Stakeholders have urged President Bola Tinubu to implement pro-poor policies to help address major socio-economic challenges facing Nigeria.
The Director and Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy and Research, Sam Amadi, charged the President to depart from the trajectory of the economic policies of his predecessor and launch new policies that will reduce poverty.
Amadi and other stakeholders spoke during a roundtable discussion organised by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) on Thursday, September 21, in Abuja.
The event had the theme, “Roundtable on new policy-making for equitable growth and social inclusion.”
While speaking on policy formulation, Amadi, the keynote speaker at the event, said the government must expand conversation and involve different classes of people.
“It has to recognise that economic principles and theories are mere notions that have to be adapted to the reality of every stage of development. It must expand the conversation that economics is ideological, value choices and control discourse. So we can’t have people who are members of the transnational capital plans, including financial consultants, come and make policies that will translate for workers.
“They have to go back to discover that African countries, including Nigeria, made progress when we adopted a form of developmental economics, which is an economy that allows the state to intelligently intervene in the market.”
Speaking further on the issue with journalists, Amadi noted that the country lacked economic growth that improves the welfare of the poor.
“In the past, this country has not had the kind of economic growth it needs, and it has not been economic growth that improves the well-being of other Nigerians. The poverty rate is very high; about 90 million people are really poor, and over 130 million people are multidimensionally poor.”
In November 2022, The ICIR reported that Nigeria had 133 million people living in multidimensional poverty, with 86 million from the North.
According to the report, over half of the population of Nigeria are multi-dimensionally poor and cook with dung, wood or charcoal rather than with clean energy. High deprivations are also apparent nationally in sanitation, healthcare, food insecurity, and housing.
Amadi advised that the Federal Government should not adopt all the academic economic policies and liberal policies without adapting them to the Nigerian context, adding that real growth occurring in Europe, Asia and some African countries was after their leaders localised these theories.
He added that the government “should focus economic development policy around the wellbeing of Nigerian citizens. Development is transformation. You cannot think about development as only you know skyscrapers and a few businesses -helicopters and private jets. The real measure of development is like China that transformed in less than 30 years. It took close to a billion people out of poverty and became one of the largest economies in the world through good leadership.
FG should ensure economic models in communities
Also speaking, the Director of the International Institute of Journalism, Emmanuel Usman Shehu, urged the Nigerian government to ensure economic development models in communities to improve access for the average and poor Nigerians.
“The models should be ones that include health, and transportation across board. Sustainable transportation is not the kind of fallacy that we practice here. Number three is talent and creativity across board. Identify peoples’ talents and their strengths. Support them to develop those talents because they create things through those talents.
“Housing is also one of the most important models. Give people housing loan funds. It’s not just for civil servants, but anybody who can repay should be able to have some loan.”
Shehu, one of the panellists, argued that the palliative being distributed by the Federal Government was a fallacy and solved no problem.
“Palliative is part of the fallacies that we are operating on. I’ve always said that because we have a colonized mind mentality, which leads us to dependency syndrome.
“If we want to develop, we must do things in our own way that suits us. Look at our own peculiarities. So, you take palliative because America is doing palliative. You don’t even know why. It came from the word palliative itself, a medical term used for people who are terminally ill. They are about to die.”
Reversing the negative growth
In the past 30 years, Nigeria’s economic policy has been consistently driven by neo-liberalism, advocating for a free market and unhindered competition, according to a social activist, Mustapha Hauwa.
She explained that the thrust of Nigeria’s economic policy hadn’t significantly departed from the trend observed since independence.
Hauwa further highlighted that while the economic policy purportedly aims for growth, wealth creation, and poverty reduction, it had inadvertently resulted in wealth expansion for a small percentage, maintaining the status quo for a slightly larger fraction, and leaving the majority sinking deeper into poverty.
“Our economic policy emphasizes growth through wealth creation and poverty reduction, but what it ends up doing is wealth expansion for less than seven per cent, another 12 per cent managing to maintain their status, while the rest sink deeper into poverty and deepening of poverty.”
Proffering possible solutions, the activist said the government must coordinate macro-economic policy tools with sociocultural realities and ensure that it matches them with an evolving ecological transformation.
“This means that our economic policy needs to shift from addressing simple economic issues to one whose outcome connects with our development goals.
“OXFAM report on inequality and poverty shows us that if the vehicle of politicians and government VIPs are reduced to two or three, we can save about N1 billion, which can build an average of 50 schools at an average cost of N20 million, even if we consider inflation and turn it to building 20 schools at an average of N50 million…”
Earlier in the event, the AFRICMIL Coordinator, Chido Onumah, stressed that the organisation partnered with the Centre for Public Policy & Research, Social Action, and the International Institute for Journalism with support from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation to convene the meeting for stakeholders to deliberate on policy-making for equitable growth and social inclusion.
According to him, Nigeria’s challenge is enhancing the legitimacy and effectiveness of public policy and the administrative state through mainstreaming young people and the socially excluded into the policymaking framework and ensuring that their voices are factored in policymaking.