Written by Ifeanyi Onuba
President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday asked foreign investors to ignore the menace of Boko Haram and invest in the country. He also gave the security agencies a pass mark in the fight against terrorism.
He said, “Nigeria experienced 30 months of civil war and we were able to survive that crisis. Anybody who doesn’t want to come and invest in Nigeria now because of the activities of Boko Haram would simply regret it because this is very temporary.
“Every country has security challenges, even in America; it’s just that terrorist activities are new in Nigeria. Before now, we had challenges of assassination and armed robbery and those are the kinds of crimes that we were dealing with. But for terrorism, we are acquiring the relevant infrastructure to combat it and I assure you that we will solve the problem.”
Jonathan spoke at a gathering of select businessmen during the Presidential dialogue with global chief executive officers at the 17th Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja.
Panellists at the presidential dialogue included the Global Head, JP Morgan International Public Sector Group, Daniel Zelikow; Executive Vice-President, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Izumi Kobayashi; and President, General Electric, Africa, Jay Ireland.
Others are President, Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote; Managing Director, Procter and Gamble West Africa, Manoj Kumar; Chief Executive Officer, MTN, Sifiso Dabengwa; and Vice- President, Shell, Sub Saharan Africa, Ian Craig.
Addressing the issue of the violent Islamic sect vis-a-vis security challenges in the country, Jonathan told his audience, “The issue of Boko Haram that we are experiencing today is not peculiar to Nigeria because most countries of the world have one form of terrorist attack (or the other).
“These are temporary challenges that we have, but let me reassure Nigerians, and the world in general, that given the challenges that we have, the Nigerian Security Services have made progress in the fight against terrorism.
“Yes, we have the Boko Haram challenge now but (it is) just like the terrorist attacks in other countries. We are working on it and it’s not like the government is not doing anything about it and I assure Nigerians that it’s only a temporary setback.”
Asked if the security situation in the country would not frustrate the Federal Government’s effort to attract investors, the President said,“The Nigeria Security Services have made progress in the fight against terrorism. You are aware that on October 1, last year, that there was a bomb blast and all the people that were involved in that bomb attack have been arrested”
Of recent the country’s security services have been heavily criticised for the increasing number of attacks carried out by the Islamic sect. The sect commenced a violent campaign of bombings against the government since 2009 and had killed over 750, including the 24 that died in the attack on the United Nations’ building in Abuja on August 26.
The President also dwelt on the removal of petroleum subsidy, stressing that it would help to correct the imbalance in the petroleum sector.
He said that the issue of subsidy removal was a developmental policy that should not be muddled with politics.
He submitted, “I know some key players in the economy, who before this time, were against subsidy. Now, they have brought politics into it. That is why I still appreciate people like General Muhammadu Buhari, who is the only person that said it clearly that the issue of subsidising petroleum products was a fraud. He did not play politics with development. So, it is not everybody that would have the mind of someone like General Buhari.
“I have told people that if we don’t deregulate now, in the next 10 to 15 years, this country will be importing petroleum products from Ghana, Chad, Niger, and even Cameroon. And these are countries that just discovered crude oil very recently.”
The President said that the controversy surrounding the SWF had been resolved with the state governors.
He said, “We initially had some challenges on the SWF with the states, but I spoke to the state governors that it is when the economy has a positive outlook that investors will come and invest.
“This administration has the political will to do it right. The money that is going to be saved in the SWF belongs to the federal and state governments, and if another president comes in after me, he won’t have any power to tamper with that fund.”
Also speaking at the dialogue, Dangote urged the Federal Government to formulate policies that would help stimulate investment in agriculture, mining and petrochemicals. The sectors, according to him, have the capacity to outperform the petroleum industry in terms of revenue generation.