Sanusi Rebukes Ministers in Washington

  • For failure to attend foreign investors’ forum
  • FG accelerates ERGP implementation, announces focus labs results in 2 weeks
  • Says 2019 election activities won’t affect budget

Kunle Aderinokun, Obinna Chima and Funke Olaode in Washington DC

The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, has expressed disappointment over the federal government’s poor attitude to the attraction of foreign investors. Sanusi said this in an interview with journalists at the on-going US-Nigeria Investment Summit 2018 taking place in Washington DC.

The event, which has its theme as “Nigeria is Open for Business”, was billed to have top Nigerian government officials and ministers in attendance. However, when Sanusi arrived at the venue, he was disappointed that the government officials were not on the ground.

The ministers who drew the ire of the king were Chief Audu Ogbeh, Agriculture; Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Science and Technology; Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Information and Culture; Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Power, Works and Housing; Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Petroleum Resources; Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Finance; and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Steel and Solid Minerals.

Also absent were Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; and Executive Secretary of Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Mrs. Yewande Sadiku.

According to him, “We have a meeting today with investors, we were supposed to start at 9am, but we started at 10am. When I came in, they took me to the Ambassador’s office to sit down, while investors were waiting down there. We had a list of people who were to be there – the Vice President, minsters, and some of them are in town. But they haven’t come up!

“You invite top investors, your ministers are in Washington, and they do not come to talk to the investors about Nigeria. That is not how you attract investors. If you have this forum in the Rwandan Embassy, I assure you that President Paul Kagame himself would be there telling people to come.

“Sometimes, it is about how we market ourselves, how we package ourselves. There is absolutely no reason for the Nigerian embassy to arrange a ‘Nigeria is Open for Business’ forum with ministers in town, with governors in town and not have the coordination that they are actually here to meet with these investors.

“There is no reason why we should start one hour late, and there is no reason why the public address system should not work.

“At the end of the day, this is the first point of contact of the country. He (the investor) hasn’t even come to Nigeria. So, what will be his experience in Abuja and he is saying, if I am having this experience in Washington, what will happen when I go to Abuja, when I go to Kano?

“How do I get to see the governor? Will it take me 10 hours?

“And for these people who are in Washington, they have investors to meet, they have Heads of State to meet, they have the World Bank to meet. So, one hour is a lot of time for them to be sitting down waiting for you.

“I think we need to just look at those kind of things that investors look at and have a very honest conversation – sector by sector, region by region, state by state – and what do we need to do to make those areas attractive.”

However, earlier, the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor told his audience that the country had a lot of growth opportunities. He pointed out that diversifying the economy would protect it from shocks, whenever they occur.

“If you look at all the things being done by Dangote Refinery, they would reduce our import, particularly petroleum imports, and conserve our foreign exchange,” Sanusi said.

The Emir noted that countries, such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, had taken steps to make their environments attractive to investors.

Sanusi said: “We have to realise that the problems we have, from herdsmen/farmer clashes to the security situation, actually have their roots in not focusing on the productivity of agriculture.

“The second is the power sector. Many people here today do not know that Nigeria today can produce 12,000 megawatts of electricity, we need to improve on how to evacuate and distribute.”

FG Accelerates ERGP Implementation

Meanwhile the federal government has said it is putting measures in place to ensure the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) achieves the desired results, just as it disclosed that in the next two weeks, it would make the results of its Focus Lab public. The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, stated this in an interview with journalists on the side lines of the on-going IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington DC.

The ERGP was launched by the President Muhammadu Buhari in April 2017. The plan is the administration’s comprehensive medium-term plan and it runs from 2017 to 2020.

However, the ERGP focus labs, which is one of the initiatives undertaken to ensure the full and effective implementation of the plan, was launched last month. It is a Malaysian model.

The focus labs involve stakeholders from the public and private sectors working together in a single environment to think out practical and workable solutions for delivering results that would propel the ERGP implementation.

Udoma explained: “At the moment, the focused labs are being conducted in agriculture, transportation, power and gas, manufacturing and processing. The response has been very good.

“We are looking forward to organising an open day in which we will share the results with the Nigerian public. That should be in the next one or two weeks and I am very encouraged by it.

“We just need to accelerate the ERGP a bit on some of our measures. We have a lot of measures in the ERGP and we need to accelerate on them.”

He reiterated that the government had set a target of seven per cent growth for the economy by 2020.

Besides, Udoma said he was encouraged by the fact that positive developments in Nigeria, especially the country’s exit from recession, strong accretion in external reserves, and drop in inflation, were recognised by the multilateral institutions at the meetings.

He said: “As you know, the focus of the ERGP is to generate more revenue. As you are aware, we have the tax amnesty to try to increase tax revenues. We are looking at some of our excise duties and so the focus is to generate more revenues.

“Our problem is not a debt problem, our problem is a revenue problem and so we are focused on generating much more revenues.”

According to the minister, the federal government’s delegation met with some investors that expressed interest in the country’s agriculture and transportation sectors.

Commenting on the delayed passage of the 2018 budget, Udoma said: “The signals we are getting from the National Assembly is that they are now working hard to get this budget out in the next few weeks. That is very positive signals and we are encouraged.”

Also speaking, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze, said the MDAs had submitted all that was required to ensure the passage of the budget.

He assured that when passed, activities around the 2019 elections won’t affect the budget implementation.

“It is in our collective interest to get the budget passed on time so that we can get on with implementation,” he said.

When asked about efforts by the government to reduce its high level of recurrent expenditure in the annual budget, Akabueze said: “When you look at the high non-debt recurrent component of the budget, 70 per cent of that is personnel cost. Therefore, the only realistic way you can drastically reduce recurrent expenditure now is to cut personnel.

“At this time, it is not an option the government is looking at. Therefore, the focus now is on containing other aspects of recurrent expenditure and shoring up revenue.