*Attributes progress recorded in economy to effective coordination between FG, States
“We are discovering every day that the business of governing is becoming more complex and nuanced, therefore the sensible approach is collaboration, and sharing of ideas and working together at every opportunity that we can get.
“The National Economic Council has worked so well because of the cooperation of the state governors, across party lines, we have worked so efficiently and so well together and that has accounted for a lot of the successes, in my view, of the Federal Government itself.’’
SPEECH DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, THE VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE OPENING SESSION OF THE SGF RETREAT FOR SSGs AT THE STATE HOUSE CONFERENCE CENTRE ON TUESDAY DECEMBER 19, 2017
Our brand new Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha deserves our commendation for resuscitating this important interaction between the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Secretaries to State Governments, and the topic is apt indeed – “strengthening inter-governmental relations for good governance and national security”.
One of the great challenges of federations is that while the Federal government and State governments enjoy some individual autonomy they must still operate as one government, the government of the federation in order to serve the best economic and social interest of the people.
So, when we speak of the Nigerian economy it is the sum of the economies of the Federal Government and the States, yet each government determines its own priorities, draws up its own budget, and implements its own programmes and projects. So, this situation where we are separate but we must work as one requires in my view, a considerable depth of understanding, ingenuity, and patriotism on the part of the bureaucracies of the Federal and State governments.
So, a meeting such as this where the agenda and modalities for collaboration may be set is in my view, an eminently sensible idea, and requires full support if we are to meet the expectations of our people.
Permit me to briefly narrate a success story, just to demonstrate the seminal importance of Federal and State cooperation in achieving National objectives. One of the crucial concerns of our economic development agenda as we set it in what is called the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan was how to ramp up local and foreign investments with a view to creating jobs. So, we needed to dramatically improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria. Our plans involved improving amongst others, speed and efficiency in the acquisition of land and registration of title, and obtaining construction permits, etc. To achieve these we, of course, needed to work collaboratively with the States. Registration of title and construction permits are in any event exclusively within the competence of states.
So, we shared our 60-day national action plan with the states at the National Economic Council meeting. And then we picked two focal States Lagos and Kano and worked with them for months to shorten the processes required to obtain these approvals. We set ourselves 60 days to achieve these targets and we succeeded phenomenally. We moved up an unprecedented 24 spaces in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings and were declared one of the 10 most improved economies in the world in 2017.
This is what Federal and State governments collaboration can achieve. Again, the National Economic Council provides a crucial platform for Federal and State collaboration and synergy on economic and economy-related issues. In developing the ERGP extensive discussions took place at the NEC and I must say that the National Economic Council has worked so well because of the cooperation of the state governors, across party lines, we have worked so efficiently and so well together and that has accounted for a lot of the successes, in my view, of the Federal Government itself.
Barely two months ago NEC hosted a Security summit. The security summit was crucial in understanding and dimensioning the security problems of the country and the weaknesses of our security architecture. The summit examined issues of kidnapping, small arms trafficking, to the terrorist activities of Boko Haram in the Northeast; we considered the problem of herdsmen and farmer clashes and cattle rustling. Several initiatives were approved, and one of the things I think is worth mentioning is that it was on account of the security summit that the governors at the Governors’ Forum decided that they would vote a certain sum of money, which has become controversial, to assist the security architecture of the country. It is to achieve all of the issues including policing in the states and all of the different security challenges that we face. So, it was after the security summit that the Governor’s forum met, across party lines in order to approve and accept that this is what needed to be done to strengthen our security architecture.
But despite the important initiatives and decisions of NEC, little will ultimately be achieved if we do not have relevant State government agencies actively working with the Federal Government to implement. The role of Secretaries to State Governments is clearly central to cascading the action points and conclusions to the relevant MDAs in those states. And this is so whether we are implementing the Federal government’s fertilizer policy, or Anchor Borrowers’ programme in the States. Indeed it is clear that the largest piece of land that Federal Government of Nigeria has is the one over which the FCT superintends, everything else is in the state, so the agricultural policy of the government of the federation is actually the agricultural policy of all of the states. Our Anchor Borrower’s programme cannot be a Federal Government programme, it is a programme of all of us because we control no territory outside of Abuja and perhaps a few scattered pieces of federal lands here and there.
Again, the SGF’s office hosts the ecological fund, and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), this is just an example of two of the agencies that are hosted in the SGF’s office. Both agencies frequently intervene in the States, States frequently complain of lack of consultation before ecological projects are chosen and implemented. As a matter of fact, we have held a full session of NEC just looking at the implementation of the ecological fund and all of that. And there are similar complaints about emergency interventions through NEMA as well. But it is the SSGs office that must engage the SGF’s office closely on these issues, to enable their states to benefit maximally from these interventions.
We are discovering every day that the business of governing is becoming more complex and nuanced. There is a greater need to think out of the box and to seek creative solutions and ideas. Ideas are neither the preserve of the federal government or its functionaries nor that of any sub-national; therefore the sensible approach is collaboration, and sharing of ideas and working together at every opportunity that we can get.
I have always been humbled by the incredible opportunity that public service gives us to make a difference in the lives of millions of our people. The opportunity to implement policies that could simplify the processes for doing things that could be game-changer changers for the economy and the nation. Even the opportunity to serve at such high levels of government in a nation of 180 million: how many will ever be SGF or SSG even if you change the occupants every year in 10 years you will still have less than 500 SSGs in the entire country of 180 million people.
So, Providence has found us worthy to serve this nation and its great people, let us give it our best shot and I think that this country deserves the very best from all of us.
As I round up, let me wish you all, a Merry Christmas and I pray that the year 2018 will be our best year yet for the Federal Government and the state governments.
It is now my special pleasure and privilege to declare this retreat open.
Thank you very much.