The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said that the Buhari administration is steadily transforming Nigeria through innovative measures that are yielding positive results.
The minister said this while delivering a keynote address during the 2018 ‘Africa Together Conference’ at the University of Cambridge in the UK on Saturday.
According to a statement signed by his special adviser, Mr Segun Adeyemi, the minister listed investment in people, change in the business environment and building national infrastructure as some of the areas 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.
He, however, explained that one of the challenges in the education sector is malnutrition of school-age children which he says the government has made major efforts to combat.
“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, it enhances learning efficacy in class and boosts cognitive development over the long term,” Mr Mohammed said.
According to him, the Home-Grown School Feeding programme has yielded other results, including the employment of 80,000 cooks and a ready-made market for food crop farmers.
Speaking further, he 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 prioritized 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,” Mr 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 the audience that the two most critical impediments against business, which according to him are decent transport connections and a reliable power supply, are also being tackled by ensuring better roads and train networks, so that goods and services can be moved around more cheaply and efficiently.
He said, “For instance, Nigeria earmarks 30% of its annual national budgets for capital expenditure. That means 2.7 trillion Naira has gone towards our infrastructure in the last two 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,” the minister said.