Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, says Nigeria did not exit the latest recession by accident, but with “hard work, foresight and deliberate planning by the government.” The minister stated this on Saturday when he featured on a Channels Television programme, “Sunrise Daily,’’ monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.
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Nigeria slipped into recession for the second time in four years in the midst of COVID-19 after the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined for the second consecutive quarter in 2020 (Q2 and Q3) The economy, however, came out of the recession in the fourth quarter as growth in agriculture and telecommunications had offset a sharp drop in oil production.
The GDP grew 0.11 per cent in the three months through December from a year earlier, compared with a decline of 3.6 per cent in the third quarter as announced by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Mohammed said exiting the recession occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic was not accidental.
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He recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had last year set up the Economic Sustainability Committee which came up with Economic Sustainability Plans to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
“When you talk of GDP, it is the total sum of the value of your services and goods. Clearly, if there is a lockdown, you cannot go to work, and there is bound to be a recession.
“What we did was that we pumped money into the system by creating jobs.
“The first is the1,000 jobs through public works given to each local government and we have 774 Local Government Councils.
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“So, we have 774,000 workforce engaged on public works like road and this goes a lot in boosting the economy,’’ he said.
Mohammed said government equally introduced the Survival Fund which the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment supervised to prevent loss of jobs and create new ones. The Survival Fund, according to the minister, was to ensure that Small and Medium Scale Enterprises did not collapse.
“With Survival Fund, we asked for companies that employ between five and 50 people and we gave them payroll support for about three months.
“About 500,000 MSMEs benefitted from this programme,’’ he said.
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The minister said the government also gave One-Off-Grant whereby N10,000 was given to each of 233,000 artisans, including hairdressers and mechanics. He said some other programmes introduced by government included Conditional Cash Transfer with 3.6 million beneficiaries as well as N-POWER, TRADERMONI, FARMERMONI, MARKETMONI which reaches millions of people.
Besides the survival plans and economic sustainability plans, he said the government is investing heavily in infrastructure and employing more people.
The minister said that the government is doing more with less resources, adding that the effects of the pandemic was not peculiar to the country but a global affair.
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He said no fewer than 40 million Americans are now out jobs and some cannot pay their mortgage due to the pandemic.
“In Nigeria, our major sources of revenue are crude oil and taxation.
“Crude oil is just inching up but we also suffered a decrease in production from 1.72 million barrels a day to 1.67 million barrels daily losing about half a million barrels daily.
“In the last 12 months, officers from grade level 12 and below are working from home and this has a significant effect on the economy.
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“In spite of these, we still have to contend with other major challenges like insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping; therefore we must understand and admit that the country is going through a lot,’’ he said.
The minister also identified the challenge of population explosion, explaining that being a delicate issue to legislate on, the government can only deploy advocacy for its control.