Presidential Message: School feeding scheme will generate N980bn

Amid fears that a government policy of feeding primary school pupils in the country will impose a huge financial burden on the Buhari administration, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said on Wednesday that the policy will attract investment to the tune of N980 billion.

The vice president also said the school feeding programme will create jobs, and raise food production as well as investment in the country.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the vice president on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, said the multiplier effects of the proposed scheme include job creation, increase in food production of up to 530,000 metric tonnes per annum, which will attract investor-by-investment of up to N980billion.

According to the statement, Mr. Osinbajo made the revelations while speaking on a topic “Repositioning Nigeria for Sustainable Development: From Rhetoric to Performance” at the ongoing 45th Annual Accounting Conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

Mr. Osinbajo also stated that growth figures recorded during the last three administrations which recorded rising oil prices, GDP and foreign reserves did not put a dent on poverty or unemployment levels in the country.

He said though there were indeed seemingly good growth figures, such figures “can be deceptive where the structure and quality of growth are not considered”.

“So why are most [of our people] poor despite rising revenues and GDP growth? Our main revenue earners, the extractive oil and gas economy, do not by themselves create many jobs” he queried?

This is an irony of a top-down economic model, he said, noting that this is what comes to bear when the major revenue earner is extractive and the value chain is poorly developed.

Identifying the way forward from the present economic challenges, Mr. Osinbajo who made a comparative analysis of the previous administrations, called for a social sector investment which would mean investing in the people, education, job creation, national school feeding scheme, conditional cash transfer and reflating economies of the states as indices that would boost the economy.

The vice president stated further that some of these ideas have already been put in place by the Buhari administration, including the bailout package for the workers in the country, while some others are currently being worked out. He said education is the basics for economic growth.

“One of the most important interventions required in the education sector is capacity building to improve teacher quality. This programme is intended to drive teacher capacity development; boost basic education; attract talents to the teaching profession. Better educated population increase economic potential for productivity,” he said.

Mr. Osinbajo also identified conditional cash transfer as another avenue for alleviating poverty.

The programme, he said, is intended to support the 25 million poorest households to incentivize vaccination, education and production. The multiplier effects of the introduction of the programme, he noted, would include lifting millions out of poverty; putting millions into rural production; and boosting rural economy.

For increased investments in businesses and ease of doing business, government needs to improve the power sector; have one-stop shop for approvals; innovation and fighting piracy; diversifies the economy in agriculture – self-sufficiency in rice and wheat (staples) production, manufacturing, entertainment and technology, the Vice President said.

He observed that despite challenges in the power sector, “there have been measurable improvements over the past three months (June to August)”.

He said a “26% increase in operational generation capacity (June to August 15, 2015 compared to January to May 2015); decreased in pipeline vandalism boosting gas supply; a 10% reduction in transmission losses (June to July 2015 compared to January to May 2015); reduction in red tape to remove delays blocking the 450MW Azura-Edo IPP and the 500MW Exxon Mobil Qua-Iboe IPP; the imposition of a September 2015 deadline for the submission of the DisCos’ revised tariff trajectories”.

Earlier, the President of ICAN, Samuel Deru, appreciated the vice president for his commitment and ability to attend the programme in person.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Peoples Congress (APC) had during the Presidential campaign tour in January, promised a one meal per day for primary school students across the country.