We have spent over N2.7tn in capital on Infrastructure in the last 3 years – Osinbajo
Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo
By: Theresa Igata
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo says the Federal Government has spent over N2.7 trillion to service the country’s infrastructure needs since 2016, an amount which represents the largest capital expenditure in the country’s history despite earning 60 per cent less than in the last five years.
Osinbajo made the disclosure at the opening ceremony of the Lagos International Trade Fair, themed: Connecting Businesses, Creating Value.
According to Osinbajo who represented President Mohammadu Buhari, the government’s focus on infrastructure extends to both hard and soft infrastructure, particularly trade facilitation, quality infrastructure and the ease of doing business reforms which are key infrastructure challenges in the country.
“We have taken on the key infrastructure challenges that have stifled SME growth and development in the country by seeking innovative ways to bridge the significant infrastructure gap and at the same time, creating an enabling environment in which business can now do better.” he said.
“We have focused on roads, power and our new rail network, among others. The Federal Government has been committed to policies and reform efforts geared at enhancing diversification and structural reform of the economy through massive investment in infrastructure and human capital.”
Also, “as part of government’s continued efforts at supporting small businesses, N15. 2 billion interest-free loan ranging from N50, 000 to N350, 000 has been disbursed to over 400, 000 market traders, artisans across the 36 states of the federation. We have been able to open bank accounts for about 349, 000 traders under Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme for the tradermoni scheme and we are increasing this to reach 2 million traders across the country.”
He however emphasised the need for the democratisation of access to the internet as an enabler to bringing more people into the market place. “We think that by democraticising access to the internet, especially in public places, and in markets, so many more people can do their business and more people can receive information and this information can cheaply be delivered to them. We think that this is pivotal in enhancing efficiency and transparency”.
Osinbajo added that plans are already on to facilitate an innovative product in collaboration with Google incorporated through the Google station programme which is currently being replicated in Nigeria, to provide free WiFi in public places.
“The service is currently in six different locations in Lagos; Palm Shopping Mall, Landmark Centre, Unilag, MM2 (the domestic airport), the Computer Village and the Ikeja City Mall. The more interesting part is that we are asking them to roll out a market across a Nigeria. In the next few months they will be in Onitsha Main Market, Gbagi in Ibadan, Kuto Market in Abeokuta, Kaduna Central Market, the Sura Market and the Lagos Abuja International Airport”.
He noted that as part of ways to energise the economy and aid SMEs, government was installing power; especially solar power in markets and commercial clusters.
“We have powered Ariara Market, Aba, Sabongari Market, Kano, Sura Market in Lagos, Isinkan market in Ondo, Bola Ige Market in Ibadan, Oyo State and Edaiken Market in Benin, Edo State. This initiatives would reduce fuel expenses, enhance produce storage and boost productivity among MSMEs”, he said
“We also engage with regulators understand their roles as facilitators and not obstacles to business and we have seen a great deal of improvement”.
Speaking earlier, The President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Babatunde Ruwase, said the chamber was committed to the vision of the current administration in respect of economic diversification and self-reliance.
Our programmes, advocacy activities and capacity development are geared towards the realisation of this economic aspiration. We recognise the imperative of non-oil sector development and the need to add value to our primary products in order to improve earnings for both the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy. This trade fair provides a platform to identify non-oil alternatives and highlight the significance of value addition,” he said.
He added that the economic and investment policies must be right and investment friendly to attract more private capital into the economy.
He noted that the chamber had adopted a generic theme, “Connecting businesses, creating value,” for the Lagos International Trade fair to underscore the importance of relationship and interactions among businesses for the purpose of wealth creation and to underline the value of interactions between producers and service providers, and the end users.
“As a policy advocacy group, we will continue to offer advice, input and partnership on strategies and measures to facilitate the realisation of the economic development programmes of government.”
The Governor of Lagos State Akinwunmi Ambode reiterated the State’s commitment in continued partnership with the private sector to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
Ambode, who was represented by Olayinka Oladunjoye, the State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, said the state would continue to promote policies and initiatives that would attract more investment to the state.