by Augustine Ehikioya,
There was an insight yesterday into the Federal Government’s battle against the recession that has hit the economy.
The government’s plan to exit the recession which got the backing of the National Economic Council (NEC) includes
assets sales;advance payment of licence renewals;infrastructure concessioning; andimplementation of fiscal stimulus.
The NEC is the highest economic decision body chaired by the vice president. Other members are governors and key ministers in charge of the economy and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor.
Some experts and leading politicians have suggested the sale of some assets, saying this will provide the cash to reflate the economy, reopen factories and put money in the people’s pockets.
Pushing this view are business giant Aliko Dangote, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Muhammad Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and Senate President Bukola Saraki, among others.
But Labour has condemned the idea, saying it will make a few to amass the wealth of all and deepen the seeming despair in the land.
Yesterday’s meeting, which started about 11.10am, was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
No fewer than 23 governors attended it. They include Governors Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Abubakar Mohammed (Bauchi), Willy Obiano (Anambra), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Abdufatah Ahmed (Kwara), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa).
Deputy governors of Rivers, Nasarawa, Katsina and Lagos represented their bosses.
A statement from the media office of the Vice President on the meeting said: “Rising from its monthly meeting today at the Presidential Villa, members of the National Economic Council, NEC, presided over by Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), expressed support for the plans and proposals of the Federal Government to steer the country out of recession.
“While acknowledging the current economic challenges and difficulties, governors at the meeting also endorsed the work of the President’s Economic Management Team and specifically commended the Budget & Planning and Finance Ministers.”
Among the measures for economic revitalisation, he said, are a plan to generate immediate larger injection of fund into the economy through assets sales, advance payment of licence renewals, infrastructure concessioning, and use of recovered funds etc to reduce funding gaps, implementation of Fiscal Stimulus/Budget Priorities.
“Council members in response commended the Economic Management Team and generally welcomed the presentation and expressed support for the plan to steer the nation out of recession.
“Under AOB, Council members expressed confidence in and unanimously commended the EMT and both the Budget & National Planning and Finance Ministers for the presentations to the Council, praising their efforts, competence and capabilities.”
The NEC also expressed confidence in the capability of Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma and Minister of Finance Mrs Kemi Adeosun.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and a few other senators on Wednesday pushed for the removal of Udoma and Adeosun for their ‘poor’ handling of the economy and the recession.
But, speaking with reporters at the State House yesterday at the end of the NEC meeting, Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu said NEC praised the handling of the economy.
He was accompanied to the briefing by Ajimobi and Ogun State Deputy Governor Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga.
Bagudu said: “The National Economic Council met today at its sixth meeting of the year, which is the 70th National Executive Council meeting and the Ministers of Budget and National Planning and the Central Bank (of Nigeria) Governor made presentations and the highlights of the presentations were the sad news that the economy was in recession largely due to the dependency on single commodity which is crude oil, which prices we do not control.
“Oil price collapsed to less than $30 per barrel in first quarter of 2016 and market expectation is that it will remain low for a longer period.
“However, this crisis holds a silver lining to restructure the economy towards other areas that we believe we have comparative advantage.
“Fast track procedures through legislation and strategic implementation plan of the budget, meaningful diversification of the economy which will cut down importation.
“The members of the council responded and acknowledged with commendation the presentation by the economic team and support the plan to steer the nation out of recession.
“And, in particular, it was noted that our economic managers the National Economic Team are responding in competition with economic managers elsewhere. So it is not an easy task, it is a very difficult task and we crave the indulgence of our nation to give them a chance for the measures to take effect.”
Ajimobi said the Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform (PTCLR) presented the draft regulation on Land Use Act 2013 to NEC.
According to him, the regulation seeks to make provisions to streamline mortgage transactions and clearly delineate the rights, duties and obligations of a mortgage.
Ajimobi said the Minister of Finance made a presentation on Public Private Partnership (PPP) Initiatives on Affordable Housing.
Highlights of the presentation, he said, included target of N1 billion fund to operate PPP (N500 billion initial) to create a blended pool of long term funds to intervene in housing development finance and mortgage provision
He said the fund will deliver family housing for as low as N2.5 million up to N18 million delivered in a ready to occupy condition with essential services (water and power connected).
Ajimobi said: “The delivery target is 400,000 to 500,000 housing units per annum. The ultimate aim of the programme is to channel funds from savers to borrowers, so that builders have the required capital to construct and prospective buyers can access credit to purchase.
“The fund will attract low cost local and international capital, including from domestic pension and insurance funds, Federal Government funding, as well as contributions from state governments and other agencies.”
The states are to designate a liaison with whom Family Homes Fund can interface, expedite building plan approval process and security of land title, invest in enabling infrastructure, such as Federal roads.
Other benefits, Ajimobi said, include improved urban planning and development, employment generation and skills enhancement, and expansion of tax base.
Mrs. Onanuga said the NEC was briefed that the balance on Excess Crude Account (ECA) as at 20th September, 2016 was $2.453 billion.
She said Adeosun and CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele briefed NEC on best options for managing the floating forex policy introduced by Emefuele.
Highlights of the presentation, Mrs Onanuga said, included CBN -introduced cautious Monetary Policy orientation as dictated by consumer price and exchange rate, adoption of policy tightening measures for flexible forex rate to address persistent pressures caused by scarcity and speculative demands, improving market dynamics by CBN, interventions to states in the area of salaries and in commercial agriculture.
She said that the presentation also noted that controlling inflation is key to stabilising other macroeconomic indices and the current stance of monetary policy is expected to continue to help lock-in inflation expectations.
On the update on Budget Support Loan facility, Mrs Onanuga said the minister of finance reported to Council that N50 billion had so far been disbursed to state governments while the facility was ongoing.