The Federal Government has entered a partnership arrangement with the Maschussett Institute of Technology, United States and the Oxford Microsoft Academy, United Kingdom to develop a knowledge-based economy that promotes self-reliance and reduce over-dependence on government.
The partnership is to develop content for the newly revised Nigerian educational curriculum that concentrates on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, STEAM, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo announced on Monday while declaring open the 24th Economic Summit in Abuja on behalf of President Muhamadu Buhari.
He said the government has also in collaboration with the World Bank and the Lagos Business School established a technology hub in Lagos, Yola and the humanitarian hub in the northeast to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
Osibanjo also said collaboration with Abuja hub has led to the promotion of technology and innovation in universities while technology hubs are being built in three universities.
He announced that the Bank of Industry has donated N 10 billion to Tertiary Education Trust Fund for technology education and promised government strict supervision for the achievement of these goals.
Osibanjo said the present administration was keen on developing a knowledge-driven economy based on STEAM education to drive economic prosperity hence, learning should now be geared towards creative thinking and problem-solving.
According to Osibanjo, it was in realization of that noble objective that the President directed that the Technology and Creativity Advisory Board be established to formulate and implement policies on skills acquisition for self-reliance among Nigerians.
The Vice President disclosed that the Board has met three times and it is composed of renowned personalities in the technology and the entertainment sectors and they are working hard to translate the vision of the government into practical approaches to tackling the current economic quagmire in the country.
In his presentation, he equally spoke on rising level of poverty in Nigeria, attributing it to grand corruption, poor investment in infrastructure, the absence of enabling business environment and lack of commitment to the diversification of the economy.
“Poverty has persisted even when the nation earned its highest revenue,” he said. “The figures of the household poverty figures published in 2004 which was the last survey done shows that poverty increase in every study circle. In 1980, was 17.1 million Nigerians, 1985, 84.7 million, 1992, 39.2 million, 1996, 67.1 million, 2004, 66.7 million and 2010 which is the last survey done poverty is 122. 4 million ”
The problem of poverty and the attendant deficit in human development indices becomes even more significant because our population continue to grow at about 3% annually and we to become the world third most populous nation by 2020″, Osibanjo stated.
Osibanjo observed that unemployment was still rampant in the country because oil revenue does not transmit to jobs and the oil industry by itself creates a few jobs but they can translate to better jobs when the revenue is invested in economy, education and infrastructure.
He decried that despite the huge revenues accruing from the oil sector government has not been able to create jobs and build appropriate infrastructure that can engender development because what he termed ‘grand corruption’.
“The question, of course, is what happens to this revenue that we are unable to use the revenue in the way that is ought to be used. The most important drain on our resources is grand corruption – stealing of large amounts of public funds by public officials in collaboration with private individuals. “I use the expression of grand corruption to describe the direct looting of the treasury not necessarily tied to any government contact. It is this heinous phenomenon that the Buhari administration has worked on to stop. What happens with grand corruption is that by diverting government revenue to private pockets, resources are not available to invest in the manner that benefits everybody”, he stated.
The Vice President also observed that the over-dependence on the Federation Account by State governments which leads to many states not paying salaries is another issue that has strangled the economy over the years.
According to him, “yearly internally generated revenues in some states cannot pay their wage bill per month. The Nigerian productive economy is the sum total of the 36 states and the FCT and where the states do not have enough private commercial activities, even agriculture to generate sufficient IGR job creation is stifled and poverty deepens.
He stated that the present government has put in place measures such as the social investment programmes, creating a conducive business environment for local and foreign investors, microfinance grants and the fight against corruption to reduce poverty to the barest minimum.
Osibanjo disclosed that in the history of Nigeria, the present administration invested N 2.7 trillion into capital projects representing 30% of the annual budgets from 2016 to date covering investments in roads, rail, power and in dams.
He said budgetary allocation to agriculture has increased from N8.8 billion in 2015 to N46.7 billion in 2016 and upwards in 2017 and 2018 while more fertilizer blending plants are now working making fertilizer available and affordable to farmers.
While commending the organisers of the summit, Osibanjo said, “the Nigerian Economic Summit has proved to be resilient in promoting dialogue and collaboration between government and the private sector. This has led to a number of very wealthy initiatives and joint interventions over the years. It is also an opportunity for us to review economic policies”.