President Muhammadu Buhari administered oaths of office to members of the newly formed Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) in Abuja on Wednesday, and also set the agenda for what they should do in the shortest possible time.
Speaking at a meeting with the eight-member Council chaired by Lagos Business School professor Doyin Salami, President Buhari charged them to focus on developing reliable information that would properly reflect what is happening in the country.
The President called the task before the PEAC as the ‘‘most important national assignment.”
” As you develop your baseline study, I would like you to focus on primary data collection,” Femi Adesina special adviser to the President on media and publicity quoted Mr Buhari as saying. ”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 programmes and assure their sustainability. ”
The President also used the opportunity to set the agenda and the Council’s expectations, set up on September 16, 2019, to replace the Economic Management Team (EMT).
The President told members on the Social Investment Programs (SIPs) that his administration was trying to measure the impact of the initiative aimed at improving the well-being of millions of poor and vulnerable citizens.
As such, the President said he had ordered the new Minister of Humanitarian Affairs to begin a comprehensive data collection exercise in all camps in the North-East of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).
”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, ” President Buhari said.
The president urged them to provide suggestions on how to move the country and economy forward, based on his expectations from the council.
The President instructed the Council to organize and synthesize ideas and strategies on how to raise 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, collaborating with different government agencies which generate jobs.
”I am told you worked throughout last weekend in preparation for this meeting,” Mr Buhari said.
”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, ” he said.
President Buhari also told the Council that before the next technical sessions in November, the Federal Government would ensure that all its needs and demands are met.
He said all relevant ministries, departments and agencies will be on hand to meet and discuss how to jointly build a new Nigeria that will serve everyone.
”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 co-opt, 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, ” he said.
The Chairman of Council, Professor Salami, said the mandate was about ”Nigeria first, Nigeria second, and Nigeria always, ” adding that it was about Nigerians, not as numbers, but as people.
He added: ”Our goal is that the economy grows in a manner that is rapid, inclusive, sustained and sustainable, so that Nigerians will feel the impact. ”