The outgoing Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdul’aziz Yari, said the increasing rate of unproductive population in the country constitutes a time bomb and must be addressed.
Mr Yari, who is also the outgoing governor of Zamfara, stated this during the valedictory session of the National Economic Council (NEC) held at the State House, Abuja, on Thursday.
The governor who said: “We are sitting on a time bomb,” stressed the need for urgent actions against the increase in the number of unproductive population in the country.
He, therefore, urged the federal government to expand the economy by way of spending more on the nation’s agricultural sector to check the menace of youth redundancy in the country.
“I will say, yes, government has done tremendously well in terms of expanding the economy through agriculture by spending over N200 billion through the anchor borrower programme but we need to do more because we all agree that agriculture is the mainstay of this economy.
“It provides over 80 per cent of the employment. So, if two trillion naira can be spent yearly on oil development we need to increase our spending on agriculture too.
“With what we are seeing as governors especially from the zone where I come from, the rate of population growth, if nothing is done to address it, I am afraid Mr Chairman, we are sitting on a time bomb. And that’s the truth.
“Mr Chairman, we have a very gigantic job and we have to start now. If other associations are doing nothing, we have to lay a foundation otherwise in the next 10 to 15 years if we did not plan properly, we will be faced with a serious problem.
“I think even Niger Republic that is not up to the size of Kano State, they have their plan on the population; they know the number of people they have, the dead, new born and all. Mr Chairman, if Nigeria must move forward we must expand our economy,’’ he said.
On ways to boost the nation’s revenue base, Mr Yari said that “proactive measures must be taken to ensure that some laws are repealed most especially the ones that have to do with NNPC, the issue of Offshore, Royalties Payment and other issues.”
He advised that revenue generating agencies of the government should be given targets, saying “with my experience from 2011 to date I think we are just giving them free hand.
“We need to give them a kind of target, even the NNPC itself. What the NNPC is spending especially when it comes to the issue of cash call, it’s in trillions but what comes into the basket for two hundred million people to share is very meager.”
Mr Yari, who officially introduced the Chairman-elect of the forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, thanked his colleagues for giving him the opportunity to serve them in the last four years.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, who spoke on behalf of governors from the South-west at the event, described members of the council as the set of governors that the subsequent council should emulate, because of their team spirit.
He noted that they were able to talk freely and express themselves, without actually considering whether somebody was PDP or APC, saying their common objectives was the economic issues that pervaded the whole country.
He said: “Considering the fact that we all came in when we had a backlog of salaries, I want to congratulate us because when we came in almost about 27 states could not pay salaries.
“And then, two subsequent meetings led to Mr president giving us the intervention which also led to the clearing of the backlog.
“So, we like to say a big thank you to the president and vice-president for taking us through that resession.’’
Outgoing Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo, who also spoke on behalf of South-east governors , commended President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for their passion and love for the country.
Mr Okorocha, who lamented that he would be missing his colleagues, threw the venue of the meeting into loud laughter when he jokingly advised Mr Osinbajo to always distance himself from Adams Oshiomhole and Nasir El-Rufai.
He jokingly said: “I feel like a member of the family when I look at my left and right, even the worst of them like the Oshiohmoles and El-Rufais even within this I still feel like member of the family.
“This people I mention, Mr chairman (Osinbajo) I do not know why you share one thing in common with them. May I request you henceforth to distance yourself from them.
“I will miss this chamber really and I don’t know where I will meet people like El-Rufai again to talk to.
“All my colleagues especially the outgoing ones have contributed a lot today to what we have as Nigeria.’’
The governor also advised the council to set targets for state governors so as to encourage performance in states.