BY ROTIMI DUROJAIYE
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, attributed growing social unrest to inequalities and unfair policies that exclude majority from opportunities for participation, admonishing world leaders and global investors to prioritize on inclusive and humane policies.
Speaking at the 5th Edition of Future Investment Initiative Summit holding in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Buhari said his administration will keep encouraging public and private initiatives that increase investments in health, education, capacity building, youth empowerment, gender equality, poverty eradication, climate change and food security.
According to his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President noted that, “By so doing, it will go a long way in reenergizing the global economy in a post COVID-19 era.”
“Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation. Our economic reforms which focus on “humane” investments are ideal for investors looking to have profitable returns while positively impacting the citizenry.
“Your Excellences, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Investing in Humanity is the right thing to do. I strongly believe the historical under investments in “humane projects” is the genesis of most of the insecurity and socio-economic challenges the world is experiencing today,” he said.
On the theme of the summit, “Investing in Humanity”, the President said the Nigerian perspective remains a focus on people oriented development policies, with diversification from oil to more inclusive sectors such as agriculture, ICT and mining; tackling corruption, insecurity and climate change and introducing Social Investment Programmes.
“Investing in humanity is investing in our collective survival. This is why we in Nigeria we believe that public and private partnership should focus on increasing investments in health, education, capacity building, youth empowerment, gender equality, poverty eradication, climate change and food security. By so doing, it will go a long way in reenergizing the global economy in a post COVID-19 era.
“Nigeria’s population today exceeds 200 million people. Some 70 percent are under 35 years old. When we came into government in 2015, we were quick to realise that long-term peace and stability of our country is dependent on having inclusive and humane policies.
“In the past six years, our government took very painful but necessary decisions to invest for a long-term prosperous future knowing very well that this will come with short term pains,” he added.
The President commended the organizers of this year’s summit for the foresight to look at “investment”, not only from a profitability and wealth accumulation point of view, but also bringing prosperity to humanity in general.
The humane approach to investment, he said, is the only way to address the global challenges we face, especially in the Covid-19 era.
“We should continue to sustain our efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and mitigate its negative socio-economic impact on our societies, build resilience and achieve recovery. It is therefore my hope that this session will leverage on the enormous economic opportunities that lie ahead in order to satisfy the prevailing needs of our people and planet.”
The President noted that investment in humanity must also take into consideration the effects of debt burden on nations, which had been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We cannot invest in humanity without relieving our countries from the crushing effects of the debt burden especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of deepening the debt portfolio of poor countries.
“These nations increasingly allocate more and more resources towards external debt servicing and repayment at the expense of the health, education and other services that contribute to the overall wellbeing of their population,” he said.
Describing the summit as a credible forum for interaction between the public and private sectors, to explore ways of advancing economic growth, development and global prosperity, the President said Nigeria’s diversification efforts continue to yield results, particularly in agriculture.
“We introduced policies that supported investments in agriculture and food processing. We provided loans and technical support to small holder farmers, through the Anchor Borrowers Programme. As a result, Nigeria today has over 40 rice mills from less than 10 in 2014. Nigeria also has over 46 active fertiliser blending plants from less than 5 in 2014.
“Furthermore, in agriculture, we have reformed the process of obtaining inputs such as fertilizer and seeds. We have several million hectares of available arable land and have embarked on the creation of Special Agriculture Processing Zones across the country. These initiatives we believe will make it easier for investors in agriculture,” he added.
President Buhari told the gathering of world leaders, global investors and asset managers that the oil sector was already undergoing a reform that would make it more attractive and inclusive.
“Two months ago, I signed the Petroleum Industry Act. The Act will serve as a catalyst to liberalize our petroleum sector. It has introduced a number of incentives such as tax holidays, 100 percent ownership, zero interest loans and easy transfer of funds. In addition, we have highly skilled in-country workforce and a large domestic market.
“In mining, we have also made several opportunities available for investors. Nigeria is a country rich in minerals from gold, iron ore, tin, zinc, cobalt, lithium, limestone, phosphate, bitumen and many others. We have made the licensing process easier and also made extensive investments in rail and transportation.
“Infrastructure investments represent significant potential for investors in Nigeria. We have opportunities in seaports, rail, toll roads, real estate, renewable energy and many others. We have created several institutions that are available to co-invest with you in Nigeria.
“We have the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and more recently, I approved the creation of Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria. These institutions are run as independent world class institutions to make investments in the country and are available to coinvest with you,” he further explained.
The Nigerian leader urged more interest in infrastructure such as healthcare and education, which “present enormous opportunities for investors in a country our size.”
“Digital Economy in Nigeria has many potentials for investment, as it has remained the fastest growing sector in both 2020 and 2021. Nigeria has many opportunities for investment in broadband, ICT hardware, emerging technology and software engineering.
“We have recently approved the national policy on Fifth Generation (5G) network. Our aim is to attract investors in healthcare, smart cities, smart agriculture among others. The benefit of real time communication will support all other sectors of the economy,” he noted.
To further improve and reposition the economy to attract investors, the President said “e-Naira, the electronic version of our national currency, which puts us on track to become the first African country to introduce a Central Bank Digital Currency” was launched on October 25th, 2021.
“We believe this and many other reforms will help us increase the number of people participating in the banking sector, make for a more efficient financial sector and help us tackle illicit flow of funds.
“To further strengthen our anti-corruption drive, increase accountability and transparency, we have centralized government funds through a Treasury Single Account, and ensuring that all Nigerians with a bank account use a unique Bank Verification Number (BVN). These initiatives, coupled with our nationwide National Identification Number (NIN) exercise, reinforce our efforts to tackle corruption and fraud. We believe that this should give investors a lot of comfort.”
President Buhari also drew attention of world leaders to the devastating effect of climate change on livelihoods of people around the Lake Chad.
He said, “As we strive to build resilience towards a sustainable economy in our various countries, let us not forget the negative impact of climate change on our efforts to achieve this goal. Nigeria and many countries in Africa, are already facing the challenges posed by climate change. Climate change has triggered conflicts, food insecurity, irregular youth migration, rising level of sea waters, drought and desertification, as well as the drying-up of the Lake Chad.
“In the Lake Chad Basin region, where Boko Haram insurgency continues to undermine the peace, security and development of the region, climate change is largely responsible for the drying up of the Lake Chad which has shrunk by more than 85 percent its original size.
“The diminishing size of the Lake is at the root of the loss of millions of livelihoods, displacement of inhabitants and radicalization of teeming youths in the region who are recruited to serve as foot soldiers in the insurgency.
“In order to redress this situation and restore the lost fortunes of the Lake Chad Basin region, strong public-private partnership through massive investments will be needed to recharge the waters of Lake Chad. I am confident that this forum will rise to the challenge in the interest of durable peace and sustainable development of our region.”The President conveyed heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud for the invitation and congratulated His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for leadership and support through the Future Investment Initiative Summit.
“I remain confident that through such exchanges, the world indeed will be a better place. I hope and pray that this forum will rise to the challenge in the interest of durable peace and sustainable development,” he said.