A budget prioritising Nigerians, by Fredrick Nwabufo

Build the people. They build the nation. Human capital investments are the most profitable. They deliver the highest returns on investment.

A skilled population is a productive one. Skills are treasures; they are the diamond mines of the new age. Nigeria is a country where there is an affluence of unsullied, diverse talents and abilities. Should we not tap and refine these raw gems to their purest and truest value?

The place of investment in infrastructure cannot be vitiated or discounted. Investment in infrastructure is an essential ingredient for driving economic growth and development. But investment in infrastructure should go pari-passu with investment in human capital development. It should not be at the expense of human capital investments. In the case of Nigeria, a glut of priority should be on human capital development, but without diminishing infrastructure investments.

On human capital investments, a World Bank article says inter alia: ‘’There is a moral case to be made, of course, for investing in the health and education of all people. But there is an economic one as well: to be ready to compete and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. ‘Human capital’ – the potential of individuals – is going to be the most important long-term investment any country can make for its people’s future prosperity and quality of life. Governments have long invested in economic growth by focusing on physical capital — roads, bridges, airports, and other infrastructure. But they have often under-invested in their people, in part because the benefits have been much slower and harder to measure.’’

Nigeria needs infrastructure. It also needs to put its human resources to the most productive and efficient use. Utilitarianism of choice. There is a huge chasm in human capital investments not only in Nigeria, but across Africa owing to the prioritisation of brick-and-mortar development over human capacity building. Nigeria currently ranks poorly on the global Human Capital Index (HCI). It is among the bottom seven – 152 out of 157 countries.

It is heartening that the Tinubu administration is prioritising investments on human capital — on Nigerians; a people who are immensely blessed with potential and boundless abilities. We have to create a knowledge-driven economy. Crude oil, gold, and other precious metals may run their finite course, but knowledge and skills, though ever changing, will always be the legal tender of now and the future.

The Tinubu administration’s Budget of Renewed Hope is a prescient and prudent effort to build, harness, and deploy Nigeria’s greatest asset – its people. Nigeria’s wealth is not solely the tangibles of crude oil and solid minerals; it is the collective potentialities of its citizens — most of them unexplored and unexploited.

President Bola Tinubu says defence and internal security, job creation, macro-economic stability, better investment environment, human capital development, poverty reduction, and social security are the top priorities of the 2024 Budget of Renewed Hope.

Addressing a joint session of the National Assembly on the 2024 Federal budget proposal on Wednesday in Abuja, President Tinubu said the nation’s internal security architecture will be overhauled to enhance law enforcement capabilities with a view to safeguarding lives, property, and investments across the country.

Significantly, the President said the proposed budget prioritises human capital development because human capital is the most critical resource for national development. He is very right, and in harmony with the exigencies of the ever evolving world.

It is foreseeable that investments will be tailored towards sectors with critical volume for mass skill acquisition, skill-upping, learning, education, science, and technology, as well as sectors with high-employment potential and capacity for job creation, food security, and poverty reduction.

Investment in infrastructure is not marked down. The emphasis is on the completion of ongoing projects as well as projects and programmes that are consistent with the development objectives of the administration.

The ministry of communications, innovation, and digital economy has been on a passionate endeavour to ‘’inspire the use of technologies, especially Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies like UAV, IoT, AI and Blockchain to optimise different sectors of the economy’’. The ministry has been initiating programmes for skills development and deployment, as well as mobilising support for the nation’s vibrant technology biome.

The reality is, we have to prepare our people for the world of today and of the future. Skills, education, and knowledge are the new currency. The Tinubu administration is bringing the future to Nigerians by its resolve to prioritise human capital development.

Fredrick Nwabufo is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Engagement