Osinbajo holds secret meeting with President Buhari in London
• Acting president says govt’ll transform economy in 18 months
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday secretly travelled to London in the United Kingdom where he held a meeting with ailing President Muhammadu Buhari.This is coming as the Federal Executive Council (FEC) holds tomorrow. The Acting President presides over the Council.
Details of the unannounced trip were not made known at press time by officials of the presidency.Osinbajo had earlier attended the Presidential Quarterly Business Forum which held in the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The venue of the two leaders’ meeting in London was not disclosed, but a tweet by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande on his handle last night indicated that Osinbajo met with President Buhari in London and was expected to return to Abuja immediately.
“Acting President Osinbajo meeting with President Buhari in London today (yesterday), and returning to Abuja immediately afterwards,” the spokesman tweeted last night. Buhari had two months ago travelled to London for an undisclosed medical follow-up with his doctors in that country.
The development has continued to heighten the political atmosphere in Nigeria with uncertainty surrounding his date of return.At the Presidential Quarterly Business Forum held in Abuja, yesterday Osinbajo assured Nigerians of an expected turnaround in the economy in the next 12 to 18 months with renewed government focus .
According to him, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is poised to deliver on the promises it made to the people.The acting president, who said government had identified critical areas to deal with and was working hard on providing solutions, stressed the need for a synergy between the government and the private sector with a view to moving the country to a higher pedestal.
“When Mr. President launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP) sometime in April, one of the things that he emphasised was the fact that we have made up our minds as to where we are going.
“We have the discipline to be able to do so, but this is a complex environment, it is a complex economy and I think that we must trust the government.“ I have said it repeatedly that in some sense, we are fortunate to have a leader like the president who, at least we know, is straightforward and honest, and committed to ensuring government money is spent the way it should be spent, and that people don’t do what they like.
“To that extent, I think we have the right environment at least in terms of government discipline to be able to deliver on the promises that we have made. We say to the private sector that we have enough willing and able partners.”
According to Osinbajo, “There is no way we can ever be perfect. I mean government is a behemoth where there are so many problems and issues. But do not doubt for one moment our commitment to ensuring that we are able to deliver on the promises that we have made.
“I believe very strongly that Nigeria will turn around. I have no doubt in my mind that if we are focused, even in the next 12 to 18 months, we will certainly see a turnaround. I want you to join us in being able to ensure that this happens to the Nigerian economy.”
While noting that commitment must come from both the government and the private sector, the acting president explained that what government had done was to “identify certain critical things that must be done. We know that there are certain things that if we do them, they will move the nation forward.
“Those things include stabilising the macro economic environment, energy sufficiency, power and petroleum, improving transportation infrastructure and achieving food security. On each of these items, certainly progress is being made, and of course, fighting corruption, controlling government expenditure, controlling leakages and all of that.”
Earlier, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, had stated that government could not provide essential services, attributing the situation to the lean size of the budget. Adeosun explained that Nigeria’s budget which is six percent of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP), is the lowest compared to that of its peers in Sub-Saharan Africa, and one of the lowest in the world.
“Our budget size is too small and that means we can only pay salaries in some cases. We don’t have money to deliver essential services. There simply isn’t enough money in government to do what government wants to do.”
According to her, not enough tax is being paid in the country. Fielding questions from State House correspondents after the meeting, Vice Chairman, Mainstream Energy Solution, Ismaila Isah Funtua said that government must increase electricity tariff if it must have uninterrupted power supply in the country.
He said that the electricity generating companies (GENCOs) declined to speak openly at the meeting with Osinbajo because they believed that serious decisions could not be taken at the forum. “We asked for a private meeting where serious decisions could be taken. Whether government likes it or not, they have to review the tariff of power in this country.
“This is my cell phone, you pay for it even before you make use of it. And nobody is controlling their tariff, they charge what they want and all of us we have at least one cellphone.“Therefore, government needs to do the needful. If government wants power, then they cannot continue subsidising for people.”
The Managing Director of Egbin Power Plc, Kola Adesina, expressed regret that the country was celebrating the generation of only 4,000mw. According to him, “A nation as great as ours should not be celebrating 4000 megawatts. That is ridiculous, to say the least. So, everyone of us, the public and private sector, must get down and ensure that we rapidly grow the system, that value chain. We must ensure that we steadily grow to the extent to enhance availability of supply to our people.”