“We will get through this much stronger economically and much stronger as a people because of our resilience. There are a lot of challenges but they offer significant opportunities for us to turn things around.”
Those were the words of assurance from Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) to Nigerians during his interaction on Saturday at the 2020 edition of The Platform, themed: “Nigeria’s battle against COVID-19.”
According to Osinbajo: “I am very confident that Nigerians, with our resilience, our strength and our innovation, we will go through this in great shape.”
The Platform is an annual discussion programme of the Covenant Christian Centre that features discussions around the state of the Nigerian nation and its development.
The May 2020 edition featured virtual participants without a live audience as a result of the global pandemic.
The Vice President then laid out some of the Federal Government’s efforts to address the economic fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking specifically about how the country can transform the challenges caused by the pandemic into opportunities for economic diversification and job creation, the Vice President said prioritizing use of local resources and creating local jobs in the construction and allied industry, amongst other things, will be critical in sustaining the economy in the post COVID-19 era.
He said: “We have to prioritize the use of local resources in all public works.
“In road construction, for instance, it is cheaper to build concrete roads using limestone than spending resources on the importation of bitumen.
“We have limestone in abundance, hence we should be looking in that direction.
“The road from the Apapa port to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is being built with cement and is of high quality.
“In the housing sector, where we have a huge deficit, we need to focus on using local resources to build houses and in the process we will be creating opportunities for young engineers, architects and builders, etc.”
In the area of agriculture, the Vice President said government’s initial policies have saved the country from the huge foreign exchange burden of food imports and related activities.
He said: “We think that by ramping up agriculture, especially small holder agriculture and improving the value chain, especially in storage and processing facilities, more jobs will be created for many young people.
He said: “We have found ourselves in a situation where we realise that the way to go is to support the creation of the jobs in agriculture and reduce food imports and ultimately address the issue of unemployment and food shortages.
“What we must do as much as we can is to change the narrative about Nigeria and provide more jobs.”
Still on mitigating the fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic such as inflation, the Vice President said government would focus on improving productivity and improving food stock across the country.
According to Osinbajo: “If you can ramp up food production and the logistics of bringing food to the urban centres, inflation will be controlled to a large extent.”
He added that boosting agricultural production for export purposes and supporting the mining sector will bolster the country’s foreign exchange earnings and reserves.
Other contributors to discussions at the virtual summit included Governors Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, also spoke at the interaction, which included interviews, panel discussion and speeches.
The event was moderated by Pastor Poju Oyemade, the Convener of The Platform.