What President Buhari told governors at NEC meeting

President Muhammadu Buhari has challenged state governors to pay more attention to the areas of security, health, education and agriculture so as to address the menace of poverty in the society.

The President gave the challenge when he inaugurated the 2019 to 2023 National Economic Council (NEC) and its maiden meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.

According to him, if these four areas (security, education, health and agriculture) are actively implemented and closely monitored by NEC and the Governors’ Forum, “we shall in the near future see a more peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.’’

The president enjoined the States to find ways to increase internally generated revenues, improve VAT collection and increase agricultural output without disrupting business activities.

President Buhari observed that the Federal Government in the last four years had demonstrated unwavering inclusiveness in dealing with every State, notwithstanding the political leaning of the Governor or the predominant party in power at the State level.

“I want this to be your model at the State level. No matter which party we belong to, let us shun divisive policies and join hands together for the upliftment of our people,’’ he said.

He restated the high expectations on NEC as a veritable source of articulating policies and programmes that are expected to drive growth and development, secure the environment and take the country to the next level.

He also noted that the challenges confronting the nation in the next few years, especially in the areas of security, human capital development and employment for the youths are monumental and historic.

On Security, the president assured that the government would continue to rate security of lives and properties as top priority on its agenda.

He said government was firmly committed to securing the territorial integrity of the nation, while confronting the remnants of terrorists, bandits and other criminals across the country.

He further maintained that there must be collective and deliberate efforts by all to improve the security of lives and properties across the country, saying that “security is a bottom to top operation.

On education, President Buhari stressed the need to take very seriously and enforce very rigorously the statutory provisions on free and compulsory basic education.

President Buhari, therefore, urged the governors to make a firm commitment to be personally involved in ensuring that every child of school age actually goes to school throughout the crucial nine years of basic education.

He opined that, on its own part, the federal government would strive to extend the school feeding programme which will not only encourage school enrolment but also enhance the health and learning capabilities of pupils.

He said the government would also assist states as much as possible to access the counterpart funding provided by UBEC for the development of basic education.

The president, who also spoke extensively on the nation’s healthcare system, identified lack of adequate funding as major obstacle to the realization of the nation’s goals in the health sector.

President Buhari said the governors must resolve to increase budgetary allocation to health and ensure prompt fund releases to keep the hospitals and primary healthcare centres in operation at all times.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had earlier highlighted the role of NEC, describing it as “an important body that advises and sometimes implements economic and social policies that affects the livelihood of Nigerians’’.

Osinbajo said Thursday’s meeting would be focusing on the crucial issue of national security and the meeting’s recommendations would be forwarded to the president for his possible consideration.