, GDP has been rising for the past five years, averaging 6% over this period. This is significant given that the GDP growth rate in most of the developed world is falling. Our per capita income rose from $2950 in 2014 to over $3200 in 2015.

This administration has been making tremendous strides towards placing the country on the path of inclusive growth and sustainable economic development. To this end, we have injected new leadership at the helm of our revenue-generating agencies, including the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Nigerian Customs Service. We implemented the Treasury Single Account which, so far, has provided greater visibility of government revenues and cash flows. We aim to ensure macroeconomic stability by achieving a real GDP growth rate of 4.37% and managing inflation. To achieve this, we will ensure the alignment of fiscal, monetary, trade and industrial policies. In addition to the proper linkage of budgeting to strategic planning, we are enhancing the utilisation of the Government Integrated Financial Management Information Systems to improve financial management. The recently established Efficiency Unit is also working across government bodies to identify and eliminate wasteful spending, duplication and other inefficiencies.

We have demonstrated a strong will to fight corruption, and our crackdown will continue to be vigorously pursued. We will not be deterred on the initiatives to recover our looted resources and block leakages. We will pursue the recovery of everything that belongs to the people of Nigeria, no matter where it is hidden or how long it will take. I urge the courts to support our efforts and help in the recovery of stolen funds by speedily concluding trials and showing that impunity no longer has a place in this country.

As we focus on inclusive growth, we are conscious of the rate of unemployment and underemployment, which is partly responsible for the current insecurity in parts of the country. We are determined to address this, beginning with prudent implementation of the budget, which provides a platform for putting more Nigerians to work and other social safety measures. We will invest in training our youth through the revival of technical and vocational institutions, to ensure they are competent to seize the opportunities that will arise from this economic revival. The job creation drive will be private sector-led; we will encourage this by a reduction in tax rates for smaller businesses, and subsidised funding for priority sectors such as agriculture and solid minerals. We will equip our farmers with the appropriate tools, technology and techniques. We will also invest in enabling our miners to operate in a safe, secure and humane environment, including financial support through a dedicated fund.

The government appreciates the fact that besides the internal efforts to revamp the economy, a developing economy like Nigeria can only be attractive to foreign investors if it is competitive on a global basis. Multinational companies prefer to invest in countries with a healthy business climate – where cost, delay and risk are minimised – so the government will continue to pursue sound investment policies that are designed to attract foreign direct investment, stimulate domestic investment and develop the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises sector. We shall deliver security, jobs and infrastructure, bearing in mind that investors seek profit and will only operate in investment-friendly economies that promise quality returns on investment and guarantee safety.

One area in which Nigerians have already begun to experience major change is in the war on terror. We commend our armed forces for significantly curtailing the insurgency which has ravaged the north-east of Nigeria over the past few years. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in the area of security. Our armed forces will maintain, consolidate and build on their successes in the war against Boko Haram and violent extremism. This government will not consider the matter concluded until the terrorists have been completely routed out and normalcy restored to all parts of the country. We are working closely with the international community to undertake an assessment of the area with a view to developing tailored policies and programmes that will fast track economic recovery of the region. Current efforts will form part of the Northeast Recovery and Peace Building Initiative.

While pursuing our economic recovery agenda and tackling insecurity in the bid for sustainable growth, we have not lost sight of our status as Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy. Nigeria’s centrepiece of diplomatic relations, including economic diplomacy, remains Africa first. We continue to provide leadership in deepening integration, especially in the West African sub-region, which we consider a bloc in the promotion of economic advancement, particularly as we market our collective investment potential and opportunities to the rest of the world.