A Lagos-based lawyer and public analyst, Oluwaseun Faleye, recently spoke to the media on how to tackle insecurity challenges in the country. He offers tips to help the next administration tackle the menace. MUYIWA ADEYEMI was there.
What will you say is the underlying reason for insecurity in the country? Is it driven by economic challenges or just political in nature?
Insecurity, in any given society, is mostly driven by lack of economic opportunities. Without a doubt, a much more inclusive economic environment, where people are able to earn a decent income, will be less inclined to taking actions that are disruptive to peace.
Security challenge in the North will be addressed, in my view, by two fundamental actions: First, it is to recognise the drivers of these conflicts. Security challenges exacerbated by climate change that has degraded the environment and made sustenance farming difficult in the North, fuels economic migration that gives rise to conflict and dislocation in our communities.
The other consideration is akin to resource-fueled conflict. We feel that the security situation in the Northeast and Northwest and generally in the North is amplified by exploration and exploitation of our mineral resources that abound in these states by unlicensed operators and non-state actors.
The solutions are twofold. We need the Great Green Wall of the North to mitigate the effects of desertification and deforestation compounding economic migration and leading to instability. The Great Green Wall of Nigeria is part of a wider African-Union led initiative to address desertification, land degradation, promote climate change adaption and resilience strategies and improve food security in the Sahara and Sahel regions. And under the initiative in Nigeria, the focus will be on states such as Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara consisting about 35 per cent of Nigeria’s total land area with implication for over 50 million people to begin to develop resilient and adaptation measures, promote sustainable livelihood opportunities for communities and rehabilitate over 22,500sqkm of degraded land for agricultural purposes.
These initiatives will create jobs, increase economic opportunities and ultimately work to reduce the state of insecurity in those areas.
Another intervention is in the area of combating unlicensed and unregulated exploration of mineral resources. As I have said earlier, these illegal practices fuel conflict and insecurity with non-state actors trying to get control the country’s mineral resources using violent means. The next government should institute a much more regulated framework for mining our mineral resources, working with local artisan and craftsmen to learn and earn income. A much more regulated solid minerals space will create jobs for members of the host communities.
Of utmost importance, however, is the counter-insurgency measure, which is designed to win the hearts and minds of Nigerians through targeted economic assistance and economic activities that giving hope and reduce the number of Nigerians that join violent and extreme groups out of despair. If we were able to defeat poverty, we would have gone far in defeating extreme ideologies that gives rise to terrorism and violent crimes.
For businesses, setting up critical national infrastructure protection plan is most important because it will protect those infrastructure that are critical to businesses to realise their potentials. The critical infrastructure protection plan will provide measures using technology, that will eliminate attacks on national critical infrastructure like pipelines, power stations, transmission and distribution networks, rail transportation, sea and airport and other telecommunication assets that are critical to day-to-day business activities.
There should be robust national security initiatives that will, perhaps, bring down heightened state of insecurity. Measures such as devolution of law enforcement powers to the lower levels of our communities, enhancing the capabilities of our customs and immigration services to monitor our borders, as well as establishment of forest guards will go a long way in dealing with our security challenges and give us the enabling environment to thrive economically.
The next administration should work on the economic plan to restructure our national economic model by leading us towards a production and export-led growth rather than be an import dependent nation. This economic model restructuring should be hinged on enhancing our national productivity by increasing our agro-allied activities, encouraging and increasing local manufacturing and industrial revolution as a substitution for the things we import, particularly, the everyday items that we use as a people. It should intensify Nigeria’s grand national infrastructural campaign to reconstruct and expand the numbers of highways, railways, airways, supply portable water and renovate old dams and new ones that will provide irrigation for agriculture and power generation.
We see a nexus between our national economic growth and increased agro-allied productivity, the enablement of agro-allied value adding local manufacturing, as well as our national infrastructural campaign focusing not only on major highways but also prioritised rural roads that will serve as conduit of agricultural produce from farm to market and food processing factories.
The combined efforts of increasing our agro-allied productivity, enabling and increasing local manufacturing and undertaking a national infrastructural campaign will be a panacea for job creation endeavours such that unemployed population including the very youthful ones will begin to see and take opportunities in agro-allied businesses. The mandate to increase the country’s arable land for cultivation from the present 35 to 65 per cent will come with increased productivity in the sector and that will also be a catalyst for job creation.
The local manufacturing entities will be employers of labour and the national infrastructural campaign will be done on the back of the labour of our youthful population, so you can begin to see where the jobs will come from and will half the youth unemployment numbers in four years.
These objectives are achievable with the right strategies. Certainly, all of these activities will ultimately translate into growth in real GDP terms and that is also why we believe that Nigeria will see growth under his administration.
We can delve deeper into the benefits that will come from deeply thought-out policies on Transportation, Housing, Power, Oil and Gas and the digital economy, which will unleash the economic potentials of Nigeria.
Given the importance of power to businesses and productivity, how can the next administration solve the protracted challenge of power in Nigeria?
The next administration should ensure that Nigerians have the energy requirement to excel in their different endeavours. The next administration should do this by continuing with the huge investment that has gone into improving the country’s transmission lines to make sure power that is currently being generated is getting to homes. If you are observant, you will see various transmission components that are required as part of the deal struck with Germany and Siemens to improve our transmission and distribution capacities being transported to various locations across the country. I have seen a couple of them on our roads and we will begin to see the benefit in more power to our homes very soon.
The next administration should continue the reforms that will keep improving the power sector. There should be no more estimated billings, which means that Nigerians will only pay for the power they consume, which is very important and you know how impactful that is to the ordinary Nigerians.
Also important are plans to support domestic manufacturing of meters, cables and other crucial elements in delivering power so that Nigerians can also take advantage of the opportunities in the power sector and create more direct and indirect job opportunities within and outside the sector.
The next government should deepen reforms and bring forth policy framework to grow the renewable energy sector, looking at alternative sources, such as solar panels to bring power to millions of Nigerians, who are outside the national grid. Of course, also worthy of mention are plans to reinvigorate the rural electrification programmes of this present administration and commitment to mobilise both public and private capital for the delivery of electricity to our rural communities. And it is the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that is capable of implementing these reforms.
What qualities do you think Tinubu has that makes him stand out?
There are so many qualities that he has that set him apart from other candidates vying for the same post. First is his deep knowledge of the issues that we face as a country and his unyielding commitment to deal with them. I am not sure any other candidate has that level of commitment to resolve security and economy issues to be honest. Second, is his compassion, Tinubu is a compassionate leader and Nigeria of today needs nothing more than a strong, committed leader to lead her in a fair and equitable manner.
But very key is his doggedness and can-do spirit that he has exemplified all through his life in private and public service. I believe these qualities set him apart from others. Indeed, his experience in establishing much needed public institutions that have now been replicated all over the states in Nigeria, delivering life changing public infrastructure in Lagos under a financially challenged circumstances given that Lagos State funds were withheld by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at that time, as well as his ability to marshal intelligent men and women of expertise to action as a formidable team to tackle developmental challenges certainly set him apart from other contestants.
Recently, there was a business luncheon with Tinubu in Lagos, what did you seek to achieve at the meeting?
It was an intellectual engagement between the business community and the political stakeholders in Nigeria, setting the stage for what should be a sustainable collaboration between the public and private sectors for collective benefit in the form of accelerated growth of the Nigerian economy.
Represented at the event were dynamic individuals playing leading roles in key economic sectors, such as the healthcare, insurance, legal, mining and solid minerals, construction and housing, entertainment, technology space, finance, education, oil and gas, power and energy, infrastructural development and finance, sports, creative industry among others. And it was in recognition of their rich background in economic activities in different sectors that they were invited to come and give their practical insights to the candidate on policies that will move their respective sectors forward and unleash the economic potential of Nigeria. For the participants and invited guests, it was to provide useful insights, inputs and feedback gained from their practical experiences to better enrich the APC Action Plans under Tinubu’s leadership.
And for the candidate, it was a listening session, to receive well-intentioned and well-informed feedback from those operating the country’s engine room of our economy, such that policy formulation and regulations become all-inclusive and undertaken with extensive collaboration of key stakeholders. In response to some of the participants’ comments, APC presidential candidate made a lot of bold policy statements such as his commitment to remove oil subsidy and use the funds saved from the removal on social programmes and providing infrastructure, to his commitment to increasing our gas utilisation and monetisation by targeting the African and European markets with his plan to continue building the necessary infrastructure to these markets, as well as his commitment to increase our power generation, transmission and distribution capacity, including his commitments to public-private partnership to delivering public infrastructure. He made a lot of policy commitments that Nigerians can hold on to, so, we are happy about that.