It is with great pleasure that I address the 12th Meeting of the Honorary International Investor Council (HIIC), after last year’s successful 11th meeting in Paris.
I welcome and thank you all for your unrelenting efforts to raise Nigeria’s investment profile and make our nation a preferred investment destination. The outcome of your last meeting is unmistakable evidence that the stakes and expectations are now much higher. I sincerely hope that the various sessions, over the next two days, will generate open and frank dialogue and propose measures that will facilitate the enhanced delivery of the Council’s mandate.
Let me reiterate that your work is critical to our investment promotion activities. The country needs your continued support in designing and undertaking practical steps to promote investment opportunities in Nigeria and give relevant information to the international community on our improved business climate.
Today’s meeting is taking place against the backdrop of a global economy that remains vulnerable. Whilst economic growth remains sturdy in Nigeria at 6.17% for the first quarter, we recognise the need to strengthen our economic buffers to deal with a volatile global economic climate.
We are steadily building up our Excess Crude Account and our foreign reserves. We are also on the verge of launching the Sovereign Wealth Fund. We are aware that, in recent years, the country has been rated very poorly in the reports by the Doing Business Segment of the World Bank Group.
The Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum and the World Investment Report of the United Nations Commission for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have equally had poor ratings for Nigeria.
What these challenging economic reports call for is concerted action by all stakeholders. Our transformation Agenda is, therefore, about turning Nigeria’s huge potential into developmental realities. There is now an increased focus on diversification of our economy away from almost total dependence on oil and attraction of investments into critical sectors.
We have commenced a rigorous investment climate reform programme, with the support of key international development partners. The focus is on removing known bottlenecks in the business environment and making it more investor-friendly. We have engaged the services of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the development and application of the Nigerian Policy Framework for Investments. We also have in place an After-Care Committee to handle complaints from investors.
Only recently, I approved the setting up of the Nigerian National Competitiveness Council in line with the recommendation of the World Economic Forum. This Council shall be the focal body responsible for creating awareness on national competitiveness in the country and coordinating the efforts of both the Public and Private Sectors to improve Nigeria’s competitiveness.
It is also charged with the responsibility of recommending relevant policies and proactively monitoring and evaluating the progress being made at the national and sub-national levels.
Equally noteworthy is the fact that a Competition, Anti-Trust and Consumer Protection Bill is in the process of being finalised by the National Council on Privatisation, for onward processing to the National Assembly for passage into law.
These are all efforts aimed at improving the competitive landscape with the understanding that no nation has moved from poverty to wealth by relying solely on exporting raw materials and foodstuff without a vibrant industrial and service sector.
We have embarked on the path of value addition to our raw materials as a way to underpin and expand our manufacturing sector. This is based on areas where we have comparative and competitive advantage. I hereby implore you to seek ways of attracting investment into the real sector of the economy, particularly the industrial and agricultural sectors.
Let me add here that the Government has reformed its visa policy. Authentic investors are not only assured of easy processing of visas in their home countries, they can also actually procure same at the point of entry into Nigeria. Business visas can now be obtained for much longer terms.
To improve Customs efficiency and foster collaboration with relevant Government Agencies, we are taking measures to modernise the Nigerian Customs Service. We intend to review its underlying legislation; introduce the Single Window concept; and introduce Ports and Customs reforms with emphasis on both trade facilitation and revenue generation.
We are streamlining the operations at our ports and upgrading port infrastructure. We have reduced the number of agencies operating at the ports and reduced the number of days it takes to process goods from 3 weeks to 7 days for the routine imports of large registered importers. We have also introduced the One Stop Check procedure in Customs service and are working on a container management strategy.
On the issue of security, we are building the capacity of the Police and other related agencies to fight crime and defeat terrorism. We have also strengthened coordinated joint action between our security agencies and their counterparts abroad.
The recent overhaul of our security team should herald a fresh approach towards frontally tackling our security challenge in all its ramifications.
In pursuing these broad objectives, we are mindful of the challenges as well as opportunities that abound. We are also mindful of the need for intensified support and cooperation to achieve our objectives.
As we progress on this journey of nation-building, I wish to state that valuable suggestions from successive HIIC meetings will continue to guide government’s decisions. We will, however, also rely on your good offices to communicate the immense opportunities in Nigeria to the international community.
This 12th meeting, therefore, offers us a new window of opportunity to strengthen our engagement and collaboration with you. To underline our seriousness, key government functionaries will rigorously engage with you on the most critical issues underpinning our development efforts. Specific policy initiatives to encourage investments will be clearly articulated.
After almost 12 years of activities by the Council, there is need to take stock of what has been achieved and what can be done differently or better, in order to deliver on the Council’s original mandate. I believe that such a review is vital.
The Council may have to broaden the base of its membership in response to the increasingly complex global economic configuration. That will enable it to confront both existing and new challenges.
Recognising infrastructure as a binding constraint to our competitiveness, we shall welcome specific suggestions that will facilitate the work of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and relevant Ministries and Agencies charged to speed up possible concession arrangements with the private sector.
While I charge members to take practical steps in influencing investment decisions in favour of Nigeria, let me commend the efforts of some Council members, especially Xenel Industries of Saudi Arabia for their commitment to investing in the Petrochemical sector in Koko, Delta State; Mitsubishi Corporation for the joint venture with Notore Industries to set up a $1.5 billion fertilizer plant in Onne, Rivers State; the efforts of CNBC in the communication of Nigeria’s good image and perception; ACTIS’ various investment interests in the country; and of course, our own Dangote Group’s leading role in showcasing the benefits of investing in the Nigerian economy.
I assure you that our Administration is more than ever committed to improving the economy, fighting corruption, developing infrastructure and ensuring the security of lives and property.
I would like to end my brief remarks by, once again, thanking you all for your enduring faith in our country and your demonstrable readiness to partner with us as we committedly work to engender a strong, secure, and prosperous Nigeria.
I wish you very fruitful deliberations.