That President Muhammmadu Buhari’s administration is in a hurry to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure and catapult its economy from gloom into prosperity has never been in doubt.
Similarly, the government efforts in the fight against insecurity, especially the Boko Haram insurgency as well as the latest menace of the marauding herders, killing and maiming the people, are there for everyone to see.
Ditto the groundswell commendations coming the way of the President in his fight against corruption leading to unprecedented recoveries of funds while those found culpable at the end of their trials are looking forward to becoming the latest guests in the gulag.
The government in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), an economic blueprint for the revival and redirection of the nation’s economy towards growth through diversification, has equally received accolades.
The federal government decision to reflate and restart the economy which recently exited recession by massive investments into infrastructural development leading into job creation and prosperity has become evident in the quantum of funds budgeted for capital projects in the 2018 budget. Over N1.2 trillion was said to have been released for capital projects in the 2017 budget.
But, there have been concerns that not much attention has been paid to the question of human capital investment even as the nation’s population continues to bourgeon. By 2050, Nigeria is projected to have the world’s third largest population and with the rate at which the issue of human capacity development is being handled, the nation may slide into avoidable crisis as it risks dearth of managers of the infrastructure the government is working frantically to build.
Chairman, Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, in his remarks at the Expanded National Economic Council on Investment in Human Capital chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa yesterday, said “By 2050, Nigeria is projected to have the world’s third largest population. For this next generation to thrive as adults and drive economic progress, we need to invest in their health and wellbeing; and in their ability to learn and apply news skills in an ever-changing global economy. That, at its core, is what we mean by “human capital”: healthy and productive and well educated young people who are then enabled to succeed, lift up themselves and their families, and contribute to society through their own ingenuity.
As a business leader, it is my responsibility to offer jobs and opportunity-but can only do that when the people themselves are healthy and have the basic skills.”
There have been complaints that most Nigerian graduates are with obsolete skills and therefore unemployable.
Dangote raised the issue of nutrition noting that the greatest challenge today amongst the poor in Nigeria, who are by all means in the majority, is that of malnutrition which prevents children from realizing their potentials thereby leading to stunting not only in their physical and intellectual growth but also in their education and employability.
The business mogul observed that for Nigeria to truly compete globally, it must prioritize investments in health, education and opportunity of the people alongside other critical areas like infrastructure which will invariably make the country rich.
Bill Gates, Co-Chair of Gates &Melinda Gates Foundation, who claimed to have committed about $1.6 billion in Nigeria so far, counseled that the government should maximize the nation’s greatest resource, her people, by investing more in their health, education and opportunities submitting that ‘Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive’.
Looking at the quality of life, Gates slammed the country. He said “In upper middle-middle income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68. In low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still: just 53 years.
“Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world, ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished”
Hitting the bull!s eye, Gates said ‘The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies “investing in our people” as one of three “strategic objectives”. But the “execution priorities” don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital”
Truth being told, anchoring the nation’s economy over long term investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go in tandem with investment in the people. People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish same way roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.
Osinbajo clearly admitted that the government may not have done enough in prioritizing investments human capital investments considering the reality on ground, he however stressed that the introduction of the Special Intervention Program (SIP) was in the right direction.
According to him, the School Feeding Program of the Buhari’s administration, where primary school pupils are being fed one meal daily, was to tackle the challenge of malnutrition among children. He highlighted that the program has helped increased the number of school children enrollment especially the rural areas.
He also explained that the N-Power and other intervention programs in the SIP were geared toward human capital development just as he charged the state governors to increase their investments in the people.
Good as the government position on this issue may sound, there are indications that it is not doing enough in its investment in the people. For instance, the government in its successive budgets has failed to meet the United Nation’s recommendation of at least 26 percent to cater for the rising needs in the health sector.
In the 2017 budget of N7.3 trillion, only 448.01 billion was allocated to the education sector representing mere 6% against the UNESCO’s recommendation.
Only N51 billion was appropriated for the nation’s health sector in the same 2017 budget culminating into the collapse of the sector across the country. Only recently, the wife of the President raised an alarm that the State House Clinic (SHC), saddled with the responsibility of overlooking the health of the first family and other important government officials, lacked drugs.
It goes to reason therefore that when the elite SHC lacks drugs due to underfunding, health facilities at the rural areas could as well be forgotten. Even some teaching hospitals across the country have become mere consultation centres while some have been converted to mortuaries. Maternal mortality keeps rising especially in the rural areas.
The seeming insurmountable challenge of insecurity in the country could be traced to the government lukewarm attention to the issue of human capital. An educated population of course cannot be an ignorant one where ethnic and religious sentiments hold sway as we have today in this country.
The challenge of Boko Haram insurgence and herders attacks with no value for human lives can be traced to the dearth of investment in human capital development by the government at all levels. Educating the poor will change their perception.
Countries like India, China, United States of America with humongous population are thriving and prospering because they prioritized education of their people. An educated population would constitute a skilled workforce earning well and remitting reasonable taxes to the government.
But Nigeria population has somewhat become a curse because human capital is not well harnessed. The nation’s educational curriculum needs to be overhauled because the world had left esoteric education where courses studied in the higher institutions are not applicable in the 21st century working environment. The world has gone technological and it would serve the nation well if only it could redirect and reengineer its education curriculum to reflect modernity for its graduates to be able to compete well in an ever changing work environment.
While not discountenancing government resolve to provide much needed infrastructure in the country, it would be good for the leaders to heed wise counsels by increasing their investments in human capital development at all levels.