By Ndubuisi Francis
The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has called on the federal government to urgently enhance the capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremists and criminal groups waging war against Nigerian communities.
The ACCI said this was imperative because of the nexus between insecurity and economic downturn, especially with respect to the agricultural sector.
In its reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s New Year message to the nation, the ACCI observed that insecurity, particularly in some parts of the northern region, constitutes a serious threat to the operations and activities of farmers and farming firms.
In a statement signed by its President, Alhaji Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, the ACCI said: “Tackling insecurity will thus enhance the administration’s goal of revamping the economy through the national economic diversification agenda that supports the primary goal of national food self-sufficiency.”
The Chamber said it took with deep interest the president’s New Year speech, especially the policy outlays on economy and security, adding that it particularly noted with commendation the declaration of President Buhari to frontally address the challenges of insecurity in relation to the economic revival of the nation.
“The presidential promise to re-energise and reorganise the security apparatus and personnel of the security and military services is a welcome development. The urgent need to enhance capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities, cannot be over-emphasised,” it said.
The ACCI also noted the administration’s desire to continue the rebuilding of the national infrastructure base and, in the process, introducing transformation through the rehabilitation, modernisation and expansion of the railway system, national roads and bridges both in rural and urban centres, alongside the airports and seaports.
According to the organisation, forging ahead on this path would help to bridge the infrastructural deficit without which the Nigerian economy cannot operate on competitive basis regionally or internationally, adding that the question of local content in major infrastructural projects should be addressed.
It urged the Buhari administration to diversify financing sources for critical transport projects, while also ensuring opening up of the railway sector for private sector investment.
The ACCI observed that the present project model especially for the railway sector is not sustainable considering the huge needs of Nigeria for railway infrastructure.
“Addressing infrastructural deficit should also go side by side with resolving the power sector hiccups. We particularly note the mass metering initiative. It is a major policy to address tariff issues plaguing the electricity sector. We however urge the administration to engage local meter manufacturers more robustly to enhance local content.
“We also note the Siemens initiative to boost distribution capacity and the World Bank/AfDB programme to strengthen the transmission sub-sector. It is our view that the various reforms ongoing within the power sector could expand the generation and distribution of electricity for use in homes and factories.
“The avowed declaration to focus on a series of special interventions designed to boost job creation and support the entrepreneurial drive of our youths is a welcome step. We urge the administration to expand cooperation with the organised private sector through the various Chambers of Commerce and Industry especially in the implementation of this initiative and several other ongoing interventions,” the statement said.
On the reopening of borders, the Chamber aligned with the administration’s position that the pent-up demand of legitimate cross-border and international trade will boost the fortunes of the many small businesses and agricultural enterprises that depend on Nigeria’s trade and commerce.
It however stated: “We must however as a nation address core issues to dissuade cross-border smuggling by deepening application of ease of doing business programmes at our ports and across the economy.
“As a leading business Chamber, the ACCI is committed to supporting government in the implementation of many of these noble policies. We will make our platforms available especially for policy engagement of stakeholders from private and public sectors to ensure fruitful policy implementation.”