Few Nigerians control collective wealth, says Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday decried the distribution of wealth among Nigerians, lamenting that a significant proportion of the nation’s prosperity is concentrated in the hands of a few people, causing the migratory and security trends in the country.

At the opening of the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES25) in Abuja, Buhari underscored the importance of collective prosperity, asserting that “a prosperous society is one where the majority of its citizens have an acceptable standard of living. Today, many mistake prosperity for wealth. They are not necessarily the same.”

The president also used the occasion to affirm that in addressing population growth, security and corruption matters in developing economies, policies and programmes must focus on promoting inclusivity and collective prosperity.

“Nigeria is a country with close to 200 million people living in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). A significant proportion of Nigeria’s prosperity today is concentrated in the hands of a few people living primarily in four or five states and the FCT. Some of the most prosperous Nigerians are here in this room.

“This leaves the remaining 31 states with close to 150 million people in a state of expectancy and hope for better opportunity to thrive. This, in the most basic form, drives the migratory and security trends we are seeing today both in Nigeria and across the region,” he said.

Buhari, who noted that experts and analysts often explain economic trends by making references to indicators of wealth, that is money or other assets, said that “in recent years, global events had shown that when a society and its leaders are driven and motivated by these alone, the ultimate outcome is a divided state of severe inequalities.”

He pledged that his administration would continue to collaborate with the private sector in designing and implementing development projects that would keep Nigeria on track for sustained, inclusive and prosperity- driven growth.

A statement by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina yesterday quoted President Buhari as saying the successful conclusion of the 2019 general elections and the resort by aggrieved candidates to seek redress in the courts rather than the street were proofs that the nation’s democracy was maturing.

‘’I am informed that this year’s summit has identified key job-creating sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, ICT, creative industry and the extractive industry as focus sectors.

‘’I am also told that your deliberations will focus on unlocking capital through our financial services sector to actualize the opportunities in these sectors.

‘’In your deliberations, I would request that your proposals are productive, inventive and innovative keeping in mind that Nigeria’s unique challenges can only be solved by made-in-Nigeria solutions,’’ he said.

Referring to the 2019 general elections, the president said Nigeria had shown the world that it was capable of electing leaders in a peaceful and orderly manner.

On the focus of this year’s economic summit, which is discussing what Nigeria will be in 2050 when the country’s population is expected to have risen to over 400 million people, the president said: ‘’As a government, our view is to equip our citizens with the means to seize any opportunities that may arise. This means we continue investments in education, health care, infrastructure, security and strengthen and entrench the rule of law.’’

Wishing the summit fruitful, robust and productive deliberations, the president praised the organisers and stakeholders for sustaining the platform established since 1993 to deliberate on key issues on national development.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, said Nigeria’s future required huge financial investments in multi-faceted physical and social areas by the federal, state and local governments to be able to provide quality, useful, accessible and affordable education, healthcare, transportation, housing, electricity, and water.

She added that the country must be in a position to provide digital connectivity and innovation and rise above the tide of disruption that the fourth industrial revolution will bring.

According to her, there is an urgent need to design policies that will not only address the rising population but ensure paradigm shift to a competitive private sector-led economic growth and development. “The agenda for the summit is to provide strategic and innovative ways of getting the maximum benefits from the expected demographic dividends.”

The Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Atedo Peterside, who spoke at the summit dinner yesterday, said for Nigeria to achieve the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of six per cent and above, there was the need to correct the structural dysfunction that frightens local and foreign investors away.

According to Peterside, the Nigerian economy is still largely stagnant and so anaemic, and that the GDP growth rates which fall below the approximate three per cent growth rate do not cause for celebration. With the high inflation rate in the 11 per cent range, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) appears to have accepted as being the norm, investors now fear stagflation.

He said that whatever gains Nigeria achieved in income per capita in the last two decades were slowly being wiped out, as falling annual per capita income has become the norm every year since 2015. “The fore-runner of GDP growth is the investment/GDP ratio. If there are little or no investments today, then there will be little or no growth in a couple of year’s time.”

The bank chief noted that the double-digit growth of 2002 came on the back of the very high investment/GDP ratio of 35 per cent recorded in 2000, which was the first full year following the restoration of democracy.

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