The Republic of Ireland has described the economic diversification programme of the Federal Government as a concrete step to pull the country out of recession, calling for stronger ties to enable Nigeria benefit from the Irish experience.
Irish Ambassador to Nigeria, Sean Hoy, while on a courtesy visit to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in Abuja, said Ireland was encouraged by the determined efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari, to diversify the economy, by investing in agriculture and other areas, to lessen dependence on oil and import, and pull the economy out of recession.
“When we had the meeting of ambassadors in Ireland in January, I told them we needed to renew our relationship with Nigeria to see if there is anything we can do to help or share together from our experience,” he said.
The ambassador, who said his meeting with the Minister was timely in view of rampant cases of labour unrest occasioned by the dwindling economy, called for renewed social partnership to tame the situation, adding that tough times often give rise to adverse labour relations.
He noted that Nigeria has strong factors of endowment as well as determined citizenry to surmount her present challenges, citing the recent election of Mrs. Amina Mohammed as the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) as an instance.
In his response, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said every nation passes through phases of development, “some good, others bad,” and that the determination of a people was always critical to pull through such situations.
“Your country, Ireland, has passed through similar experience, a crushing recession and emerged from it. Nigeria would learn from the doggedness of the Irish people and also emerge from recession,” Ngige said.
He added that labour relations in a depressed economy all over the world was usually frosty as a result of dwindling earnings on the part of workers and employers, stressing that the cardinal focus of the present administration was to stem down job losses in a situation where government was purely handicapped to create many new jobs for the expectant population.
He further said Nigeria was mindful of unsettling its social equilibrium, hence, the determined efforts of government to expand social investment net to cushion the effects of recession, ease hardship and curb social unrest.
“We are diversifying into agriculture and mining to create jobs for the people. We are also focusing on social security. Out of 500,000 youths captured in our social intervention programme, 200,000 are already working while plans are in top gear to take on the rest.”
“We are investing on skills acquisition for these youths. The conditional cash transfer has also taken off in nine states. By the end of February, we will take the number to 18 states while the remaining states are targeted for inclusion by the middle of the year.
“We are doing all we can as government to move Nigeria out of recession. There is nothing permanent in life. So, Nigeria will come out of recession. I just came in from the inaugural meeting of the Federal Government Committee on Food Security as well as that on Social Investment. We are working to make sure we have enough food to feed ourselves.”
The Minister sought the technical assistance of the Ireland ambassador in the skills acquisition programme of the Federal Government and in international labour migration to enable Nigerians with skills to legally migrate and work in their country.