MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
Cerebral discussants who are authorities in their respective disciplines have jointly identified several factors militating against robust foreign investments in Nigeria in spite of the humongous population that inhabit the nation’s geographic space.
Speaking at a one day investment summit which held on Friday at Radisson Hotels, Ikeja Lagos, the discussants among whom were lawyers, journalists, economists, bankers and information, communication technology (ICT) experts, generally agreed that the investment climate in Nigeria was cloudy and not bright enough to attract foreign investors.
Leading the pack, was the founder of Zig-Zag Nation (a social media platform) Barr. Obafemi Giwa-Amu who chaired the occasion. According to him, Nigeria Government should not have any business involving itself in investment but should rather provide the enabling environment for investors to promote their investment initiatives. He posited that involvement of government in investment have often led to corruption.
He noted that Nigeria is endowed with a very large population and many natural resources by God, citing example with the fact that it was the large population which prompted MTN as a communication service provider to invest in Nigeria.
However, he explained that certain policies of government stifle opportunities for more investment by foreign investors to the great disadvantage of country and her citizens. Giwa-Amu pointed out that inconsistency in policy formulation and implementation on issues like foreign exchange, fintech, land for agricultural or economic development etc bring huge setback to investment.
Speaking in the same vein; another lawyer Barr. Babajide Bodede who dwelt on Rule of Law and Justice in Investment made it clear that the average foreign investor coming to Nigeria would always be interested in the rule of law since no serious investor would operate in any environment where the legal system thrives on arbitrary dispensation of justice.
To him, much as operators of the system believe in the rule of law, there have been certain limitations that made it unpalatable for many serious foreign investors to birth their businesses in Nigeria. He has therefore called for reformation of the country’s justice system so that there would be strict compliance with the Rule of Law.
Barrister Bodede would also want trust to be deeply established in the entire system so that foreign investors would not have any doubt in the investment process.
He harped on the corruption regime that has pervaded nooks and cranny of the country, stressing the need for a constitutional amendment that could help to ease off the stunted growth of the economy by such tendencies as nepotism, Federal character and so on.
To him, the constitutional reform should allow states of the federation to have more powers so that they can develop on their own terms and expand their scope of development without being inhibited by constitutional provisions that gave certain powers exclusively to the Federal Government.
Barr. Bodede who posited that the federal character provision in the Constitution has a way of negatively affecting the quality of judges, would prefer a return of Nigeria’s democracy to parliamentary system instead of the current presidential which was described as being expensive.
He also noted that over the years, they have been reports submitted by Commissions set up at one time or the other on how to improve the country’s policies such as the Oronsanye Commission’s report, yet the political will to implement same had been lacking.
Another discussant Mr. Nick Ogbulie, a veteran journalist and economist condemned the tendency of seeking loan for investment by state governments without evidence of tangible investment initiative or platform before such loans are given.
Like earlier speakers, Gbulie pointed out that the investment environment in Nigeria was scary due to insecurity, lack of trust and absence of rule of law. He wondered how investment could thrive in a situation where government failed to disclose in truth, the ideas behind the investment.
He added that time has come for potential investors in Nigeria to start taking Government to court for inability to provide the enabling environment for investment.
A former banker and veteran journalist, Lanre Alabi who expressed optimism that Nigeria must always survive because of her large population and natural resources, was however in sync with other speakers as he explained that for Nigeria to attract foreign direct investment, government ought to create an enabling environment because we are not the only country that need foreign investment.
Looking at the factors responsible for the decline in foreign direct investment, Alabi noted that cost of doing business in Nigeria was quite higher than most other countries citing poor energy generation as example. He also noted that income tax is quite high in Nigeria compared to other developing countries.
To him, tax is not supposed to kill. He has therefore advised those in government to be mindful how they impose tax on the citizenry.
Mr. Alabi condemned the lack of transparency that had beset Nigeria’s budgetary process over the years wherein padding had often been brought in. Such corrupt tendencies have a way of affecting investment initiatives, he noted.
Political stability has also been identified as a paramount factor necessary for investment and economic growth. Alabi advised that our democracy should be properly harnessed in a manner that there is stability in the system.
Other discussants included another economist cum journalist Mr. Martins Azuwike and ICT expert Mr. Celestine Achi. Azuwike said Nigeria has many investment challenges which included what he described as the Unholy Trinity of Exchange Rate, Interest Rate and Inflation. According to him, it is a problem to come off the challenges since they are difficult given the fact that some potential investors particularly within the public sector space did not really understand the ideal investment to go into.
To him, some of the Government investment agencies were not committed towards developing investment opportunities in their respective states.
Situating his contribution within the context of Investment in technology and the “One Oasis and Double Play Factor” Achi spoke on how to reduce tech waste and increase tech wealth given Nigeria’s current state of investment initiatives but without a corresponding attention from potential investors.
The one day summit had its theme as “Investment as a desideratum for economic re-birth in Nigeria; Challenges and Prospects.”
The Summit was convened by a Lagos based lawyer, Barr. Ogbonnaya Agbafo who in his remarks had called for a collective action by Nigerians in the political space to entrench an ideal Democratic state where rule of law works unhindered.
While appreciating the various speakers for their intellectual contributions, he enjoined all Nigerians to always stand for what is right irrespective of who is involved.