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The Vice Presidential candidates of the two leading political parties in the 2019 general elections, Professor Yemi Osinbajo of the All Progressives Congress, and Peoples Democratic Party’s Dr. Peter Obi on Friday engaged what could be described as vocal battle during the debate organised for Vice Presidential Candidates by the Nigeria Election Debate Group (NEDG)in collaboration with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeri(BON) and Civil Society Organisations in Abuja

Peter Obi said that Nigeria will be faced with crisis if the nation does not create jobs stressing that revamping the economy cannot be relegated at the expense of the fight against corruption.

“Fighting corruption is not an economic policy, it is not that you can’t fight corruption, but you can fight it more aggressively while addressing economic issues”.

Buhari administration has been known for priority given to the fight against corruption over improving the growth of the economy.

“You can not close down your shop and be chasing criminals”. he stated.

The incumbent Vice President,Yemi Osinbajo rebutted with a question,

“If you allow the criminals to steal all the inventory in the shop, there will be no shop”.

Osinbajo blamed the nation’s slow economic growth on the high level of corruption which he says was witnessed under the 16-year rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP who is also a former governor of Anambra state reiterated his stand that the increasing rate of unemployment and poverty in the country and economic losses incurred by Nigeria. He said

“In 2015 unemployment rate was 24 percent but today it is 40.

“In 2015, we were attracting 21billion dollars in foreign direct investment; we attracted only 12 last year.

“Our GDP was five hundred and twenty in 2015 and per-capital was two thousand five hundred, today it is under 1900.

“Our stock market has lost over two trillion in one year”.

He added “We now live in a country where we have the highest number of poor people in any nation 87 million and growing six percent every minute.

“Our country today has the highest number of out of school children in the world

“In terrorism, we have moved from number 7 to number 3 just behind Iran and Afghanistan

“Our inequality has worsened, our misery index has worsened, our stress index we are now 148 over 149.

“If you look at all these, it hinges on two things from studies, and that is education and unemployment”.

He warned “As long as we don’t create jobs and have the number of unemployed youths that we have today, we are going to have a crisis.”

Again, Osinbajo countered “You cannot have a thriving economy if you allow the type of grand corruption that has taken place in Nigeria in the past 16 years.

“We are where we are today because of sixteen years of mismanagement of Nigeria resources by the PDP’s administration” He stated.

He explained “With all due respect, if you don’t have resources, if you don’t have money or the resources have been stolen, then you cannot possibly even generate jobs or build infrastructure”.

According to Vice President Osinbajo, “The administration has spent N2.7 trillion on capital – “the highest ever in the history of Nigeria, despite earning 60 % less than the previous government”.

We have currently spent 2.7 trillion in two budget cycles and we’re earning 60 per cent less.

When oil was at $100 dollars to $114 a barrel, no infrastructure was built. Oil is at sub 60, when we came into office we were $28 going on to $30, yet we spent more on capital and on infrastructure,”

The two speakers also disagreed on whether Nigeria has improved its ambience to attract foreign investment.

While Obi reeled out statistics about the volume of foreign investment in other economies, Osinbajo punctured it saying the countries Obi cited, such as South Africa and China have one thing in common: adequate infrastructure.

But it was again punctured by Osinbajo who said the APC government is investing heavily in roads and rail transport.

He also reminded the audience where Nigeria was in 2015 in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business, rising from 170th position in 2015 to 146th today stressing the Buhari administration in three and half years, despite declining financial resources, has changed the narrative.

Osinbajo blamed Nigeria’s infrastructural deficit from 1999 to 2015 on the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) administration stressed that the Buhari administration in three and half years, despite declining financial resources, has changed the narrative.

Obi further said there was need to review the country`s subsidy regime in the interest of the nation, adding that if the right thing was done, the price of petroleum products would drop. However, he was vague about ‘the right thing that should be done’.

He said the PDP government would properly support Small and Medium Enterprises in the country as well create enabling environment to attract foreign investors.

While Osinbajo explained that subsidy of petroleum products is not inherently bad as the United States and other countries have all kinds of subsidies in place. He also said the present government has come up with several programmes to support SMEs, including investing in power at some markets in the country.

“This is not about what we are going to do, but what we are already doing’, he said.

Also speaking at the debate, Mrs Umma Getso, Young Progressives Party Vice Presidential Candidate said the girl-child education and women empowerment was her priority.

She stressed that her party had all it takes to move the country to the next level, adding that subsidy in petroleum products was a scam and should be removed completely.

She emphasised the need to rebuild the country`s economy which she said is all encompassing, adding that her party would ensure constitutional restructuring and electricity redistribution.

Alliance for New Nigeria Vice Presidential Candidate, Khadijah Abudullahi-Iya said her party if voted into office, would ensure transparency in government`s institutions, diversify the economy and address issues surrounding petroleum subsidy.

She also said that her party had in place policies that would address unemployment, and encourage free trade to grow the economy.

Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria Vice Presidential Candidate said his party would work with technocrats to develop the country`s economy and make her the envy of other nations.

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He said his party would privatise all government business to make them more productive.

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