By Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie
The Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Mr. Uche Orji, has again stressed the need for Nigeria to turn its infrastructure into investible assets by investing more in it.
According to him, the National Pension Funds will be a veritable source of revenue to fund national infrastructure investment, if properly managed.
Orji, while featuring on The Morning Show, the flagship breakfast programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said creative ways must be looked at to address the country’s infrastructure challenges.
He said: “We need to turn infrastructure into investible assets that have more economic values as opposed to just doing the roads, leaving it and not monetising it. The idea is to package the project as investment entities and offer them to investors. Looking at Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, I did a tour of it recently and I could see an incredibly profitable project; but it’s just being allowed to waste. So the essence of this is to turn infrastructure into investible assets.
“National investment is everybody’s business. Pensions funds will invest, NSIA will invest and it is also open for individuals and organisations to invest because we believe these are all profitable projects.”
According to him, infrastructure deficit needs to be addressed as well but the government does not have enough resources to do so.
Addressing the issues surrounding pension funds, Orji clarified that there was no attempt by state governors to borrow from retirement savings.
He explained that when some projects were being developed and designed, with the intention to fund them from the National Pension Funds, all parties, including the pension commission, a representative of the PFAs, Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministry of Finance amongst others, were all involved.
“We need to realise that this was not done in isolation and the outcome was to turn infrastructure into investible assets.
“This is an investment opportunity and not an attempt to raid or grab the pension funds. All these are still talked about and worked on; none of them is operational yet. There is a lot of structuring and consultation that needs to be done. We are still a little bit far away from real implementation but this is about turning infrastructure into investment opportunities for both the NSIA and the pension funds.
If it does not work for the NSIA, it will not invest. And I will assume that pension funds managers and administrators will not invest if it does not work for them,” Orji stated.
He, however, noted that the year was ending quite well for the NSIA and most organisations from a performance stand point despite the negative and low-interest rate environment.
He added that COVID-19 has also made an impact domestically and internationally.
“On the domestic part, it’s been quite disruptive. It has caused delays in construction, commissioning and logistics. Internationally, it has forced a significant response by both the monetary and fiscal policy instruments and the authorities, especially the central bank, and so there is a huge influx of liquidity.
“In Nigeria, where the investments in treasury bills are now incredibly low, that has forced interest rates down across the world.
“The good news is that this has led to a significant improvement in the value of other assets. Our equity investments have done very well. Equity prices are higher both locally and internationally. It has also led to volatility and it’s a time when you can make good returns,” he said.