Worried by the living standard of Nigerians, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the problem of extreme poverty keeps awake at night.
He was responding during the question and answer session moderated by the Chairman of Metis Capital Partners, Hakeem Bello-Osagie, at a dinner and interactive session with Faculty Members at the Harvard Business School (HBS) on Tuesday in Lagos.
Prof. Osinbajo spoke alongside Srikant Datar, a professor of Business Administration at the HBS and Bayo Ogunlesi, an indigenous investment banker.
He said: “I think what keeps me up at night has to do with extreme poverty; the issue is that the largest number of those who vote for us are the very poor.
“The promises that government makes to them is that their lives will be better and obviously they are looking at their lives being better in the shortest possible time.
“I will like to see Nigeria being an industrialized nation in the next 10 years; a very strong middle class and most people living above the poverty line.’’
According to him, some government policies take into account those on the rung of the financial ladder with a focus on agriculture and making credit facilities accessible to farmers to achieve self-sufficiency.
He said that many farmers in the country had been lifted out of poverty by this administration.
A lot of attention had also been given to the Social Intervention Programmes (SIPs) which factored in the provision of cheap credit to petty traders at the bottom of the pyramid.
The vice president told his audience that Nigeria was open to business with its various potentials and urged Nigerian investors abroad to look homewards.
He said: “If you are going to do business anywhere in Africa, it has to be Nigeria. This is where you have the energy; you have the drive. We are already seeing that kind of activity; business people will always be driven by profit.
“Talent will always go in the direction where it is best rewarded; one can’t afford to be sentimental about that. As people see that the environment is getting better for business, they will come back; the opportunities for making huge profits are here.
“Practically everything we are doing in to ensure that there is an environment for business to thrive. People are leaving but people are coming back.’’
The vice president said that the Federal Government, through the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) was encouraging local manufacturers, adding that the government was looking at natural economic clusters and had set up shared facilities and power.
He said a lot was going on in the agro-allied sector and of course, resolving the power challenges.
“In the next few months, we will unveil a plan that deals with most of the critical issues in the power sector,” he said.
On climate change, Osinbajo said that the momentum was in favour of renewable energy and Nigeria was doing a lot of investment in renewable energy; solar power and opening up opportunities.
Prof Datar said he was particularly proud of Osinbajo as an academic in governance, adding that academics provide enabling environment for good governance.
He pledged HBS’s support in providing needed support for human capital development in Nigeria and proffering solutions to tackling Nigeria’s infrastructure challenges.
Ogunlesi said that the era of depending on government for infrastructure was gone, adding that the Federal Government had no business running infrastructure, citing airports as examples.
Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, who gave the vote of thank, called for urgent action to tackle the high poverty rate, especially in the Northwest.
He also advocated for a committee on girl-child education to boost enrolment in schools and uplift their living standards.
At the event were Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, United States (U.S.) Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, immediate past Trade and Investment Minister Okechukwu Enelamah, and the former National Planning Minister Udo Udoma, among others.