National Economic Council and burden of boosting economic growth

Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo presiding over the National Economic Council (NEC)

By Chijioke Okoronkwo, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

In recognition of the importance of economic growth to the advancement and stability of a nation, the 1999 Constitution, as amended, established the National Economic Council (NEC).

Under the constitution, the vice president is the Chairman of NEC, which is held monthly to deliberate on the coordination of  economic coordinate the programmes of the various levels of government.

Other members are: the 36 state governors, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Minister of Finance, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and other government officials as well as agencies involved in managing the economy.

On June 20, President Muhammadu Buhari, inaugurated NEC for the second term of his administration and urged the Council to pay special attention to security, education, agriculture and health.

In line with the president’s directive, NEC, in its maiden meeting, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, resolved to set up Security Policing Committee, headed by Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Chairman and Ekiti  Governor, Kayode Fayemi, to tackle banditry, kidnapping, cultism among others.

Before the setting up of the committee, NEC was briefed about the security situation in the country.

The Inspector-General of Police (I-G), Mohammed Adamu, in his brief listed the challenges as kidnapping, banditry, cultism and armed robbery.

Adamu said that part of the strategy to deal with the security situation and to prevent crime, was “to bring back the `Safer City’ concept, where all our major cities are fixed with CCTV.’’

On his part, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mr Babagana Monguno, said the Boko Haram insurgency, particularly in the North- East, remained a major challenge.

On the herdsmen/farmers clashes, he said that they were limited to 16 states so far, adding that the council was working on the blueprint to solve the problem, including that of pipelines vandalism.

“In recent months, we were able to destroy 373 illegal refineries and curtailed the activities of pirates.

“The situation in the Niger Delta is also affecting security in the Gulf of Guinea and we have been collaborating with the secretariat in Luanda to work to reduce the activities of these people,’’ he said.

On July 3, NEC announced that President Buhari had suspended Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) programme, in preference of NEC’s National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP).

Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi disclosed this after a meeting of the NEC Committee on Farmers/Herders Crisis, chaired by Osinbajo.

RUGA is a rural settlement, in which animal farmers/herders stay in designated places provided with basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets among others.

However, the initiative elicited nationwide controversy, which led to its suspension.

Umahi said that the NLTP would be all inclusive, adding that it was for states that were willing to key into the programme.

Umahi who later gave an update on the NLTP, said it was not meant for cows alone, but to address all challenges of animal husbandry in the country.

“The committee presented the NLTP (2019-2028) plan; the plan is not only targeted at cows, but a holistic strategy to address animal husbandry,’’ he said.

Umahi said that the plan had six pillars– conflict resolution, justice and peace, humanitarian relief and early recovery for IDPs, human capital development, cross-cutting issues and economic development.

In August, NEC announced that plans were under way to engage N-Power beneficiaries and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in community policing.

Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo, who spoke on the issue, said that Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti presented an update on NEC Ad hoc Committee on Security and Policing.

“The update was presented by the Chairman, NGF, Fayemi.

“He noted that the I-G has initiated the commencement of community policing and there is a plan to consider using N-Power beneficiaries and Youth Corps members as police officers in their local government areas,’’ he said.

Obaseki said that an update was also presented by the Minister of Health, and other health officials, on health issues, especially polio.

He said that the health minister noted that Aug. 21 marked exactly three years milestone without a case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in Nigeria.

NEC called for conscious efforts towards achieving polio certification by the year 2020.

The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was also directed to engage the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to identify markets for stolen products across the continent.

Obaseki said that a committee was constituted to address the impact of vandalism, oil theft and bunkering on oil production.

He said it was also to check the effectiveness of the activities of the joint task force and other security agencies in curbing the menace of oil theft.

On the Ease of Doing Business, a key programme of the Buhari administration, Gov. Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State, said that the Secretary to the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Dr Jumoke Oduwole, gave an update.

He said that Oduwole informed the Council about the current reforms in African countries as contained in the African Development Bank Economic Outlook report, released in January 2019 and in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2019.

“Nigeria was ranked 146 with micro, small and medium enterprises making up to 90 per cent of businesses in Nigeria.

“And that the economic recovery and growth plan 2017-2020, which has three broad objectives- restoring growth, investing in people and building a competitive economy, has positioned Nigeria as a force in building a competitive economy,’’ he said.

Still on Ease of Doing Business, NEC commended President Buhari and Osinbajo over Nigeria’s improvement in the latest World Bank ranking on Ease of Doing Business.

In November, NEC resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to look into the ownership structure of power distribution companies.

Imo Gov. Emeka Ihedioha, who spoke on the issue, said that NEC resolved to constitute the committee, with representatives from  the six geo-political zones, to review the status of the ownership structure of the power distribution companies.

On Dec. 19, being the last meeting of the year, Council said there was need for states to pool resources and set up a security trust fund in view of huge cost of maintaining security.

Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, said that NEC’s Committee on Security and Policing, headed by Gov. Fayemi with some governors as members, I-G, NSA and Chief of Defence Staff as members, presented its report to the Council.

He said the Council resolved that states should pool resources and set up a security trust fund in view of the huge cost of maintaining security.

Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed gave an update on the state of federation accounts.

She said that deductions were being made from states for the Budget Support Facilities given by the Federal Government.

“We have an update to the Council on the repayment process for the Budget Support Facilities that was granted to the states.

“The current situation is that deductions are ongoing and remittances on these facilities are being made to the CBN.’’

Ahmed said that the ministry also reported to the Council on the balances of some key accounts.

“For the Excess Crude Account, as at Nov. 19, we have a balance of 324. 98 million dollars.

“In the Stabilisation Account, as at Dec. 17, we have a balance of N30. 5 billion; in the Natural Resource Fund, still as at the same date, Dec. 17, we have balance of N88. 3 billion, ‘’ she said.

On his part, Gov. Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, said that the NEC Pension Fund Committee which he headed, submitted its interim report with a recommendation that NEC should invest at least N2 trillion of the fund in infrastructural development in the country.

As the nation returns to January to December budget circle, perceptive observers are of the view that NEC’s resolutions, if prudently implemented, would significantly improve the economy and national security in 2020.

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