In this report, Oluwafemi Popoola and Kehinde Adeoye highlighted some of the areas where the policy initiatives of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, as the head of the nation’s Economic Management Team (EMT) impacted the economy under President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration before his team was dissolved by the President in September 2019.
In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Economic Management Team (EMT) headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, until it was later dissolved in September 2019, and replaced with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) with Dr Doyin Salami as the chairman.
In a follow-up statement released by the President’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, PEAC, “will replace the current Economic Management Team (EMT) and will be reporting directly to the President.”
However, within the few years, he headed the EMT, Nigeria’s current Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, on the job, defied the normal expectations as witnessed in his predecessors’ output by spearheading several projects aimed at making life easier for people in a country where means of daily existence is hard.
• Stabilisation plans and national economic growth
At a time in 2017, he presided over the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, Acting President, Osinbajo issued a directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to review its foreign exchange policy that weakened the national currency to stabilise the economy. Consequently, the apex bank released $500 million to the banks, and this forced dollars to crash, 24 hours after, relaxing the exchange rate to N450 from N525 it was at the parallel market.
It was also during this period that Osinbajo declared open the Agenda for Consultative Forum on Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, where he told the forum that the nation was in a very serious economic situation, but assured that the government remained committed to putting the economy on the path to sustainable growth, which was done.
• N-Power’s training and employment for young graduates
The launch of N-Power as a Graduate Skills Acquisition Programme spearheaded by Prof Osinbajo has also helped in bolstering the economy by helping to reduce growth in the unemployed market. It now aims to train million Nigerian graduates by 2023.
As of 2018 under his supervision, Prof Osinbajo, while delivering a special lecture on “The Challenges of Human Development in 21st Century Africa” at the prestigious Oxford University, United Kingdom, said: “Over the past two years, through the N-Power Programme, the largest post-tertiary employment programme in Africa, we have been able to offer skills development programmes digitally to over 500,000 young citizens between the ages of 18 and 35. We have set a target of skilling 10 million Nigerians by 2023,” Osinbajo said.
• The Made-in-Nigeria Project
In 2018, due to his strong belief in locally made products and local content, Osinbajo initiated Project MINE (Made in Nigeria for Export), a Presidential Priority Intervention project aimed at increasing the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the economy and creating new jobs in the export-oriented manufacturing value chain. Also, in 2018, President Buhari signed the Executive Order (EO5) for the Development of Local Content in Science, Engineering, and Technology.
• Largest Social Investment Programmes in Africa
As Vice President, Prof Osinbajo initiated the Buhari Administration’s Social Investment Programmes (SIPs), regarded as the largest social welfare scheme in Africa. The SIPs comprise the N-Power Programme, currently employing 500,000 graduates; the GEEP loans (MarketMoni, FarmerMoni and TraderMoni), which provide credit to about 3 million Nigerian traders, artisans and businessmen; the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme which has fed about 10 million school pupils with free meals daily; and the Conditional Cash Transfer to the most vulnerable and poorest of Nigerians. The Office of the Vice President successfully coordinated the SIPs between 2016 and October 2019
• COVID-19: Osinbajo’s Interventions and Economic Recovery through ESP
The Covid-19 pandemic greatly affected the economies of many countries, Nigeria inclusive. When Nigeria recorded its first COVID-19 death in March 2020, most Nigerians feared the worst.
The Federal Government imposed a 4-week lockdown which meant peoples’ livelihoods were adversely affected. Many Nigerians asked urgent questions. How would the poor and vulnerable cope? What will be the fate of daily income earners? How will they cope? To help the nation cope with the pandemic, the Osinbajo-led Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) recommended several post-COVID-19 recovery interventions.
As directed by President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof Osinbajo-led committee drafted the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) where Nigerians are to benefit from several packages like MSME Survival Fund to support small businesses, Technology and Youth support, Mass Housing Programmes, Agriculture and food security scheme to provide jobs improve food supply and production nationwide, among others.
The ESP is a N2.3 trillion stimulus plan by the Federal Government as part of measures for post-COVID-19 economic recovery. These also include the recently launched Solar Power Strategy which focused on supporting about 250,000 jobs and enabling the installation of 5 million Solar Home systems and mini-grids across the country, especially in underserved areas not on the national grid.
The plan is that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will provide structured loans to companies that will manufacture these Solar Home systems, of which many would be assembled locally to promote local manufacturing business. Also, the Mass Housing Programme is expected to create 1,500,000 jobs and build 300,000 affordable homes across the country in 12 months.
The ESP has been one of the major reasons for the country’s exit from recession in the 1st quarter of 2021.
• Osinbajo and Ease of Doing Business
On May 18, 2016, As Acting President, Prof. Osinbajo signed the Presidential Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business. This Order was aimed at improving businesses in the country and attracting foreign direct investments (FDI) to Nigeria. This Order made it easy for Nigerians to register their businesses with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Since 2016, Nigeria has risen by an aggregate of 39 places on the World Banks Ease of Doing Business rankings.
• Osinbajo’s involvement in TECH brought about the following:
Google Inc. in July 2020 announced plans to establish its first Google Launchpad Space outside the United States in Lagos.
Facebook, in September 2020 made public its decision to open an office in Lagos as part of its planned expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa.
HUAWEI in November 2020, promised the Vice President that the company will position Nigeria as a technology centre for the African continent and give more jobs to young Nigerians.
• The growth of MSMEs
Osinbajo has driven the growth and empowerment of MSMEs in the country through his involvement in MSME Clinics which have been held in 26 States, twice in Ebonyi and then across the country including the FCT. 7 One-Stop-Shops for MSMES – Cross River, Kwara, FCT, Abia, Bauchi, Osun, Plateau.
FG has also launched Shared Facilities for MSMEs in Oyo, Bauchi, Benue, and Lagos. This is to allow MSMEs without the financial capacity to own their equipment and the opportunity to go into a fully equipped cluster-style facility to pay a token to use such equipment.
Over 400,000 MSMEs have so far participated in the MSME clinics nationwide. About 300,000 new business names have been registered by the Cooperate Affairs Commission (CAC) at a 50% reduced cost.
• Energizing economies and education
Osinbajo supervised the provision of solar power to markets around the country such as Ariaria in Aba, Sabon Gari in Kano, Sura in Lagos, etc., as part of the energizing economies initiative of the Rural Electrification Agency. VP Osinbajo also commissioned solar power plants in Universities such as Alex Ekwueme University, in Ebonyi, Bayero University in Kano, and most recently, the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Energizing Education Solar Power Plant on the 11th of February, 2021
• Osinbajo and Niger-Delta Development and Peace
The erstwhile volatile Niger-Delta has achieved much peace since 2016. This is thanks to the Niger Delta New Vision, which is the blueprint of the Buhari administration to develop the Niger Delta. This initiative was spearheaded by the Vice President on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari when the VP went on a tour of the region in 2017 and had meetings with Niger Delta elders.
The Niger Delta New Vision of the Buhari administration, driven by the Vice President, has not only helped a great deal in resolving insecurity and youth restiveness in the Niger-Delta region, but it has also had a huge positive impact on the economy as crude oil is Nigeria’s major foreign exchange earner.
It is good to note that as the Acting President his first official function was a meeting with the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ms Er-Tharin Cousin on the 27th of January of the year 2017. He was informed of the serious food shortage in the Northeast of Nigeria and why he needed to act fast to save hundreds of thousands dying from food starvation.
Immediately, he constituted a team made up of ministers and other cabinet members and ordered that they activated the Bureau of Public Enterprises Emergency Act. Days after, food and other household needs were on their way to the Northeast. Hundreds of Nigerians were saved from starvation.
On the 1st of February, he presided over the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, during which the Presidential Task Force on food security was mandated to reduce the price of food items in the country. Consequently, the prices of foodstuff were brought in one day.
Also, as Acting President, Prof Osinbajo presiding over the first National Economic Council (NEC) meeting of the year, he directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to review the foreign exchange policy.
The meeting resolved that fresh $250 million be injected into the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). The CBN subsequently released about $500 million through the inter-bank market where the 23 banks bought $371 million. As a result, there were indications that the weakened Naira currency was showing small signs of recovery after the Central Bank had moved to ease some foreign exchange restrictions. Days later, the Naira was strengthened to about N480 to the US Dollar on the black market after being N520 and even higher in previous weeks.
• Slash in the price of the CCA registration fee
In October 2018, Vice President Osinbajo announced that business registration would go for a reduced rate of N5,000 away from the N10,000 standard price. The window of opportunity was initially for 90 days before it was subsequently extended till July 2019.
Vice President Osinbajo made the announcement in Enugu at the launch of the 19th edition of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Clinics.
According to Osinbajo, It was observed during some of the earlier editions of the MSMEs Clinics that a lot of MSMEs were finding it difficult to register their businesses as a result of cost and the new rate would also allow more MSMEs to formalise their businesses.
Osinbajo’s leadership acumen has not only helped rebuild the trust of many who had been sceptical of the Federal Government’s plan for the region, but it has also contributed significantly to the peace and stability in the region. Osinbajo’s deft handling of the issues helped to improve the country’s oil revenue which was decimated by past restiveness in the region.