The Minister and Deputy Chairman of the National Planning Commission, Dr Shamsuddeen Usman has restated that the Vision 20:2020, accompanied by three mid-term (2010-2013, 2014-2017, 2018-2020) Implementation Plans, is aimed at poverty reduction and economic growth.
Speaking at an “Advanced Policy Dialogue on Planning for Economic Recovery and Development in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone” in Freetown, Siera Leone, the minister further said that Nigeria went through periods, when planning was abandoned in favour of privatisation and market led economic growth but the need for a National Plan became apparent between the 2002-2004 transition years, leading to a decision to develop the National & States Economic & Empowerment (NEEDS & SEEDS) plans.
He continued: “From 2005 to date, Nigeria’s commitment to re-positioning planning at the heart of economic development, saw the development of a new National long term strategy. It is pertinent to point out that the interdependent world we live in today means the successful implementation of any development plan must take into cognisance the regional context."
He therefore called on four West African English speaking countries, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria, to engender effective and mutually beneficial cooperation among themselves, if they are to achieve sustainable economic growth and national development.
Dr Usman said, “Post-conflict reconstruction must institutionalise and balance long term plans with short term issues in a way that enables countries to take strategic control of their economies.” He recounted the experiences of Nigeria, posts the 1966-70 civil war and noted that the country was able to achieve an 8% economic growth rate against the target of 6% set in the 2nd National Development Plan of 1970-1974, due to proper planning.
Dr Usman highlighted the need for a new dawn in cooperation between Nigeria and Sierra Leone and Liberia where peace-making and keeping effort of Nigeria in the recent conflicts in those countries is fully recognised and reciprocated by a new spirit of mutually beneficial relationship, especially in the areas of economic cooperation. He informed the gathering that the Federal Government of Nigeria is in fact currently reviewing all the bi-lateral and similar cooperation agreements to ensure that Nigeria’s interest is clearly defined and protected.
The Director, United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, in his speech said the Dialogue was organised to re-inforce planning in National development, facilitate cross-regional learning, explore inter-ministerial policy and practice coordination and review capacity gaps in government, civil society and donor agencies.
The Sierra Leonean Minister for Finance and Economic Development, Mr Samura Kamara, said the current peaceful atmosphere in Sierra Leone is attributable to the Nigerian government and people who actually played a significant role in the ECOMOG peace keeping operations. "They gave their lives and money and no amount of words can express our gratitude to Nigeria. We appreciate the role they continue to play in our debt relief efforts and, through the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) Programme, Nigeria continues to support our education and free health programmes"
This sentiment was also echoed by the Deputy Minister for Liberia, Mr Marcus Dahn, who praised the gallantry of Nigerian soldiers in ensuring and maintaining peace in the country. He added that there was no substitute for the experiences and prospects brought about by Nigeria’s intervention.