The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday proposed new sets of policy measures in response to the challenges posed by the country's over-dependence on oil as the only major source of income.
While the PDP said it is implementing policies that would make the economy an all-inclusive one through the privatisation and liberalisation of critical sectors of the economy, APC said it would target investments in agriculture and related industries as well as revive the textile industry as a basis for creating jobs for the unemployed.
Speaking at a debate organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development in conjunction with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the PDP representative, Dr. Katchi Ononuju, said it is not true that the country was lagging behind but instead the party had been able to stabilise the economy leading to the achievement of the feat as the largest economy in Africa.
He said his party would create two million more jobs yearly. He cited the rising profile of Nigerians in the entertainment industry where many young Nigerians have been encouraged to make inroads and earn their living.
He also said President Goodluck Jonathan's administration had done a lot in the area of agriculture and had increased local production of rice and other staple food.
He said the President Jonathan-led administration had been pursuing an economic development programme tailored towards a market-driven economy, adding that the vast opportunities offered Nigerians of school age up to university level particularly in the northern part of the country to access education and then compete favourably with their counterparts from the southern part of Nigeria, underlines the resolve of the government to open up the economic space to all Nigerians.
Ononuju, who referred to the successes recorded in the fertiliser distribution to farmers, remarked that the efforts which had eliminated the problems associated with the unbearing influence of middle men and corruption, had translated into the establishment of 2.5 million farms, increased yields of farm produce to the tune of 12 million tonnes of food items as well as job creation for the teeming population of Nigerians.
Indeed, the PDP chieftain argued that due to the abundance of food in the polity, the prices of food had remained stable in spite of the recent devaluation of the naira.
He said the resolve by the Jonathan-led government to unbundle the power sector was aimed at reviving the nation's industrial sector.
He stated further that the fall in the price of oil could be a blessing in disguise as emphasis would now be focused on revitalising the solid mineral sector of the economy.
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who represented the party during the debate, said the party would invest in massive infrastructure development and education to support economic growth.
He also said an APC government would encourage the setting up of more local refineries in order to create more jobs and sources of income.
"We will establish local technology incubation schools to create the right foundation for technological growth," he said.
Mohammed, who faulted the federal government over its claim that Nigeria's economy has improved drastically, further explained that one of the essence of amending the constitution and the Land Use Act was to revive the solid mineral sector which has little or no incentive to attract foreign investment.
Assuring Nigerians that an APC-led government would unbundle the oil and gas sector, he added: "We don't rejig figures in the offices; we work with the facts on ground. How do you explain that in a population of about 170 million, over a 100 million hardly eke out a living on daily basis, the government is boasting about providing 5,000 megawatts of electricity to our people, when 40 per cent of Nigerians are not sure of living up to 40 years, when only 3 per cent of the population have electricity cover, what are you bandying about? As long as the economy does not translate to better infrastructure, and jobs for our teeming population of the unemployed, the economy is not performing. The government has failed."
Mohammed said the claim of being the biggest economy in Africa is doubtful considering the massive unemployment and poverty in the land. He said there is hardly any tangible improvement in access to electricity.
He said APC would create three million jobs yearly, adding that under infrastructure, the party would construct 3,000 kilometres super highways and 4,000 km rail line network.
He said the party, if elected into office, would target investment in agriculture and related industry, adding that: “We are going to revive the textile industry.”
On the issue of the growth in the entertainment industry, he said the government had not been able to ensure protection of the intellectual properties which has left the practitioners to only enjoy the glamour without much to write home about in terms of income.
On how the party could be held accountable to their promises, he said the hallmark of democracy is the power the electorate has to reject any party that failed to keep its promises. He said if the party fails it should be given the red card.