A country that has the ambition to be among the 20 largest economies on earth, Nigeria must put its economic, social, cultural, political and, above all, educational houses, in order.
A country that records population growth above the growth of its economic output, and has more than 10 million children of school age outside the schools, and with a population in excess of 200 million, must devise workable plans which should be doggedly implemented to balance its social and economic books positively.
There is no doubt that almost every public facility is inadequate for the population we have, and may get more inadequate in the future if the necessary steps are not taken to fill the gaps. The capacity to meet both present and future needs of the population should be the way to determine the success of both the national and sub-national governments in the country.
While inaugurating the National Economic Council (NEC) on June 20, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari urged the 36 state governors to work hard and improve the poor state of education, health care, security, agriculture and food availability in the country.
It was a timely wakeup call on the governors to work hard with the view to improving the situation.
The message in the keynote address which was delivered in plain language should sink-in, digested and converted into actionable policies by the governors to improve education, health care, security and agriculture.
The President said: “Your Excellencies, I want you to pay special attention to the four major issues of security, education, health and agriculture in the coming years of this tenure. As you are no doubt aware, our successes in these four areas will go a long way in lifting our people out of poverty and secure our future for sustainable growth and development.”
That urgently needed sustainable growth and development can push our country forward, pull it out of its undesirable doldrums and lift us to a high rank of the most successful countries on earth. It is doable. The country has adequate manpower in all fields of endeavour and can harness and apply our massive resource endowment to beneficial use.
As education is capable of sharpening the raw edges of talents and directing them properly, President Muhammadu Buhari was right to emphasize the value of educating the younger ones appropriately: “Ensuring proper education during the first nine years of schooling means that our children start off their lives with some discipline and education.”
The President further said: “This is therefore a call to action. I would like to see every Governor rise from this meeting and rally his local Government Chairmen towards ensuring that our schools offer the right opportunities and provide the needed materials and teachers for basic education, at the minimum. If we are able to do this, the benefits will surely manifest themselves.”
Given the fact that an educated manpower that is healthy will be more productive in every sector of the economy and national life, President Muhammadu Buhari’s charge on the governors to improve the delivery of health services to the people should be heeded.
“Public healthcare is also a major sector of concern where States and Local Governments have crucial roles to play. Health is an area where the neglect of one person quickly amounts to the neglect of many. It is in our collective interest that each and every citizen gets at least a minimal access to healthcare, including primary, preventive and emergency care,” the President said.
There were serious allegations in the media about inadequate funding of the health sector by some state governments in the country, so the President spoke the minds of millions of Nigerians when he emphasised the need for them to spend more on health care provisions in the following words: “We must resolve to increase budgetary allocation to health and ensure prompt fund releases to keep the hospitals and primary healthcare centres in operation at all times.”
Research show that the healthier and younger a population is, the more food is needed for nourishment by that population. This fact and the reality that the country’s most successful and largest players in the industrial sector are dependent on localky-sourced agro-raw materials, made agriculture a key topic for discussion during the National Economic Council meeting.
Indeed the National Council on Agriculture chaired by the President has tripple objectives namely engendering enduring food sufficiency, meeting the raw material needs of agro-processors and the export of agricultural goods to earn foreign exchange.
“The potentials are therefore huge, both for the domestic and international markets. Mechanisation and agro-allied industry are very big areas still largely untapped and awaiting investment, both by government and the private sector. I therefore urge you to take agriculture most seriously as a very viable developmental enterprise, “ the President urged the governors.
There is no doubt that without security for lives and properties, schooling will become impossible, provision and access to healthcare services or working on farms would be in jeopardy. This link between all major human economic and social endeavours and security, made its existence a precondition and vital ingredient for achieving national prosperity.
The President called for collaboration on security thus: “There must be collective and deliberate efforts by all to improve the security of lives and properties across the country. Everybody must be involved for total success.”
He identified how governors can enhance security and public safety: “You can definitely make a difference, not just by assisting the security agencies in your respective States, but also by keenly pursuing policies and programmes that forestall communal, tribal, religious and societal conflicts; policies and programs that promote education, information, dispute resolution, vocational training and youth employment.”
Education, health care, security and support for agriculture cannot be possible without money. He advised the governors to boost internal revenue generation to finance these sectors: “Find ways to increase internally generated revenues, improve VAT collection and increase agricultural output without disrupting business activities.”
It will be appropriate for the National Economic Council to ensure public awareness of its activities by establishing a dedicated communication team to dissiminate information about its activities. This is important.
– Dambatta, a former director at the Federal Ministry of Finance, writes from Abuja
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