The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on Saturday said social spending by governments at all levels was crucial in plans to eliminate poverty in the country.
Osinbajo stated this in Kano at a reception in honour of the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Malam Garba Shehu.
He said while providing the environment for free enterprise, the governments must proactively intervene by way of social protection and the enhancement of opportunity for the “very poor”.
He remarked that the All Progressives Congress’s social welfare policy of providing real opportunities by direct spending for the poor was important in resolving the huge poverty level in the country.
The vice president pointed out that Nigeria had an ideological problem, especially among those who would want to proffer solutions to the nation’s problems, “as such people did not know how to handle the problems of the poor”.
According to him, the micro economic view of such people is one that understands only the problems and commercials of the elite.
“Their answer to the very scandalous level of poverty is for business to work first, then there would be jobs and the poor could be taken care of,” he said, describing it as “trickle down economics”, which could hardly provide a solution.
He said under such scenario, the poor would all die before industries could provide needed jobs.
Osinbajo said that there would be equity if the poor would have their children in school, participate in immunization programmes, free meals programme for all primary school children, social benefits for the disabled and the elderly poor.
He said: “All these are important in ensuring that hundreds of millions of Nigerians are not left behind.”
He recalled the recent debate about bailout to the states and explained that whatever it was called, money was being provided in one shape or the other because the revenues of the states had dropped by 40 per cent due to drop in the country’s revenue.
According to the vice president, the 36 states owed about N685 billion to commercial banks as at today.
He recalled that in the past when there was a bailout by a previous government to the banks, no fewer than eight businessmen owed the banks over N700 billion, adding: “And there was a bailout and nobody complained.”
He said inability to complain explained the problems of not knowing how to deal with problems of the poor, adding, however, that “when the rich are concerned, it is very easy to understand why a bailout might be necessary”.
Osinbajo disclosed that the cost of bailing out all the banks then was N5.3 trillion but that the cost of giving 25 million Nigerians N5,000 each was about N1.35 trillion.
The vice president extolled the virtues of the president’s media assistant, saying he found the attributes of integrity, loyalty and humility in him.
According to him: “From the campaigns up till now, each time I want to test some important ideas, I always share them with Shehu, who consistently gives me wise counsel.
“He is open and willing to engage intellectually and willing to concede when he has a superior opinion.”
He said Shehu was an “elite whose time has come”.
He said there was scarcity of those willing to speak the truth to those in power, especially if they were aides, but that Shehu was always ready to speak truth to the authorities.
Osinbajo said Shehu epitomized the new elite “not the elite that sought power and exercised it without responsibility.
“But, it is the one which realizes that in a nation where two-thirds are extremely poor and poorly educated, that potion that is educated or wealthy must exercise it with responsibility.
“That responsibility is the responsibility to fight for, speak for and defend the teeming poor and the less privileged; the responsibility to ensure good governance, transparency and accountability.”
Osinbajo said the most important cause of poverty was corruption, “official corruption, corruption at the highest level of government”.
The Chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Maitama Sule, criticized the endemic corruption in the country and said the nation was blessed with the calibre of Buhari and Osinbajo at this time to rescue the people.
Responding, Shehu said he was humbled by the reception and commended his media colleagues and the Kano Emirate for assisting him.