Lai Mohammed Praises FG Transformation Initiative

 

Yemisi Izuora 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said

the Buhari Administration is steadily transforming Nigeria through

innovative measures that are yielding positive results.

In a keynote address he delivered at the 2018 ‘Africa Together

Conference’ at the University of Cambridge in the UK on Saturday, the

Minister listed investment in people, changing the business

environment and building national infrastructure as some of the areas

in which the Administration has made a great impact.

He said by focusing on education and skills acquisition, the

Administration is addressing the need to create opportunities for the

country’s teeming youth population.

”In my country, school enrolment is a challenge we face. And one of

the main culprits is malnutrition. Government has stepped in: 8.2

million are being fed daily free meals in 45,000 schools. Not only

does this increase attendance and provide children with a – in some

case only – nutritious meal a day, it enhances learning efficacy in

class and boosts cognitive development over the long term,” Alhaji

Mohammed said

He said the Home-Grown School Feeding programme has yielded other

results, including the employment of over 80,000 cooks and a ready-made

market for food crop farmers.

The Minister said skill shortages in the labour pool are being

addressed through several measures, including the four-pronged N-Power

programme that is providing employment and vocational training for

graduates and others, access to loans for medium and small business as

well as conditional cash transfers to the most vulnerable members of

the society.

He said the Administration is also changing the business environment

for good, focusing especially on removing the red tape that makes it

cumbersome for business and stifles innovation.

”Much of our programme has honed-in on business reform. Nigeria has

moved up 24 places on the World Bank Ranking of Ease of Doing Business

index – putting it amongst the top 10 global reformers, along with

Zambia, Malawi and Djibouti. The two areas we have prioritised are

starting a business and access to credit.

”In Nigeria, registering a business used to take months. Now it takes

24-48 hours. Unwrapping the bureaucracy and streamlining processes

encourage an uptick in new official enterprises. We have introduced

online registration, with features such as the electronic stamping of

documents. And to ensure this brings with it the maximum benefit,

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises clinics have been deployed across

a variety of states to provide regulators a contact point with

informal business and budding entrepreneurs to clarify any issues,”

Alhaji Mohammed said.

He noted that the challenge of access to credit is also being

frontally addressed by making it possible for MSMEs to register their

movable assets, such as vehicles and equipment, and use them as

collateral to raise loans and finance, thus removing the need for

traditional assets (such as real estate, offices and factories).

The Minister told his audience that the two most critical impediments

against business, decent transport connections and a reliable power

supply, are also been tackled by ensuring better roads and train

networks, so that goods and services can be moved around more cheaply

and efficiently, and businesses can plan for the future, knowing they

will not be hampered by energy outages.

”For instance, Nigeria earmarks 30 per cent of its annual national budgets

for capital expenditure. That means 2.7 trillion Naira has gone

towards our infrastructure in the last 2 years -unprecedented in our

history. Power generation has climbed to 7000MW (from just over

2500MW), to which we hope to add another 2000MW by the end of the

year. We have also laid down thousands of kilometres of road.

”Also, the Government has now signed a concession agreement with an

International Consortium led by General Electric. This will breathe

new life into the tracks, increasing capacity and speed. Not only will

this allow for goods and services to be moved around cost-effectively,

it will allow the prosperity of the nation to be more equitably spread

through increased connectivity,” he said, adding that the government

is also constructing a new standard-gauge railway.

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