Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has expressed concern over the extreme poverty situation of some Nigerians, noting that it is what gives him sleepless nights.
Osinbajo made this statement at an interactive session with faculty members of the Harvard Business School (HBS) who were in Lagos on Tuesday.
The vice president featured on a panel alongside Srikant Datar, professor of business administration (HBS), and Bayo Ogunlesi, a Nigerian investment banker.
The session was moderated by Hakeem Bello-Osagie, chairman of Metis Capital Partners.
“I think what keeps me up at night has to do with extreme poverty; the issue is that the largest number of those who vote for us are the very poor,” he said.
“The promises that government makes to them is that their lives will be better and obviously they are looking at their lives being better in the shortest possible time.
“I will like to see Nigeria being an industrialized nation in the next 10 years; a very strong middle class and most people living above the poverty line,’’
Speaking on what government is doing to address poverty, Osinbajo said, some policies were taking into account people at the bottom of the pyramid with a focus on agriculture and getting credit facilities to farmers in order to achieve self-sufficiency.
He said many farmers in the country had been lifted out of poverty by the Buhari administration.
He noted that a lot of attention had also been given to the social intervention programmes (SIPs) which factored the provision of cheap credit to petty traders at the bottom of the pyramid.
The Vice-president told his audience that Nigeria was open to business with its various potentials and urged Nigerian investors abroad to look homewards.
“If you are going to do business anywhere in Africa, it has to be Nigeria. This is where you have the energy; you have the drive,” he said.
“We are already seeing that kind of activity; business people will always be driven by profit. Talent will always go in the direction where it is best rewarded; one can’t afford to be sentimental about that.
“As people see that the environment is getting better for business, they will come back; the opportunities for making huge profits are here. Practically everything we are doing in to ensure that there is an environment for business to thrive. People are leaving but people are coming back.’’
He said the federal government is encouraging manufacturers through the special economic zones (SEZ).
The vice-president said the government was looking at natural economic clusters and had set up shared facilities and power.
He said a lot was going on the agro-allied sector and of course, resolving the power challenges.
“In the next few months, we will unveil a plan that deals with most of the critical issues in the power sector,’’ he said.
This is as President Muhammadu Buhari on the June 12 Democracy day, expressed optimism that his administration can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
Also speaking, Ogunlesi said the era of depending on government for infrastructure was gone, adding that the federal government had no business running infrastructure in Nigeria, especially the airports.
Muhammadu Sanusi, the emir of Kano, on his part, called for urgent action to address the high poverty rate in Nigeria, especially in the north-west.
He also advocated for a committee on girl-child education to boost enrolment in schools and uplift their living standards.