By Emmanuel Ugoji
In what has been described as unprecedented landmark event, Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on November 19, 2018 unveiled his policy document, tagged the ‘People’s Policy’, three months ahead of the 2019 presidential election scheduled to hold February 16, 2019.
Critics have already asked what makes the unveiling of a policy document a big deal. By unveiling his policy document, Atiku has given Nigerians the necessary heads-up on what the challenges are and how he plans to deal with them. By releasing the document, Atiku has simply said: This is who I am, this is what I will do and I should be held accountable.
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Another implication of launching his policy plan is to have a covenant with Nigerians and to set a standard for future presidential candidates because it has been observed that since independence political leaders hardly come up with concrete plans on how they will approach governance, especially, the myriad of problems facing the country.
Reading through the document showed that it has five broad outlines which include: Introduction, Building Economy of our Dreams, Our priorities, Governance and Funding our priorities. Three out of the five are the most critical to Nigerians. They are our priorities, funding our priorities and building economy of our dreams.
The document shows that an Atiku administration will focus on four priorities which include jobs, human capital development, poverty eradication and infrastructure.
On jobs, it is envisaged that three million job opportunities will be created annually in the private sector through informal sector, entrepreneurial, school to jobs and MSME/ICT Special entrepreneurship pathways.
He said that his government will launch a new, more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable national Entrepreneurship Development and Job Creation Programs, target the creation of up to 3 million self and wage-paying employment opportunities in the private sector annually, target all categories of youth, including graduates, early school leavers as well as the massive numbers of uneducated youth who are currently not in schools for employment or training, create incubation centres, clusters and industrial/commercial hubs to provide a market place for MSMEs and SMPs as well as champion the repositioning and streamlining of the activities of the existing Federal and State Government Job Creation Agencies.
On poverty alleviation, Atiku said if elected he will provide skill acquisition opportunities and enterprise development for job and wealth creation rather than direct cash distribution, improve citizens’ access to basic infrastructure services – water, sanitation, power, education and health care, remove all forms of discrimination against the marginalized and vulnerable citizens and enhance their access to education and income generating activities, implement pro-poor polices that will enhance their participation in economic activities and improve household income; work more closely with NGO’s, the private sector and other development partners to mobilize resources for the effective implementation of the nation’s empowerment strategy.
On infrastructural development, an “Infrastructure Development Unit” (IDU) will be established in the Presidency, with a coordinating function and a specific mandate of working with the MDAs to fast track and drive the process of infrastructure development in the country, the private sector will be provided with incentives to enable it establish an Infrastructure Debt Fund (IDF). The IDF will primarily mobilize domestic and international private resources for the financing and delivery of large infrastructure projects across all the sectors of the economy. Furthermore, the scope of Infra-Credit will be broadened to complement the operation of the IDF by de-risking investments in infrastructure to build investor confidence in taking risk and investing capital’’.
On the development of transport infrastructure, he said there will be a legislative, framework and regulation overhaul and that government will develop 5,000km of roads by 2025 through PPPs and community interventions. The document also said that government will develop and rehabilitate the connecting road networks across the geo-political zones, encourage transportation development around the nation’s agricultural and industrial clusters , construct up to 5,000km of modern railways through privatization, PPPs and public investments as well as Improve existing port efficiency and achieve accelerated development of alternative container ports especially inland dry ports.
Concerning power infrastructure, the National Electricity Regulatory Agency (NERC) will be allowed to perform its regulatory functions without interference and guarantee its independence while there will be a review of the Aggregated Technical, Commercial and Collection (ATC&C) losses existing in the power networks and extract firm commitments for a revised ATC&C Loss reduction target from the Distribution companies. Government will create an environment that would enable Distribution Companies recover full costs for power supplied to their consumers. Creative solutions will be introduced towards addressing the huge debt overhang and liquidity challenge in the power industry while at same time ensure enforceability of industry contracts just as there will be an upgrade of transmission grids while short-term emergency measures will be adopted.
Refining and petrochemical infrastructure will witness a prioritization of investment in nameplate capacity that will ensure that Nigeria starts to refine 50% of its current crude oil output of 2 million bpd by 2025, privatization of all four-outstanding government-owned refineries to competent off-takers with mandates to produce agreed levels of refined output, issuance of new licenses for Greenfield investment in crude oil refining and allied activities and the introduction of market friendly fiscal and pricing policies.
In the education sector, there will be the streamlining of functions and transfer of responsibilities for greater efficiency e.g. by 2024, responsibility for funding and control of public primary education shall be transferred to the local governments, development and promotion of science and technical education to create skills for the new economy, improved access to qualitative as well as industry-relevant education with access, equity and quality receiving prominent attention; He said there will be more investment in social infrastructure.
Due to observed gaps in the health sector, a comprehensive reform of the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies will be effected. The administration will accelerate Nigeria’s transition towards achieving universal access to affordable and quality healthcare services for all by 2030, expand access to basic primary healthcare, improve quality of care and clinical governance, unlock market potential of the health sector by engaging the private sector, encourage medium and large scale pharmaceutical industries for the local production of essential drugs and expand healthcare professionals to the frontline and attract Nigerian doctors in the Diaspora to reverse brain-drain.
To empower youths and women, state governments and the private sector will be encouraged to incentivize studies for girls in Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) while microfinance and financing schemes specifically targeted at the youth and women will be provided.
To address the issue of violence against women, special tribunal will be created to handle crimes against women including domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse and rape while there will be an increase in women representation and retention rates in politics and business, through positive action such as quotas for women on political platform and corporate boards just as there will be Increase in the number of appointments made to young people in government and in government committees.
Greater attention will be paid to the sports sector as the document reveals that sporting facilities in all the states will be improved while there will be a diversification into the promotion of minority sports to give Nigeria a better chance of winning international laurels. The sector will be encouraged to be a job and wealth creation platform just as it will serve as a mechanism for national unity and foreign policy. The sector will also partner with the private sector to open sports academies for persons with disabilities that will operate across the regions.
To break new frontiers in the area of culture and tourism, a PDP government will encourage talented individuals to harness, and showcase abroad, certain aspects of our literary material and performance traditions, promote local traditional festivals, so as to revive the culture and traditions of our people, revive National Parks driven by the private sector, restore the conduct of the Bi-Annual National Festival of Arts and Culture, encourage intervention fund and increase budget support for culture and tourism; and advocate the granting of loans and grants to qualified practitioners.
For Arts, Entertainment and creative industries, an Atiku government will enact right policies and legislations that will provide the latest infrastructure, financial and business development facilities, provide specific finance and strategic support tailored to each segment of the entertainment industry, define the rights of practitioners in the industry, including their intellectual property rights, create interventions schemes focused on offering subsidy to the creative arts industry in order to promote stand-alone businesses, ratify the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production, improve enforcement to address the issues of piracy and review international treaties or conventions relating to Intellectual Property (IP) rights.
In tackling the environmental challenges Atiku says that in the Niger Delta which has accounted for over 85 percent of Nigeria’s annual revenues for the past 50 years, but still battles stark under-development and continues to lag behind in almost every key area of development, there will be genuine implementation of the Niger-Delta Master Plan, continued lack of infrastructure and social services in the region will be addressed, implementation of a variety of social awareness programs will be carried out, relocation of the Niger Delta Ministry from Abuja to the region to enable it become closer to the stakeholders and beneficiaries, overhauling of the Niger-Delta Ministry & NDDC to remove overlaps and making them more functional while a comprehensive review and impact assessment of the Amnesty Programs will be carried out.
In the North East where states have the challenges of desert encroachment, erosion, insurgency, infrastructure deficit, high levels of unemployment, poverty and illiteracy, Atiku as President will establish and operationalize the North East Commission for Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Development, encourage industrialization in the region through the development of clusters and dedicated economic zones, develop and implement a security master plan including security architecture overhaul and greater border control collaboration with neighbouring countries, develop and implement a social and re-integration program.
In the management of economic resources, Atiku observed that Nigeria’s debt stock has been exhibiting a rising trend, since 2014, increasing from N11.20 trillion to N17.50 trillion in 2016 and doubling to N22.40 trillion in mid-2018
Based on the forgoing, Atiku said if elected government will slow down the rate of debt accumulation by promoting more Public Private Partnerships in critical infrastructure funding, review the current utilization of all borrowed funds and ensure that they are deployed more judiciously, utilize funds for economic diversification, review debt strategy by focusing on concessional and semi-concessional sources, intensify efforts to enhance the internal revenue generating capacity of all three tiers of government, improve spending efficiency of the Federal government and drastically reduce the share of recurrent revenue in the budget from 70% to 35% by 2025, streamline the functions of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, Excess Crude Account and the Stabilization Fund and utilize them for what they really are or should be and improving the budgeting process to facilitate more effective budget impact on the economy.
On restructuring, he said the feat will be achieved by decongesting the exclusive and the concurrent list in the constitution while the Central Government would also retain the role of providing the required direction for the economy, defense and national security, internal law and order, currency, international affairs and foreign policy, customs, citizenship and immigration, firearms, and related matters. He said that issues bordering on minerals and mines, internal security including Police, law and order, railways, communications, transport, environment, land matters, etc, would be devolved to the concurrent list while Local Governments shall become an independent tier of government and that Federating units will be supported in economic management. He said that Nigeria’s common resources will be shared equitably in accordance with a new revenue allocation formula to be negotiated across the board.
To ensure that anti-corruption efforts become more effective and for the rule of law to hold sway, government will champion institutional reforms of anti-corruption agencies and strengthening them for more effective performance, launch a comprehensive National Anti-corruption Strategy that is based on the rule of law, separation of powers, neutrality and non-partisanship.
With him in charge, Atiku will strengthen policies and measures for detecting corruption through a strong technology infrastructure that supports the end-to-end operations of government businesses for transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness, ensure that judgments on corruption cases are fully followed through and enforced by the appropriate law enforcement agencies, review the reward system for public and civil services, strengthen anti-corruption public enlightenment, enhance whistle blowing and witness protection policies and promote rule of law.
In order to enhance national security, Atiku will re-activate meaningful registration at birth as a way to reduce crime and protect Nigerians, conduct the next national population census as the basis for further development planning, deal with insurgency using alternative approaches to conflict resolution, such as Diplomacy; Intelligence; Improved Border Control; Traditional Institutions; and Good neighbourliness, restructure and Decentralize Security Institutions, promote Regional Security Cooperation, resolve Militancy Issue in the Niger Delta, improve Civil-Military Relations, strengthen the National Security Council, handle the North East Development Issues, deal with Terrorism, Kidnapping and Other Crimes.
For Nigeria to take its rightful position in the committee of nations, a PDP led government will retool Nigeria’s foreign policy instruments, re-activate the Presidential Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs, Convene an All-Nigerian Conference on Foreign Policy to promote national consensus on our national interest to guide foreign policy, provide for a smooth and effective running of Nigeria’s diplomatic missions, implement the Diaspora Commission Act 2017, strive to attain the level of economic success that should qualify Nigeria to join the group of major decision-makers on the direction of the global economy, promote multilateral trade, maximize gains of participating in ECOWAS, enhance Nigeria’s visibility in the AU, enhance Nigeria’s international visibility and improving its image, secure Nigeria’s leadership in world affairs, curb the threat of illicit small arms and light weapons and get Nigerians in the Diaspora involved in nation building
On Financial Domestic Services Sector, he said that a PDP government will maintain macroeconomic and financial system stability. We shall pursue policies that minimize systemic risk and boost investor confidence, shall endeavour to bring inflation to the single digits, maintain exchange rate stability and institutionalize fiscal discipline, guarantee the independence of the regulators of the different segments of our financial system, financial education shall be introduced and required through all levels of our education system. In addition, we shall pursue an ambitious financial inclusion strategy that aims to bring access to basic financial services to all Nigerians. He said his government will address bottle-necks and other challenges inhibiting access to needed finance for our real sector enterprises, particularly for MSMEs, introduce new incentives to encourage savings and investment by Nigerians, encourage large scale investment in improving financial system technology while a robust policy regime that will encourage the growth and adoption of fintech products in Nigeria will be developed.
From all intents and purposes, the policy document is one of the most comprehensive to be unveiled by any Presidential candidate in the history of elections in Nigeria. The soul of Atiku’s campaign is to get Nigeria working again and that is why he invested so much time, energy and resources to produce the well articulated and robust policy document.
He knows that time is of the essence being a successful businessman and since his word is his bond, it translates to the fact that the next four years will witness a turn-around in the history of Nigeria’s development.
Emmanuel Ugoji, a Public Affairs commentator wrote from Abuja.