Thursday, July 07, 2005

Singing the Song of a New Nigeria

While this appears to be a dream, I really hate to acknowledge it (as a fierce critic) the present administration in Nigeria are a lot better than their predecessors. No sleeping on our oars..all on board!
Obasanjo, in London, woos foreign investors
Vows to confront corrupt African leadersFrom Madu Onuorah, London

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday morning met with the Honourary International Investor Council for Nigeria, a group of global businessmen, to help sing the new song of a renaissance Nigeria.
He has also expressed readiness to confront any African leader found to be corrupt.
The Nigerian leader told the businessmen at a meeting held at the Four Seasons Hotel, Park Lane, London that the debt relief given to Nigeria is an endorsement of the country's reform programme and insisted that "good things are happening in Nigeria.
Obasanjo said: "The reforms are working. The private sector and the government are now beginning to be strong partners in the push to give the economy a new lease of life. For us, the debt relief is an acknowledgement of what we are doing right."
In his appeal to the Council, Obasanjo said: "Please, help sing the song of a new Nigeria. Tell me what we are doing wrong so that we will do it right."
Members of the Council who were present at the meeting include the chief executives of Lafarge (the world's largest cement company), Total, Shell, Hewitt and Packard, Anglo-Gold Asante, Siemens, Unilever and representatives of other corporations.
Seven Nigerian ministers attended the meeting. They are those of Finance, Industry, Communications, Power and Steel, Commerce, Agriculture as well as Information and National Orientation. Others include the Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyuike, bank chiefs: Umaru Murtallab (UBA), Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank) and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Funso Kupolokun.
The Council is to assist in communicating developments about Nigeria to the international investment community in conjunction with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC). It is to arrange investment fora at which key officials of the Federal Government and international business people can meet to highlight Nigeria's investment opportunities; undertaking practical efforts to attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and providing general public relations and promotion on Nigeria's improved business climate.
The Council's terms of reference include:
to provide inputs that will shape future policy affecting business climate in Nigeria and promoting investment opportunities in the country to the international community;
to help increase the government's understanding of the factors helping or hindering investment into Nigeria;
to offer perspectives on developments in the international community and communicate trends within Nigeria to the international community;
to advise priority areas of economic activity for the purpose of enhancing Nigeria's attractiveness as investment destination; and
to avail the government with the dynamics of investment location decisions of the international community;
The President's Senior Special Assistant (Media), Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, said that Nigerians were gradually warming up to the reforms.
Oyo quoted Obasanjo as telling members of the council, which included Baroness Lynda Chalker that commercial banks that had protested against the reforms in the banking sector, were now working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for a successful conclusion of the exercise.
The President, she said, had noted that the banks were now "partners with the CBN".
Obasanjo said the collaboration between the banks and the apex bank was also an indication that what the country had embarked upon was the right thing.
"Tell me what you think we are doing wrong, I will tell you where we are coming from, but together we will be able to work for the betterment of our country and indeed the world," the President was quoted as saying.
He stated that there were ample investment opportunities in the oil and gas, agriculture, industry, tourism and solid minerals.
Obasanjo, therefore, invited interested investors to make the country their preferred destination, pledging as government's support for them.
The CBN governor, Prof. Charles Soludo is also attending the meeting.
Oyo said that later in the day, the President would meet with members of the UK chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO).
She said the body had contributed about £1 million (over N250 million) for investments in the country.
The President is also scheduled to meet with leaders of the G-8 in Gleneagles on behalf of the rest of Africa over the debt issue tomorrow before leaving for home later that day.
President Obasanjo also yesterday pledged to confront any corrupt African leader if there is proof, and warned that delay in debt relief and other forms of aid to the continent could be disastrous.
He spoke yesterday in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London ahead of the G-8 leaders summit beginning today.
Africa is hoping for a bumper lifeline from the industrialised nations at the two-day meeting.
Obasanjo said: "You don't wait until a person is dead before you give him medicine, when you know he's dead."
The Nigerian leader stressed the importance of the debt relief at this point: "The position is that we have not the slightest chance in the world to meet the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) set by all for the international community by the year 2015 unless we have debt relief."
Tasked on the popular view by the West that African leaders' corruption was delaying development in the continent Obasanjo snapped: "I don't agree with you. I hate such sweeping statement that African leaders are corrupt and I will not take that from anybody.
"So, that I won't say all European leaders are anti-African, some are negrophobists. And I will not group all leaders in the world or in Europe in one category like that."
The Nigerian leader continued: "There are African leaders that are corrupt and there are African leaders that are not corrupt and that must be the starting point."
He said there was need to identify those leaders that are corrupt. Obasanjo said: "Those that are corrupt let them be identified. I can confront any African leader and say these are things that have come out against you in your country, you are not fighting corruption enough in your country."
Commending Britain's effort in Africa, he said the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, is a historical effort. "It has never happened before where you have a developed country really championing the cause of Africa and as a result of that, the 18 highly indebted countries have been forgiven their debt 100 per cent and Nigeria earned about 60 per cent of debt forgiveness."
He rejected suggestions that Nigeria, which is bidding for the United Nations Security Council seat, was handling Zimbabwe with a kid's gloves.
He expressed optimism on Africa's breakthrough poverty, saying that there was now "new awareness, new understanding, and new hope about the eradication of poverty in Africa, may be not in 2015."


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