By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said on Monday that the Buhari administration spent N1.3 trillion on capital projects in 2016, the highest in the history of the country.
Osinbajo disclosed this at a plenary of the 2017 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) national conference in Lagos with the theme: “African Business: Penetrating Through Institution Building.”
The sub-theme of the plenary was “Conversations With The Vice-President”, moderated by Miss Zain Asher, a CNN news anchor.
“The Federal Government spent about N1.3 trillion on capital projects in 2016, the highest in the history of the country.
“The power sector reform is also ongoing as it is one of the most important sectors in the country,” Osinbajo said.
Responding to Asher’s questions, Osinbajo said the administration had set a solid foundation for the nation’s economic recovery which, he described, as the most important reform of the administration.
He said, “We were dealing with a mono-economy (relying on one major export or natural resource) and a financial industry that was essentially opaque.
“We have set a foundation of rebuilding the economy, creating the Single Treasury Account (TSA), monitoring government’s spending, modifying the tax system to be more efficient and implementing executive orders.”
According to the vice-president, the administration has also cleared what he described as a mess inherited from the previous administration.
On whether poor Nigerians in the rural areas have felt the impact of the reforms, Osinbajo said diversification into agriculture had been embraced in most northern states with a lot of transformation.
“For the economy, we are going to see a tripling in the harvesting of rice, prosperity is returning to some states like Kebbi and Zamfara.
“The rural areas where the highest level of poverty is experienced, there is a turnaround as the highest number of people who went for 2017 hajj were farmers.
“There is a lot of export of agricultural products, what we need to do is to engage in more value added exports and we have quite a few investors,” Osinbajo told the conference.
He noted that agricultural sector had witnessed hi-tech farming and investments with more people taking to farming.
The vice-president, who also spoke on the efforts of government in tackling corruption and laundering the country’s image, pointed out:“Government ownership of business encourages corruption. The more private sector involvement in businesses, the more efficient the system will be and the less corrupt the system will be.
“We are currently working on a `one-government system’ to tackle bureaucracy. For example, if you need five different approvals from five government agencies, under this system communication with one agency is sufficient as all the agencies will liaise with one another.
“We have introduced technology in a lot of processes. For example, company registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC); the less human contact, the less incidences of corruption.
“We must punish offenders, there must be consequences for offenders, fighting corruption is multi-sectoral and we have to work together.
“Convictions on corruption cases have been slow, from my experience as a former prosecutor, getting cases to court is slow, the system allows a lot of inefficiencies. We have to try cases efficiently and secure convictions so people can see the consequences of corruption.”
Osinbajo stressed the need for collaboration among the three arms of government to make the reforms a success.
On the initiative get more wealthy Nigerians into the tax net, he said government had introduced the `Beneficial Ownership Scheme’ giving them a 90-day period of grace to disclose their property in order to pay tax or face the full wrath of the law.
“We have got quite a few wealthy Nigerians approach us to disclose what they own.”
Osinbajo noted that the global oil crisis had given rise to the promotion of the non-oil sector in the country, pointing out that all over the world, oil was losing its relevance, citing countries such as Japan, China and Britain looking for alternative sources of energy.
Commenting on business opportunities in the country, the vice-president said: “There are more opportunities for entrepreneurs, imports are more expensive, there are more opportunities for local production.
“There is no guarantee of immediate prosperity but the opportunities are there. Our commitment is to leave the country with sufficient resources as honestly and efficiently as we possibly can.
“We are improving the economy, the electricity sector, manufacturing as well as the growth of the business environment. We are committed to running a government that is efficient, serves the people and sensitive to the Nigerian people. These are the projections that we make, the future is certainly bright for the country.”