The Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was in Lagos on Saturday, 23rd of April 2016 for a Town Hall Meeting organised by United Action for Change, a pressure group that advocates for value re-orientation.
The Town Hall meeting began at exactly 3:00 p.m. with Kofi the comedian acting as the compere. He kept the guests well entertained with his wit and humour.
The meeting began with questions directed at the Vice President from selected guests representing different demographics and sectors of society. The questions raised ran the gamut from the plans of this administration to provide health insurance and support for old pensioners in the informal economy, inclusion for people living with disabilities, the fuel scarcity and power situation, the transportation sector with emphasis on the railway projects, violence perpetrated by the Fulani Herdsmen, down to the promise to feed school children daily.
Professor Osinbajo when he took the stage to answer the questions began by reassuring Nigerians of this administration’s commitment to fight corruption, effect change and fulfil all the promises they made prior to being elected.
He empathised with Nigerians, explaining that he understands the hardship being endured by citizens and appealed to Nigerians to be patient because change is a gradual process and cannot be achieved overnight.
“You may have other problems, you may criticize other things, but you cannot change a nation that has been so embroiled in corruption without a straight forward and honest leader… I want us to understand that there is a determination by this government to ensure that this country changes direction.
Myself and Mr President are completely committed to that change. Day by day there is nothing that occupies our minds, nothing else, but this change. It is difficult, there are many criticisms, many issues that we have not been able to redress, but do not be in any doubt that every single moment of the day we are committed to looking for solutions and to changing this country.”
On the question of the promise by this administration to pay unemployed citizens 5,000 Naira monthly, Prof. Osinbajo explained that they never promised to pay all unemployed youths, but promised to pay the extremely poor Nigerians and that they intend to keep that promise.
According to him, “We cannot, with the current state of the economy fulfil that promise, but we intend to start soon with the poorest one million Nigerians.”
The Vice President also explained the reason for the fuel scarcity. “It is almost entirely the government, that is NNPC, that is distributing fuel. If all marketers were distributing fuel, you won’t hear of corruption and hoarding because they have a stake in it.”
He went on to list the steps taken upon assuming office to ensure improvement in power supply. He stated that they tried to stop vandalization and that helped improve power for the first few months after they assumed office. However of recent there has been vandalization which is the reason for the terrible state of power supply.
“Why was there an improvement in power supply and why were we able to record as much as 5,000 Megawatts of power for the first time in the history of this country? There are two reasons; the first is that we were able to pay off a lot of outstanding debt to the private sector… The second is that we were able to keep down vandalization.
What has happened lately is that the pipelines at Forcados were destroyed. Once that pipeline was destroyed, it meant that almost forty percent of our gas supply to our power plants was wiped out, causing us to lose almost 1,500 Megawatts of power.
In addition to that Shiroro and Kainji Dam is having the problem of lack of water, but the most important cause of the power is gas supply and vandalization.”
As answer to the issue of transportation, especially with its regards to the Apapa road situation, Prof. Osinbajo said “Apapa road is in a poor state because of the amount of goods being moved by road. Those goods should be moved via railway… We are committed to doing the Lagos- Kano railway and the Calabar- Lagos railway.”
Children in schools were not left out in the deliberations. The Vice President said that this administration is still mindful of the promise to feed school children daily and stated that they intend to begin feeding school children through the help of the Home Grown School Feeding Program. He explained that through this scheme, only local products grown and produced in Nigeria and local caterers will be used. This is in order to improve nutrition and also to ensure that there’s a value chain effect on Agriculture. The aim of this scheme is also to ensure job creation for the local farmers and the caterers who will prepare the meals.
On the issue of unemployment, the Vice President called on guests present and other unemployed citizens to take advantage of the vocational and apprenticeship scheme put in place by this government. He also promised that unemployed graduates will receive trainings to teach in schools within their community and will be paid pending when they get alternative employment.
He also assured the disabled in the society of the plans by this government to include them in society, stating that there are high level officials who are members of the disabled community and are working on the inclusion of disabled people in society.
The Vice President ended his speech by exalting Nigerians to consciously fight for the county we want. He promised that on their part as leaders they will strive to set the precedence for the change they profess. He promised that “At the end you will find that we have not enriched ourselves in anyway.”
Also present at the meeting was Professor Pat Utomi, representatives of civil society groups and entertainers like Kenny Saint Best.