A Contract To Save, Transform Nigeria (3)


4.    Infrastructure
•Ensure completion of privatisation of generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity in the country, thus encouraging investors to embark on multiple sources of energy: wind, solar, bio-fuel, gas, hydro, and nuclear.
•Concession the maintenance of all existing federal roads and adapt to a level the model of concessioning to construct new federal roads.
•Use the model of build, operate, and maintain (BOM) for construction and renovation of rail transportation system.
•Adopt the model of private-public partnership for management of all ports.
•Provide incentives for private investors to invest in production of potable water under public-private partnership schemes.

5.    Agriculture And Food Security
It is important to note that agriculture provides employment for about 70% of the population in Nigeria and it is a major source of industrial development and economic prosperity. It is a generally accepted position that agriculture is not only meant to be the spine or pillar of the economies in Africa, it is also reckoned to be a security issue. Nigeria, regrettably, is not deploying adequate resources to ensure food security for its citizens.
The global attention that the agricultural sector commands in recent times, particularly with the recent world food scarcity threat, underscores the importance of self-sustenance with respect to food security. There is an urgent need for special intervention in the agricultural sector. The reason for this special effort is to create opportunities for the teeming army of unemployed youths in the country to be engaged productively. This back-to-land programme, apart from being conceived to reduce poverty, should also serve as a reorientation to those youths who have been pushed into negative, delinquent and sometimes event criminal activities due to years of unending joblessness and prolonged despondence.

A strong and efficient agricultural sector has the potential to enable a country feed its growing population, generate employment, earn foreign exchange and provide raw materials for industries. The vibrancy of the sector has a multiplier effect on every nation’s socio-economic and industrial drive, because of its multifunctional nature.

It is on record that in Nigeria, agriculture contributes more than 30 percent of the total annual GDP, accounting for over 70 percent of the non-oil exports, besides providing over 75 percent of the food needs of the country. But this does not amount to food security in the true definition of the concept.

Food security, as defined by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy lifestyle.

To address the problems facing agriculture, a system must be initiated to bring public and private sectors together for active interaction in the agricultural sector. A cue could be taken from the Food Corporation of India, which has played a significant role in transforming the Indian food economy. It operates through a countrywide network of institutions and infrastructure at the zonal, regional and district level. Nigerians should consider only those leaders who pay special attention to the following aspects of agricultural development:

•Application of Modern and Indigenous Technologies: One way to reduce agricultural losses is to apply modern and indigenous technologies to food storage through research institutions on the use of biotechnology and indigenous techniques to increase and improve food storage

•Price Assurance for Farm Produce: The issue of price assurance must be addressed so farmers can increase production to levels that will ensure stability of supplies to meet both normal and emergency requirements

•Special Incentives for Private Sector Involvement: Provide incentives to compensate for the opportunity cost of capital tied down to agricultural production by the private sector

•Local Government Involvement: The local government is the closest tier of government to the farmer and should therefore be in the forefront of ensuring food security by participating in the processing of food storage and preservation. Federal and state governments shall strengthen local governments to perform their role in providing food security by supporting farm settlements for planting and storage of local food items at the community level

•Construction of Feeder Roads: Pursue integration of rural and urban centres by providing special support for states and local governments to link the farming communities with centres of consumption of farm produce in towns and cities

•Development of Crop Sub-Sector: Provide support for state and local governments through Federal Grants on Food Security Enhancement to commit resources to the provision of services that will encourage the development of the following sub-sectors in agriculture:

•Arable Crops Development: Governments must devote resources to sustaining the production and distribution of early-maturing high-yielding and disease-resistant seeds of maize, cowpeas, soybeans, cassava, and yam cuttings to farmers across the country at well-subsidised prices

•Tree Crops and Horticulture Development: Like the arable crops, high-yielding and disease-resistant seedlings of oil palm, rubber, kola, cashew and cocoa must be distributed at subsidised rates to farmers annually to expand and improve their holdings

•Farm Settlement Scheme: The farm settlement scheme has been identified as a viable Integrated Rural Development Programme. Consequently, states and local governments must be supported by the Federal Government to embark on restoration and improvement of the farm settlement scheme, which will reverse the trend of rural-urban migration

•Produce Inspection and Grading: State and local governments are encouraged to perform the function of inspecting and grading of export crops like cocoa, palm kernel, coffee, rubber and cashew nuts, and fruits, to ensure that the quality of the produce exported conforms to the required international standard.

•Development of Fisheries Sub-Sector: Expansion of fish farming in all states of the federation must be encouraged

•Development of the Livestock Sub-Sector: Special attention must be given to accelerated development of livestock farming by promoting the production of various classes of livestock, beef and dairy cattle, poultry, particularly chicken, turkey, and guinea fowl, by encouraging each state to benefit from its comparative advantage. Special support must be given to traditional and modern cattle farming

•Development in the Forestry Sub-Sector: The Federal Government should support state and local governments to ensure that forest resources in the country are preserved, protected and well-managed to bridge the gap between forest exploitation and regeneration in compliance with standards of environmentally sustainable agriculture

•Development of Storage Sub-Sector: There is an urgent need for special intervention in the sector of food storage and preservation. Each state should be encouraged to provide storage facilities for crops that it produces

•Development of Irrigation: Provision must be made of federal matching funds for irrigation in all regions of the country to increase food production throughout the year

•Development of Credit Facility for Farmers: Provision must be made of low-interest agricultural loans to large-scale and medium-scale farmers and collateral-free loans to small-scale farmers with verifiable investment in farming

6.    Job Creation
To stem the growing unemployment rate that is now over 60% in the general population and worse among the youths, the following should be embarked upon:

•Include training modules in business and entrepreneurship in school curriculums

•Provide special incentives for youths to participate in agricultural settlement schemes through credit facilities and land allocation

•Establish agricultural extension in each local government

•Provide special funding for organic and green farming through the application of relevant technologies

•Collaborate with the private sector to initiate massive housing projects that use local materials for low and middle-income citizens and thus create employment opportunities for citizens in the housing sector

•Set aside a percentage of new jobs in government and parastatals for citizens between 20 and 30 years of age as a way of providing a professional and leadership headstart for youths

7.    Social Aganda
Educational and Skill
Nigerians are aware of the decay in the educational and skill sectors of the country at all levels. The decay is now evident in the results of WAEC/NECO students, as well as in the poor quality of work done by artisans and technicians on a daily basis. Less than 10% of students pass these two exams. Many of our school leavers are unable to meet the standards of the modern workplace because of an inefficient education system. It is impossible to expect that private schools that mushroom across the country today can provide adequate knowledge and skill needed for national transformation and development. Over 60% of Nigeria’s population is under 35 years of age. This demographic situation requires the attention of all tiers of government to equip young Nigerians with the knowledge and skill they need to empower themselves and contribute to the development of the country.

In the education and skill sector, there is the overwhelming need to:
•Modenise and upgrade the public school system

•Make quality public school education available to every citizen

•Transform in the short-run one existing primary/secondary public school in each local government into a model school that meets international public school standards

•Provide lifelong learning opportunities to serving teachers

•Increase access of school and university students to online learning resources

•Support e-learning initiatives in each local government

•Establish national programmes in academic quality assurance in public and private primary and secondary schools through efficient education inspectorate schemes to be staffed by professionals and retired teachers

•Fund public universities at the level that meets international standards to enable them provide teaching and research that can fuel national development

•Provide special incentives for applied research in universities to generate local solutions to development problems

•Provide funds for collaborative research between Nigerian and overseas universities

•Encourage states and local governments to establish skill development programmes that can provide a modern workforce for the country’s formal and informal sectors

•Make it mandatory for each state to access its own share of the Universal Basic Education funds and sanction states that fail to do so or account for funds allocated to them

8.    Health And Social Security
Since Nigeria’s independence, the health of the people which is universally acceptable as the yardstick for measuring wealth and development has steadily declined in geometrical proportion. The health sector situation can now only be described as appalling due to several factors, some of which are as follows:

•A hurriedly packaged ineffective healthy policy

•Corrupt governance and under funding of the health sector

•Prevalence of obsolete healthcare tools and inadequate healthcare infrastructure

•Poorly motivated, overstretched, and stressed healthcare personnel

•Poorly coordinated health programmes and failure of benefits to reach target beneficiaries

•Frustrated healthcare providers and patient unfriendliness giving rise to a disconnect in giver-patient relationship

•Unsatisfactory formal health delivery services leading to the seeking of other dangerous healthcare alternative by patients

•Fake and adulterated drugs

•Neglect of training and retraining of human resources and the consequent degeneration of human capacity in the health sector

•Underdevelopment of other resources in the sector.
The recurrent failed promises by successive federal and state governments to improve the health sector in the areas enumerated above moved Nigeria up on the World Health Organisation’s list of countries with the worst mortality and morbidity indices in the world.
The SNG is poised to encourage Nigerians to demand a comprehensive health policy that heralds improved health of the people through the provision of easily accessible and highly qualitative holistic care to ensure the growth and development of Nigerians in a manner commensurate with what obtains in other parts of the world.

Nigerians should be committed to the following:
•Improvement of health infrastructure at all levels, i.e. primary, secondary, and tertiary care

•Transfer of the health sector from the current social sector category with meagre budgetary allocations to the public-private partnership category that is capable of extending quality and affordable health care to all citizens.

•Culled from ‘Charter for Liberty, Security And Prosperity: The Irreducible Minimum Nigerians Must Insist On’, a publication of Save Nigeria Group, SNG.

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