•President to meet US, France, other counterparts on summit sidelines
•Shettima canvasses stronger relations with British govt
•UK lauds nation’s ongoing economic reforms
•Envoy clarifies visa restrictions, says not applicable only to Nigerian students
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, will among other things, push for foreign direct investments in his scheduled meetings at the ongoing New Global Financing Pact Summit in Paris, France, his Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Mr Dele Alake, has said.
In another breath, Vice President Kashim Shettima, has called for stronger relations between Nigeria and the United Kingdom (UK) given the long standing historical antecedents, business activities and shared interests between the two countries.
Shettima made the call yesterday while receiving in audience, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Richard Montgomery at the State House, Abuja.
Montgomery, on his part, lauded the long standing relationship and cooperation with Nigeria especially in areas of trade and investment, security and defence, digital technology, education and also commended the new administration’s proactive economic policies especially the reforms.
He also spoke on the visa restrictions for dependents, saying such restrictions were not exclusive to Nigeria, which constitutes over 10% of the visitors coming into the country.
Already, no fewer than three world leaders and some global financial institutions had indicated interest in discussing partnership with the Nigerian president at the summit in Paris.
This is in view of Nigeria’s economy showing signs of improvement, following some of the recent policy steps taken to restructure the system by the new government.
Tinubu had arrived in Paris, France, Tuesday evening to participate in the New Global Financial Pact Summit, holding at Palais Brongniart from June 22 to 23, 2023.
Speaking on the president’s itinerary after he had received briefings from members of his delegation, Alake, said the president would be pushing for foreign direct investments in the scheduled meetings, among other things.
According to him, leaders from the United States of America, France, Switzerland and others had already indicated interest to meet with the Nigerian president, especially after government’s policy on the unification of the Naira exchange rate, the domiciliary account restrictions removal, which will unlock the huge potentials for investment, create jobs and capital flows, thereby enhancing investor confidence in the economy.
Alake further said, “The essence of this trip is to network as much as feasible and as much as is practicable. The president wants to network with international finance corporations and institutions, countries that are well heeled that would facilitate or that could facilitate direct foreign investment into Nigeria.
“Don’t forget that Mr. President has taken some very bold steps in the area of economy, in the area of social engineering in the last three weeks, and particularly, with reference to the unification of the multiple exchange rates, which has caused very positive multiplier effects.
“However, in the short term, we have noticed and expected that there will be a slight spike in the demand and then that would affect the value of the naira viz-viz the dollar.
“So, apart from the immediate, short and long term positive effects of that unification policy, there could be a need for an injection of direct foreign exchange into the economy to shore up the value of the naira while market forces stabilise and in the short run or medium term, there is going to be when the effects of this policy begin to mature.
“For instance, you can now spend your money in your domiciliary account. The domiciliary account restrictions have been liberalised. So there’s no more restriction. Once there’s money in your account, you can spend it anywhere in the world.
“Now, that is going to build confidence in the foreign exchange system of Nigeria, which means people abroad can begin to bring in their money into the economy, even those at home, who have hoarded their dollars for fear of restrictions and all that will now be more encouraged to bring the dollars into the financial system.
“However, with all of these, you still need a direct foreign injection of foreign exchange to build or complement the domestic policies. That is the essence of this meeting and is a global summit and there are several heads of state of developed societies that Mr. President’s policies in the last three weeks really have encouraged these foreign nations and investors to become more interested in the affairs of Nigeria in shoring up the economy of Nigeria.
“So, a lot of them are quite interested so many of them have even indicated interest to meet with Mr. President in this trip. Just upstairs now, we were having a meeting with the president structuring some of these meetings with heads of state.
“At the last count about three, four different heads of state of developed countries have indicated willingness to meet with him, have a chat with him and explore areas of cooperation on the economy, on agriculture, on other areas that are salient to the development of Nigeria’s economy. That is generally the essence of this meeting,” he said.
Asked the number of countries that have shown interest in having a pact with Nigeria, the special adviser said, “Quite a number of them, the US, France itself, Switzerland and one or two others that I can’t readily recall now. There are so many institutions, international financial institutions that are also willing to see him.
“Some of them we are structuring either for tomorrow or Friday to meet with him and his team, and then consolidate some of the issues and provide more encouraging rhetoric for those people to come in and invest in Nigeria.
“Don’t forget that in the recent past, a lot of international investors exited Nigeria, because of the restrictive currency policies that we had, which stifled business. But now that these are being liberalised, and they’re freed to market forces, in the short run, we will need very comprehensive and robust direct foreign investment into the country.
“So we are very, very hopeful, that some of these meetings we are going to have will come to fruition and will bear very positive fruits and yield results for Nigeria,” he further explained.
Shettima Canvasses Stronger Relations With UK
Vice President Kashim Shettima has called for stronger relations between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, given the long standing historical antecedents, business activities and shared interests between the two countries.
Shettima made the call on Wednesday while receiving in audience, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Richard Montgomery, at the State House, Abuja.
The vice-president commended the long standing assistance and support of the UK government to Nigeria and expressed hope for a more robust business relations.
“I will urge you to facilitate the setting up of the Nigeria-UK Binational Commission; that Bi-national Commission can be the driver for accelerating enhance business relationship between our two countries.
“We need to ramp up the trade between our two nations, taking into cognizance our proximity. There is no nation that we are close to than the UK and our trade represents less than five per cent of the volume of our import and export,” he said.
Commenting on the issue of the economy, Shettima said, “Most definitely, we are going to create an enabling environment for businesses to flourish in this country.”
He underscored the need for economic reforms in order to position the country’s economy for growth especially the removal of fuel subsidy, saying, “This is just the beginning because it was fait accompli to withdraw the fuel subsidy. We either get rid of the fuel subsidy or the fuel subsidy gets rid of the Nigerian nation.”
Shettima observed that, “In 2012, we spent $10bn on fuel subsidy alone. Last month, we were purportedly consuming 67 million litres per day, but after the removal of the subsidy it drops to 41 million bpd, nearly 40% off. So, the whole subsidy regime was opaque, ridden with a lot of inconsistency.”
Still on economic reforms, Shettima noted that the previous multiple exchange rate regime with a lot of corruption brought about the proliferation of so many schemes.
“So, obviously, we have no option but to collapse the exchange rate regimes into one. In the coming weeks and months, we are going to make more pronouncements on how to reposition the Nigerian economy and make it vibrant for business,” he said.
Emphasizing the role of the private sector in driving economic growth, the vice-president, citing the example of Lagos, said, “Lagos is booming fundamentally because of the private sector but not because of government; the government just created the avenue for businesses to thrive.”
On efforts to find a lasting solution to the security challenges in the country, Shettima stated that there was need for both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches towards addressing the problems.
According to him, “Unless we want to engage in an endless war of attrition, you have to find a kinetic and non-kinetic solutions to our problems. Yes, we have to strengthen our security architecture, so that we can be a stronger bargaining position with the insurrectionist, Boko Haram terrorists and kidnappers.”
He added that as part of the efforts of the Tinubu administration towards addressing on-going security problems, government would soon roll out different socio-economic intervention programmes and initiatives in the North East and North West that would facilitate empowerment and social inclusion of the vulnerable groups in the regions.
“So, I can assure you that we will pursue both kinetic and non-kinetic solutions to our challenges,” he said.
Montgomery, while commended the new administration’s proactive economic policies especially the reforms, lauded the long standing relationship and cooperation with Nigeria especially, in areas of trade and investment, security and defence, digital technology, and education.
The envoy expressed the readiness of the UK government to partner the federal government closely to achieve overall development of the country.
Speaking with newsmen after the visit, the High Commissioner applauded the ongoing economic reforms being carried out by the administration of Tinubu, and commended Nigeria for its economic decisions, including subsidy removal and exchange rate reform.
Highlighting the positive impact these reforms have had on the investment climate and their global recognition, Montgomery canvassed for actions to mitigate the impact of challenges like inflation and unemployment in the country.
He said: “I think we already have a good economic dialogue, but I think there is a great potential to do more. As I discussed with His Excellency, the big economic decisions being taken by this government are really important and are being noticed around the world: the removal of subsidy; the exchange rate reform, all of that create a much better investment environment.
“I was in London last week. I was briefing my ministers, but I was also talking to British business in finance, banking and investment sectors. They are all responding very positively to these first decisions.
“We know that there are tough times that are going on at the moment, inflation and unemployment. The Vice President and I also touched on some of the measures that might be possible to cushion the blow of some of these economic pressures.
“But I think the big issue is that these reforms help put Nigeria on a higher growth path; they will attract more investments and the United Kingdom and the city of London see Nigeria as a big opportunity going forward. I will be doing my part to try to boost those, enhance trade and investment.”
The envoy also said issues of common interest between Nigeria and the United Kingdom were discussed at the meeting.
“We discussed our long standing partnership between the UK and Nigeria. We have many areas of shared interest, including a good history of development cooperation; some excellent trade and investment arrangements and we have also have some good cooperation on security and defence.
“As many of you were seeing from recent talks, we also had good talks on home affairs and justice and we have great people-to-people links that means education, health, and we also discussed a number of issues to do with on how we can improve our relationships in the future.”
Asked about UK’s recent student visas and restrictions on dependents, Montgomery explained that though the issue was not discussed at the meeting but stressed that such restrictions were not exclusive to Nigeria, which constitutes over 10% of the visitors coming to the country.
His words: “Nigerian visitors constitute over 10 per cent of the people coming to London and the UK. on the issue of students’ visas, I will also like to provide the contest; that the number of Nigerian students coming to the UK has increased fivefold in the last three years. It is a fantastic success story for our universities and we are really delighted that so many Nigerians are coming to the UK.
“The issue about restrictions of people bringing dependents; that is not just for Nigeria but many parts of the world; many more students are trying to bring their dependents with them, and I think there are two issues here: the first is, it is not always possible to find housing services to meet all the needs of all our existing students population.
“Secondly, I think reasonable people will accept that we have to manage our visitor numbers and that we have to manage migration in and out of the UK, just as the Nigerian government does for your own borders.”