Nigeria’s Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, has promised a new era of passport registration, retrieval and renewal for citizens.

The minister made the promise during the ‘Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola Colloquium 2020,’ which held on Saturday, May 30.

The virtual conference which was live on Youtube, Facebook, Zoom and Twitter, had as its theme: ‘Government Unusual–Innovative economic solutions to unlock mass prosperity.’

Some of the seven panelists drawn from the public and private sectors were Kaduna Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Kebbi Governor Abubakar Bagudu and Bismarck Rewane who is a member of President Buhari’s economic advisory council.

“A new era will arrive in passport delivery in Nigeria,” Aregbesola vowed as he re-echoed a promise he made to one of the panelists, development economist and Country Director of DAI, Dr Joe Abah, who did a nice job of reminding him at the commencement of the session. “Just take away the coronavirus months,” he said in between laughs.

Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola visits Immigration headquarters as soon as he was sworn in minister last August (Interior ministry) Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola visits Immigration headquarters as soon as he was sworn in minister last August (Interior ministry)

Nigeria’s passport processes can be cumbersome, tardy, frustrating; and could take months from registration to retrieval.

Reversing trickle-down economics in Osun

The minister also spoke about how he focused on the majority at the expense of the minority rich as governor of the southwest state.

“I reversed that model completely. Instead of focusing on the top of the pyramid so that wealth trickles to the base of the pyramid, I did the opposite. Let it also be on record that during my time as governor of Osun, we did not incur debts to fund our social programs.

“I also believe that an empowered, mobilised people cannot be a debt burden. What we did in Osun was focus on human capital development because when you do that, you reap in the nearest future,” Aregbesola said.

What the panelists said

The panelists at the colloquium included Kaduna Governor El-Rufai, Chairman of Citibank Yemi Cardoso, CEO of Lotus Capital Limited Hajara Adeola, Country Director of DAI and development economist Abah, a member of the president’s economic advisory council and CEO of Financial Derivatives Ltd Rewane, Statistician General of the Federation Yemi Kale and Governor of Kebbi State Bagudu.

The first ever Aregbesola Colloquium held on May 30, 2020 The first ever Aregbesola Colloquium held on May 30, 2020

Before the discussions kicked off, El-Rufai threw some banter the way of Abah, who has a reputation for controversial and common-sensical hot-takes which often land him in trouble on slippery social media platform, Twitter.

“I have been following the drama on Twitter about you,” El-Rufai teased Abah. “I say they don’t know this man. They attack you every two weeks, if you’ve noticed.”

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State [Twitter/@GovKaduna] Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State [Twitter/@GovKaduna]

According to Abah, Nigeria has to ramp up its productive capacity to deal with rising inequality, unemployment and poverty.

“Productive capacity is the difference between rich and poor countries. The more you produce, the richer you are.

“Nigeria has to raise GDP per worker and GDP per capita,” Abah said.

Dr Joe Abah is Country Director, DAI (Joe Abah) Dr Joe Abah is Country Director, DAI (Joe Abah)

He also added that Nigeria’s Land Use Act of 1978 may just be stifling the nation’s productivity.

The former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms in Nigeria also called for the implementation of the Oronsaye Report which he says will help cut waste in the public service and federal bureaucracy.

In his presentation, Rewane noted that Osun ranked lowest in the multidimensional poverty index in 2016 (6.2%), had the 4th lowest poverty headcount rate in 2019 (8.52%), ranked 14 in the UN’s Human Development Index in 2016 (51.23%), scored a life expectancy ratio of 50.63%; with stellar education and examination pass rates to boot, thanks to Aregbesola’s policies.

“In actual value weighted in dollars, the debt Aregbesola left for Osun is lesser than the debt he met on assumption of office in 2010,” Rewane said.

“It’s during war that Generals are made. In terms of leadership, social contract and connecting with the people, Aregbesola did perfectly well as governor of Osun,” Rewane added.

Bismarck Rewane is a member of President Buhari's Economic Advisory Council (Punch) Bismarck Rewane is a member of President Buhari’s Economic Advisory Council (Punch)

CEO of Lotus Capital, Adeola, dwelt on the importance of financial instruments like Sukuk bonds to bridge the nation’s infrastructure gap and harped on why state governments should slash the cost of Right Of Way (ROW) for Telcos as a way of reviving moribund economies through proliferation of information technology.

She also spoke about the importance of women in the nation’s economy.

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation,” she said, quoting Gustavo Petro, a former Bogotá Mayor.

“Women are one half of the population and they give birth to the other half,” Adeola also emphasized, underscoring the socio-economic importance of women.

In their presentations, Cardoso and Kale spoke about the importance of developing an innovative framework for Nigeria to align with the country’s growth strategy; and why governors should understand their states better so they know where to apply development resources, respectively.

“The contribution of education and family size to poverty reduction represents an important opportunity for policymakers to fast-track poverty reduction,” Kale said.

Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State(Kebbi Govt)
Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State(Kebbi Govt)

Kebbi Governor Bagudu spoke on the important role Agriculture must play in a new Nigerian economy while El-Rufai challenged Nigerians to elect more capable leaders and hold them to account.

El-Rufai also promised to table the presentations made at the conference at national economic council meetings, council of state meetings and the forum of the nation’s 36 governors.

The first Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola Colloquium was put together to commemorate the minister’s 63rd birthday.