Speech by Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at the opening session of the 2019 Annual Management Conference of the Nigerian Institute of Management, at the ICC, Abuja, on Monday, 16th September, 2019.
I am extremely pleased to be here and to have received the invitation to participate at this annual management conference of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) for 2019.
Coming at a time when we are in the early months of the current administration it seemed to me to be a good time to come to the management gurus for some lessons on fresh ideas on management, especially the management of a complex democracy. With the quality of attendees today, I think I should award myself an initial pass mark for properly identifying the solution by picking the right conference to attend personally.
I also checked very diligently and found to my relief that there is no charge, open or hidden, for my category of attendee, which means that I can derive the immense benefits from this gathering of the brightest and best in management free of charge.
What remains is for me to consult with the President of the Institute as a true Nigerian to ask whether attendance at this one meeting qualifies me to start parading myself as a management expert henceforth.
The theme of the conference, “Managing the Challenges of Democracy”, really could not have been better framed. I think it was one of the illustrious past Presidents of the NIM, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, who at the 2006 Conference, declared quite perceptively that all sectors of the Nigerian economy were suffering from endemic management failure.
To carry his prognosis a little further, I would say that the central question especially in the public sector today is not the lack of talent or well researched policies, but the weakness in getting things done, or implementation – doing things as opposed to talking about doing them.
Implementation is possibly the central management challenge today and it is, in my respectful view, at the heart of the challenges of managing our democracy. So, in every real sense, our problem is a management one.
If the NIM achieved nothing else but a prescription on how to resolve the problem, you would certainly deserve to be described as national heroes. But to take the prize you will need to ensure implementation beginning with all of us who are seated here today.
Let me set out some of the issues or, as researchers will say, the problematic, for your consideration.
First is the central question of governance, ethics in the management of public resources; second is the issue of merit over quotas and politics in the selection of talents and projects; third are the challenges in human capital development; fourth is the problem of scale, scale in social services; for example, education – providing 21st century education to millions of children as the country heads for third place in world population in a few decades. Lastly, but by no means the least, is the problem of poverty, and the creation of wealth and opportunities for millions.
Regarding the first, our approach as a government has been first to tackle grand corruption, which, in other words, is the direct looting of the treasury by senior members of government, and the second is changing systems that promote graft.
This we have done by the introduction and implementation of the TSA, PICA, continuous Audit of government-owned entities, the insistence on full implementation of IPPIS, especially for the armed and uniformed services who had for long avoided being on this transparent electronic platform; the whistleblower initiative and other measures aimed at bringing greater transparency and scrutiny to public finance and the conduct of public affairs.
The Next Level is to deepen the fight against corruption especially in government procurement processes and government delivered services. We believe that technology and automation will help, moving things away from the discretion of the desk officer, to the agnostic electronic platform.
We aim to ensure that every Nigerian is able to obtain passports and drivers licenses, etc without having to pay bribes or suffer needless delays. But how to do these efficiently is the implementation challenge, and of course, we are open to advice from the gurus.
Next is the question of moving more towards consistency in applying merit as a first consideration as opposed to quotas as a first consideration in public appointments. Every part of Nigeria has great talents. Even If we are picking talents from every State, that choice should be merit driven. The civil service has in the past three years insisted on examinations for promotion and even for permanent secretaries, that process must be maintained and final choices per state should follow the order of merit. There are many open questions on implementation. Again, over to you.
The issues of capacity in Human Capital Development, affordable health care for all, education, especially getting out-of-school children into the school system, education of girls, and relevant educational curricula, are front burner issues today.
Health care for all cannot come from budget allocations alone. As of last week, we had taken major steps in the provision of our universal coverage policy. In 2018, we implemented the allocation of 1% of the CRF to healthcare.
Consequently, we launched the first phase of the BASIC HEALTH CARE PROVISION FUND with the disbursement of N6.5 billion to the first 15 qualifying States and the FCT. The money goes to Social Health Insurance Agencies in the States to reduce the hardship of patients making out-of-pocket payments for healthcare. The Next Level is the implementation of compulsory health insurance for all Nigerians on a co-payment basis with government.
We are working at the level of the National Economic Council to achieve Mr. President’s June 20th charge to State governors to ensure full implementation of free and compulsory education in the first nine years of the school life of every Nigerian child.
The extensive use of technology, focusing on getting girls into schools, introducing mainstream subjects into the Quranic School system, and implementation of the STEAM curricula are some of the main components of the educational plans that we have going forward.
Some of you are familiar with the Homegrown School Feeding Programme. That programme has been particularly helpful in ensuring an upward trajectory in education enrolment in primary schools all over the country. Today we are in 32 States and feeding over 9.8 million children. There are many implementation challenges in how to ensure high quality education on scale. At the moment several programs including technology solutions are in use or being considered in various States. We need to efficiently identify the best options and apply them on scale.
The implementation of policies and programmes to address the challenges of poverty and wealth creation, jobs for millions of young active people now and in the future require collective thinking and action. While we have created appreciable value in agriculture, with the Anchor Borrowers programme by adding new jobs and acreage in paddy rice, sorghum, millet, cassava and yams, we recognize that it is in the agro-allied value chain that the greatest value lies for jobs and improved productivity.
So, for a crucial component of our mechanization of agriculture, we have a programme with the Brazilian government, they are making available a $1 billion facility to provide equipment, where we intend to build service centres in every local government to render extension services, leasing of farm equipment and provision of improved inputs.
In addition to that, there will be six assembly plants for tractors and other equipment. The enhancing of commerce in agriculture by the building of rural roads for access to markets and commodity exchanges are also priority items. The truth is that in every development plan to create the number of quality of jobs that we want, we will have to do a lot with what our agricultural outcomes are. What our plans are and how they are implemented, especially in the agro-allied value chain are important. The expansion of opportunities in manufacturing with the completion of the first phase of the special economic zones in Enyimba City in Abia, Lekki Free Trade in Lagos and the Funtua Cotton in Katsina are priorities and good progress has been made thus far. We already have investor-indication in the Afro-Exim Bank and the AfDB. The IFC is also supporting the initiative.
In addition, we are in collaboration with the Bank of Industry, investing in infrastructure, in small business and commercial clusters all over Nigeria. Examples are, Leather works clusters, shoe making, food processing clusters, printer clusters etc. These are to benefit from the provision of power, equipment, and other infrastructure.
Under what is described as our Energizing Economies scheme, we licensed and ensured the provision of power on a willing-buyer-willing seller basis to large and medium scale markets, such as Sabon Gari in Kano, Ariaria in Abia, and Sura market in Lagos. We intend to continue with the Energizing Economies scheme. We also have the Energizing Education scheme where we are licensing private power producers, providing power to 37 universities and 7 Teaching Hospitals. We believe that we can resolve some of the power problems by decentralizing power generation and distribution such that not just the DISCOS and GENCOS will be involved, but that anyone willing to produce power are able to do so, and we are able to license more people who can produce power, especially on a willing-buyer-willing-seller basis.
It was in providing a better scope for jobs, especially for young people in technology and innovation, that we have been facing some of the critical challenges, especially with access to credit. Today, there are many startups and innovation, but in a country our size, the question is providing credit on scale and on an accessible basis. So, the Bank of Industry has about N10 billion that it has put aside for innovation in technology. But N10 billion is not enough for a country our size.
So, we are talking to the AfDB, they are putting together a $500 million facility for innovation and for startups in technology, and we think that can give a lot of impetus to a lot of the talents that we see today in technology and innovation. We have also started a technology and entertainment advisory group, where we have a lot of the young people who are in technology and entertainment, advising government directly on the policies that are required for ensuring that technology and innovation is not stupefied by regulations. For example, a lot of the Fin-Tech companies are basically doing banking type transactions, but they can’t be regulated or licensed like banks. So, there is a need for a policy review in that area. What we have tried to do is to provide those kinds of policies working closely with the Central Bank.
With respect to small businesses, we have seen quite a bit of work being done, especially with the MSMEs; and already we have done MSMEs Clinics in 24 States, and we have also established one stop shops for regulatory approvals in some zones. The clinics which are attended by all regulatory authorities has been an eye opener for them, as they hear and see the problems of small businesses first hand. This is quite important because so many small businesses have been complaining about getting approvals from NAFDAC, SON, CAC etc. So, the clinics are important in ensuring that the regulatory agencies themselves understand what the issues are and that has led to some of the changes we see today.
It was in the process of thinking through the problems of access to credit for informal traders and businesses, and especially petty traders, the so-called-bottom-of-the-pyramid in the commerce chain that we developed with the Bank of Industry, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, or what is better known as the MarketMoni and TraderMoni schemes. Thinking through the budget in a democracy with the large numbers that we have, obviously, what our focus should be on how to ensure that the bottom of the pyramid, which is the largest number, get some help and are empowered to do their own business as well.
One of the very important things is how countries as large as ours, and with the levels of poverty that we have, are able to structure their budgets in such a way as to cater for that bottom of the pyramid. That is something that has always escaped us and we cannot seriously talk about the welfare of the majority without budgets that think through the questions that address the welfare of the majority. What we have seen so far is that both schemes have greatly enhanced access to credit, improved the inventories of petty traders. It is evident that if we don’t find solutions to some of those issues, it will more or less become difficult to take people out of poverty. And we have seen some of these schemes work in other parts of the world. We have seen these schemes work in India, taking large numbers of people out of poverty. We think that these schemes will work here if they are faithfully and diligently implemented. What we have been able to do so far is 2 million people; we are merely scratching the surface.
There is some cheering news, the programme recently won the AfDB prize for financial inclusion. And we think that there is room for improvement. How do we scale up? We found that there is diligence in repayment, people found that they will get more when they repay their loans.
Let me speak quickly to what will be done differently on implementation of government plans in this dispensation. After the Presidential Policy Dialogue preceding the inauguration of Ministers, the President developed a list of specific mandates for each ministry. Each of those mandates has clearly spelt out action points. Every minister has a mandate with action points, some of the mandates have 7 or 8 points. The ministers are to render their first reports on performance in December. So, in some sense we are moving to a more measurable way of determining where ministers are going and what they ought to do. Of course, there would be challenges of funding, clarity of plans etc.
The full and effective performance of these mandates is, of course, an implementation challenge. We look forward to your contributions on the journey.
Let me again commend the NIM for these many years of provoking thought and action on making our nation work for the benefit of all.
Just a thought as I take my seat, reading the Code of Conduct of the NIM, it is so elegant that if just those of us in this room, including myself, could comply with that code, this country will be completely different. So, I throw the challenge to the NIM to walk the talk.
So, it is now my special pleasure to declare open this annual conference of the Nigerian Institute of Management 2019 for the benefit of all Nigerians. Thank you very much.