The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has urged the Nigerian Government to expedite actions at re-opening its closed borders given its negative impact on trade and employment.In a statement released on Tuesday in Abuja entitled “Matters of Urgent Attention“, the NESG noted that Nigeria’s role in ECOWAS should not be limited to security and diplomacy, “but must also effectively harness trade opportunities within the sub-region. We also call on the government to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, so that we can move to full membership status and take our rightful place in subsequent negotiation rounds”.
“We remain of the firm belief that with the necessary infrastructure, the Nigerian economy and the Nigerian people, with our innovative capacity, hard work and creativity, will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of African and West African free trade. This will also enable fair competition, competent institutions, efficiency and transparency in our processes,” the group said.
It noted with grave concern the rising level of poverty, unemployment and underemployment in Nigeria, which is predominant among young people and has been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 and the slump in commodity prices and urged that while efforts at creating short-term jobs across the country is commendable, a lot more effort must be channeled towards re-skilling, retooling and reviewing our school curriculum.
The Group lamented the increasing hunger among the Nigerian populace despite the budgetary allocations and huge sums of money disbursed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
It noted that since the inception of this administration, agriculture and the need to ensure zero hunger for Nigerians has received considerable attention and that “a huge gap remains in meeting the food requirements”.
“Evidently, the issues are beyond money and therefore, require a complete overhaul of the management of, and support for the agriculture sector and all related sectors – with a view to getting more value for our investments,” it said.
The NESG also expressed its concern about the high level of insecurity across the country and its impact on the business environment and investment flows, which has contributed massively to the current food crisis, unemployment, poverty, increasing community clashes, rising bloodshed and the absence of peace and tranquillity in the land.
On the issue of borrowing, the NESG noted that Nigeria’s resort to borrowing (either domestic or international), and quantitative easing by the monetary authorities to fund the large deficit, which has now been made worse by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since these specific actions are not sustainable in the medium to long term, the Group urges the government to urgently consider a strong communications strategy that engages the people and prepares them for tougher times ahead whilst the current reforms take effect as the current business as usual disposition is not sustainable,” the group added.
The NESG is a private sector-led think-tank and policy advocacy group, which promotes sustainable growth and the development of the Nigerian economy.