Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has lauded the resilience of Nigerians, saying the country and its people will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger.
According to a statement by Osinbajo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, the Vice-President spoke at the 2020 edition of The Platform, themed ‘Nigeria’s battle against COVID-19’ on Saturday.
The annual event of the Covenant Christian Centre that features discussions around the states of the country and its development was held by videoconference.
Osinbajo said, “We will get through this much stronger economically and much stronger as a people because of our resilience. There are a lot of challenges, but they offer significant opportunities for us to turn things around.”
“I am very confident that Nigerians, with our resilience, our strength and our innovation, will go through this in great shape.”
The Vice-President laid out some of the Federal Government’s efforts to address the economic fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on how the country can transform the challenges caused by the pandemic into opportunities for economic diversification and job creation, he said, “We have to prioritise the use of local resources in all public works. In road construction, for instance, it is cheaper to build concrete roads using limestone than spending resources on the importation of bitumen.
“We have limestone in abundance hence we should be looking in that direction. The road from the Apapa port to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is being built with cement and is of high quality.
“In the housing sector, where we have a huge deficit, we need to focus on using local resources to build houses and, in the process, we will be creating opportunities for young engineers, architects and builders, etc.”
In the area of agriculture, the Vice-President said government’s initial policies had saved the country from the huge foreign exchange burden of food imports and related activities.
Osinbajo stated, “We think that by ramping up agriculture, especially small holder agriculture and improving the value chain, especially in storage and processing facilities, more jobs will be created for many young people.
“We have found ourselves in a situation where we realise that the way to go is to support the creation of the jobs in agriculture and reduce food imports and ultimately address the issue of unemployment and food shortages.
“What we must do as much as we can is to change the narrative about Nigeria and provide more jobs.”
On mitigating the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic such as inflation, the Vice-President explained that government would focus on improving productivity and improving food stock across the country.
He said, “If you can ramp up food production and the logistics of bringing food to the urban centres, inflation will be controlled to a large extent.”
Osinbajo added that boosting agricultural production for export purposes and supporting the mining sector would bolster the country’s forex earnings and reserves.
Other contributors at the virtual summit included Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State, and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chike Ihekweazu, also spoke at the interaction which included interviews, panel discussion and speeches.
The event was moderated by the Convener of The Platform, Pastor Poju Oyemade.
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