While disclosing areas his administration had faced some challenges during his first term in office, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday at the State House, Abuja, administered oaths of office on members of the newly constituted Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC).
He challenged the 8-man Council to coordinate and synthesise ideas and efforts from various federal government’s employment generating agencies and with a view to kick-starting policies and programmes which will lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
According to the President, the council, which is chaired by Prof. Doyin Salami, was equally to ensure that policy mistakes of the last four years were avoided, saying “I will be the first to admit that our plans were conservative. We had to avoid reckless and not well thought out policies.”
The full remarks by President Buhari at the inaugural meeting with the presidential council reads:
I will start by thanking you for accepting to support us in this most important national assignment. I wish to thank you personally and on behalf of the government for agreeing to serve the country.
A recent American President was asked which was the most important issue facing him. He replied: It is the economy, stupid. Your task, therefore can hardly be more important.
We have set ourselves the task of kick-starting policies and programmes which will lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
You are therefore required to coordinate and synthesize ideas and efforts from the various employment generating agencies of government and come out with answers about the best way forward.
I am told you worked throughout last weekend in preparation for this meeting.
I have listened attentively to findings and ideas on how to move the country and the economy forward.
Yes, Nigeria has exited the recession. But our reported growth rate is still not fast enough to create the jobs we need to meet our national ambition of collective prosperity.
Reason being we had to tread carefully in view of the mess we inherited.
Many of the ideas we developed in the last four years were targeted at returning Nigeria back to the path of growth.
I am sure you will also appreciate that during that time, our country was also facing serious challenges especially in the areas of insecurity and massive corruption.
Therefore, I will be the first to admit that our plans were conservative. We had to avoid reckless and not well thought out policies.
However, it was very clear to me after we exited the recession that we needed to re-energise our economic growth plans. This is what I expect from you.
I am pleased to hear you mention the need for us to domesticate our policies to reflect our local realities.
We are grateful for the cooperation we are getting from our friends abroad but we must move forward with homegrown solutions. This is the only way to ensure the suitability and sustainability of policies.
Suitability is essential for effective implementation while Sustainability is critical as any decision made today will impact future generations.
As you develop your baseline study, I would like you to focus on primary data collection.
Today, most of the statistics quoted about Nigeria are developed abroad by the World Bank, IMF and other foreign bodies.
Some of the statistics we get relating to Nigeria are wild estimates and bear little relation to the facts on the ground.
This is disturbing as it implies, we are not fully aware of what is happening in our own country.
We can only plan realistically when we have reliable data. As you are aware, as a government, we prioritised agriculture as a critical sector to create jobs and bring prosperity to our rural communities.
Our programs covered the entire agricultural value chain from seed to fertiliser to grains and ultimately, our dishes.
As you travel in some rural communities, you can clearly see the impact. However, the absence of reliable data is hindering our ability to upgrade these programs and assure their sustainability.
Another area where we are struggling to measure impact is in our social investment programs. Last week, I directed the new Minister for Humanitarian Affairs to commence a comprehensive data gathering exercise in our IDP camps in the North East.
Today, we hear international organisations claiming to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on IDPs in the North East. But when you visit the camps, you rarely see the impact.
In 2017, when the National Emergency Management Agency took over the feeding of some IDPs in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the amount we spent was significantly lower than the claims made by these international organisations.
Therefore, actionable data is critical to implement effective strategies to address pressing problems such as these humanitarian issues.
I therefore look forward to receiving your baseline study as this will help us shape ideas for a sustainable and prosperous future.
I understand you have submitted all your requests to the secretariat. We will work towards ensuring your needs are met before your next technical sessions in November.
Rest assured that all key MDAs will be available to meet and discuss how we can collectively build a new Nigeria that caters for all.
Now, no one person or a group of persons has a monopoly of knowledge or wisdom or patriotism.
In the circumstances you may feel free to coopt, consult and defer to any knowledgeable person if in your opinion such a move enriches your deliberations and add to the quality of your decisions.
Once again, I would like to thank you for your patriotism and commitment to Nigeria by taking up this assignment. I wish you all the very best.
Thank you, and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.