Seye Joseph with Agency Report
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has identified innovation and change as key to attaining the developmental aspirations of the country.
He said this in his keynote speech at a development roundtable, `The Platform’, held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
He said there were plans to pay bursary awards to 100 science, technology and mathematics students from 2016 and establish an innovation fund to support research and product development and commercialisation activities.
He said significant resources were provided in the 2016 budget to enable innovation experts have easy access to fund.
Osinbajo said it was in recognition of those that the ruling party anchored its slogan on change.
“We recognized that innovation and change will be key and that we must implement and not just talk about the diversification of our economy.
“So we led our party’s campaign on that single but profound word, change,’’ he said
According to him, nearly one year in the administration, citizens have been asking if this is the change they voted for with others calling for the return of corruption.
“Let me here say for the record that the government of Muhammadu Buhari is completely and irrevocably committed to change.
“We believe that although it may not be easy, though the early signs may be confusing and sometimes discouraging, there has never been a better opportunity than now to turn the country in the direction of success.
“Today we have the best opportunity in decades for profound change; it is an opportunity in a generation, a revolution whose time has come and everything around us tells us that the moment is now,’’ he said.
Osinbajo said that the change being expected would indeed happen because the nation was tired of corruption, leadership without values, economy that nether designed to accommodate enterprise nor to create opportunity for the majority.
The vice-president observed that the nation had a leadership and a leader prepared to challenge the rotten status quo and kill corruption.
He however admitted that the nation’s problems were many such as depreciating currency, falling revenues from the main source, low external reserves, foreign exchange scarcity which had affected raw materials’ importation.
Others are trade payment arrears leading to a slowing down in the overall economy as well as falling Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Osinbajo noted that power shortages and fuel scarcity were products of one or many of the other ills.
However, the vice president described the problems as temporary because the leadership of the country had the sincerity and commitment to solve them with a citizenry very impatient and ready for change.
“What we must do is not to blink, no shaking, let us stay the course, let’s keep our focus and see our country turn around,’’ he urged.
Accordingly, he said the answer to power problems remained the collection of investments in the sector, stopping vandalism and increasing generation.
He said the nation apart from fixing the vandalized equipment needed to increase the volume of its gas assets through the construction of new gas pipelines to take gas to the turbines across the country.
He pointed out that many power projects had commenced in the past administration adding that a lot of what the new administration would be spending on power would be to complete abandoned projects.
He said the administration was working to complete the many abandoned transmission assets and also working with the distribution companies to meet up with their customers’ demands and for electricity users to pay to sustain distribution and transmission.
He said that government was working out a more efficient solution to encourage payment.
On the fuel scarcity, Osinbajo noted that almost all petrol used was imported and with the scarcity of foreign exchange it had been difficult for marketers to import the commodity.
He said government was working to get independent marketers to source their foreign exchange to support the importation by NNPC.
He added that the long term solution was to get the investors to build new refineries so that by 2018 the country would be self -sufficient in local production.
“This is a problem that we need not experience.
`There is no reason a country with the amount of crude that we have to be importing refined petroleum products,’’ he said.
He said government had used swapping of crude to import fuel for long due to the scarcity of foreign exchange.
The vice president also said there was a deliberate policy to improve ease of doing business in Nigeria.
He added that the minister of industry, trade and investment had been mandated to ensure a noticeable improvement was made in the next 18 months to move Nigeria 30 spaces above current position.
He said government intended to create jobs through diversification into agriculture, solid minerals, technology and entertainment.
“We need to be completely self-sufficient in rice, wheat, tomato production and several products that today drain our foreign exchange.’’
He said the demand for rice stood at seven million tonnes but local production was 2.7 million tonnes.
He said government spent between four billion dollars and five billion dollars yearly to import rice but added that the administration had now picked 11 states that would produce rice locally.
According to him, only Kebbi would produce from an investment of N7.5 billion this year a total of one million tonnes worth about N63 billion.
Osinbajo also added that technology and entertainment could lead the grand expansion to provide opportunity to young talents.
“The key to change and our future prosperity lies in innovation which is critical to our economic prosperity,’’ he said.
Accordingly, he said that government had plans to invest in innovation and creative writing.
He promised that the 2006 budget would go into operation “in the next few days’’ and government would establish technology innovation hubs, two super hubs in Lagos and Abuja, and six others in the Geo political zones.
He said that starting in July government would train 65,000 youths in hard ware and software services as well as animation for innovative programmes.
He said the administration would on June 23 launch a special presidential initiative on innovative technology.
He added that the VP’s office would give a very little `Nobel’ every independence day for poetry and short inspirational story on Nigeria.