The National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has the blueprint to tackle Nigeria’s developmental challenges.
He noted that Nigeria has enormously and critical challenges in many sectors especially in areas of health, poverty, education and unemployment.
He, however, said Buhari’s administration had worked out immediate, intermediate and long term measures to ameliorate the challenges in all critical sectors.
Mohammed spoke on Thursday during his 9th Ramadan Lecture in Oro, Kwara State.
He said Buhari’s government would solve the problems ‘even in the face of paucity of funds.
According to him, the paucity of funds was caused by the fall in the price of crude oil, which Nigeria depended on for most of its foreign exchange earnings.
He added that the paucity of funds was caused by the alleged “unbridled and maddening corruption that has seen public officers ferreting away public funds.”
Mohammed said, “I have deliberately taken us through the grim statistics in the very key areas of health, education, poverty and unemployment to drive home the point that we are in trouble, as a nation, if we don’t act in a deliberate, concerted and determined way to turn things around for the better.”
He said that while Nigerians had made history by voting for the APC to take over the reins of power from a ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, that held sway for 16 years, they must now follow up by ensuring that the process of change – which they brought about – came into fruition.
According to him, the best way to do it is for Nigerians to remain politically-aware and engaged as they were in the run-up to the elections.
“That simply means they must be willing to defend the change they voted for by continuing to support the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, while preventing the reactionary forces, who never wanted or voted for change anyway, from sabotaging his party’s change mantra. Whatever is worth fighting for is worth defending.
“I say this with all sense of responsibility, and against the stark realities that we face daunting challenges in all sectors. Never before has our nation been put in a situation where it virtually had to start rebuilding from the scratch, after almost all sectors have become nearly comatose. This is why it is necessary for the new government at the centre to make haste slowly, and get it right once and for all.
“Whereas we face huge problems in the economic and security sectors, as well as in the area of infrastructural renewal, just to mention a few, let us restrict ourselves to the social issues alone for the purpose of these remarks.”
He said that the nation’s health sector was in serious distress.
According to him, Nigeria’s health statistics are worse than the average for African countries, even though Nigeria claims to be the giant of Africa.
He said 128 children were dying in every 1000 live births as of 2013 while mortality from malaria was estimated at 1,157 deaths per 100,000 population.
He added that tuberculosis was estimated at five deaths per 100,000 population in 2013.
He stated that “about 900,000 children and mothers die each year in Nigeria, accounting for 14 per cent of all maternal and 13 per cent of all under-5 deaths globally, and second only to India.”
According to him, at 576 deaths per 100,000 live births, the maternal mortality ratio has remained static since 2008.
He stated that although child mortality is falling, progress is insufficient to reach the MDG targets.
Mohammed also said that “an increasing proportion of child deaths, that is 37 per cent, occurs during the first month of life from largely preventable causes which are complications during birth, infection and complications of premature births.”
He added that under-nutrition remained a significant challenge, contributing to 35 per cent of deaths in children under-5 years in Nigeria.
“The proportion of underweight – children who have low weight for their age- increased by 21% between 2003 and 2013, and the proportion of children with wasting, that is low weight for height, increased by 64% during the same period.
“Overall, socio-economic and geographical inequalities in health outcomes and access to healthcare are stark and increasing, with the poor and rural having worst outcomes.
“In the area of immunisation, Nigeria is still one of the three remaining polio-endemic countries, together with Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition, Nigeria has the world’s largest burden of HIV-positive newborns, with more than 50,000 children born with positive status each year.”
The APC spokesperson said Nigeria’s education system should prepare the children for the responsibilities of citizenship and prepare the youths to contribute to the development of the country.
He stated that unfortunately the current system was failing to equip Nigeria’s children with the knowledge and skills they needed to thrive in today’s rapidly changing society and economy.
According to him,the current situation of education in Nigeria depicts large numbers of children, that is 10.5 million, remain out of school.
He added that children from poorer households, rural areas and females were more likely not to be in school.
According to him, primary school attendance is 44 per cent in the northeast compared to 81 per cent in the southeast.
Even when children are in school, a large proportion are not learning.
According to him nearly half of all children who have completed primary school cannot read a complete sentence.
Mohammed also said that a large proportion of Nigerian population live very close to the poverty line and are highly vulnerable to small variations of income.
He stated that since 2003, Nigeria had recorded strong economic growth, with real Gross Domestic Product growth averaging seven per cent.
He added that however, in the same period, poverty rate had only declined slightly from about 48.4 per cent in 2003 to 46 per cent in 2010.