BY Emma Ujah, Daniel Idonor & NDAHI MARAMA
ABUJA — President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, described the terrorist attacks by the Boko Haram Islamic sect as “a temporary setback” which will soon be a thing of the past. This came on the heels of the nation’s quest for direct foreign investment which is the high point of the 2011 Economic summit.
Speaking at the on-going 17th Nigeria Economic Summit, NES 17, in Abuja, President Jonathan said that his administration was acquiring and deploying all necessary security infrastructure to defeat the sect in order to make the nation an investors’ haven in her quest to be a key global economic power.
His words: “We are working very hard to provide a conducive atmosphere for investors. Although we currently have the Boko Haram problem, just like terrorist activities in other parts of the globe, but I can assure Nigerians and the global community that we will soon overcome. All those involved in 2010 Independence Day attacks have been arrested. We admit that our primary responsibility is to provide security and we are working on it. Book Haram is a temporary setback.
“It is important we recognize that terrorism is a global problem. It is just that the problem of terrorism is new to us in this country. We are acquiring the right infrastructure to effectively combat them.
“Let me appeal, once again, to our global partners to see us as partners in progress. The investment environment in Nigeria is ripe. We are taking necessary steps to put in place appropriate legislation to guarantee and protect your investments.
“We are not unmindful of the security challenges that confront us. Government is taking firm steps to address the problem. We will continue to fight crime, punish offenders and do everything necessary to make our country conducive for everyone to live in and engage in genuine enterprises.
“To members of the global investor community, I want to tell you that our economy has maintained its growth, in the face of the global economic downturn.
“Meanwhile, our external trade and tariff policies are being reviewed, even as we recognize the need to promote and protect domestic industries. We are committed to creating a more responsive tariff policy which will make our prohibition list more.
“The ministers and other public sector officials will be providing more details in their presentations and further in depth discussion with their private sector counterparts during the course of the Summit. I understand also that a number of state governors will participate in this Summit and use the opportunity to promote available business opportunities in their states.”
Those who fail to invest in Nigeria now will regret
President Jonathan who personally participated in the Presidential Dialogue with Global CEOs on the theme “Attracting Foreign Direct Investment through Global Partnerships” where he stated that international firms who fail to invest in Nigeria now would regret in the future.
He said: “Anybody who fails to invest in Nigeria now because of these incidences of Boko Haram will regret it. Those who think that Nigeria is a place where they can always come and dump their products will eventually be disappointed because this will not continue for long”.
The president insisted that there was no better time to invest in the country than now and therefore urged both local and foreign investors to do businesses in the country. President Jonathan also said that with the policies being put in place by his administration, he expected those that had relocated to neighbouring countries would return, but said he hoped they would return when they could find a place in the economy.
On the controversial subsidy issue, the president said that his political opponents were playing politics and trying to misinform the Nigerian populace with an ulterior motive of bringing down his government. Dr. Jonatha singled out his rival during the presidential polls, General Muhammadu Buhari as the only opposition politician that was honest in his position about the need to remove the subsidy and that the policy required an extensive education among the people to enable them appreciate the benefits that would accrue to them from the removal of the subsidy on petroleum products.
“You know in this country, people play politics with everything, even serious issues that are very critical to the survival of the nation. Therefore you have to take the stability into consideration. You have to carry along all arms of government. Unfortunately, here, people play politics with all things. Now even some of those who were arguing for the removal of subsidy before are now speaking from the other side of the mouth. Now they want to bring down the government.
“It is only General (Muhammadu) Buhari who has come out openly and spoke for the removal of subsidy. We have to educate the people, otherwise, some people, for political reasons, will misinform the people. If we don’t deregulate now, in 10-15 years, we will be importing fuel from Ghana, Chad and other neighbouring countries”, he said.
Those to buy power sector
Speaking on the power sector which the investors identified as a basic necessity for the economy to genuinely blossom, the president assured that only credible firms with requisite technical know-how and financial muzzle to add value would be given the privilege to run the successor companies of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.
His words: “Nigerians are very clear in their demand for stable power supply and we are working on this. The power sector is very key and that is why we are diligently pursuing the privatization of the companies from the PHCN.
“We have discovered that some of the companies that were privatized in the past are not doing well because those to whom they were sold had no capacity to run them effectively. Take for instance the steel sector. We all have seen that the steel sector was not well handled and I don’t want that to happen in the power sector.
“The Bureau of Public Enterprises, I believe, has gone a long way in the process of the privatization of the power sector. One thing we have decided to do is that a detailed due diligence must be carried out on all the companies that are vying for the power sector. It is not an area for starters. We want companies that have been in the business of power generation, transmission or distribution. We want companies that will add value and satisfy the power demands of the Nigerian public”.
The president noted that although rapid population had become an issue of global concern, with many countries now addressing theirs through birth control; in Nigeria, the issue had become difficult due to the religious connotation in some quarters. He said, however, that there was need to educate Nigerians on the advantage of lean families that they could effectively provide for rather than just raise children who would become miscreants.
His words: “A large population has its advantages and disadvantages- advantages because of the large market but the disadvantage is that you have to provide for the people. In Nigeria for religious reasons, you can’t talk of population. But we have to educate the people.
“It is not the number of children but the quality of children that matters. If you have 20 children and all of them will be militants or Boko Haram, how will that help our nation? It is better to have one or two who will be useful to Nigeria. You will notice that those who don’t have much are the ones who have many children while those who are in the middle class and the rich have fewer number of children. So we have to continue to educate the people”.
Nigeria best place to invest— Dangote
In his remarks, the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji. Aliko Dangote said that he would continue to heavily invest in the Nigerian economy as according to him, there was no better economy in the globe with Nigeria’s type of high return on investment.
He said his investment in cement alone had hit $7 billion and that if he had access to as much as $20 billion, he would invest it all in Nigeria with a view to saturating the Nigerian large market and meeting the needs of the West African Sub-Region.
“If I have $20 billion, I will invest all of it in Nigeria. This is the best country to invest, considering the large market in the country and the West African sub-region which is readly accessible to Nigerian manufacturers.
“The problem of the perception of the risk in Nigeria is because many investors do not go out on their own to have first-hand information”, he said.
He said that the security situation in the country was not as bad as most foreigners were made to believe, adding, “I drive myself around Lagos and I am sure I can’t do that if I were to be in some countries of the world.”
The business mogul added that in spite of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, investors continued to troop into those countries and that the situation in Nigeria was not in anyway comparable to those in the two countries.
He cited an example of a recent Iraqi investment forum organized in London saying that the venue was not only full to capacity but some would-be participants were actually turned back including four members of his eight-man delegation.
Dangote identified three major sectors with huge investment potentials, namely, agriculture, solid minerals mining and petrochemicals industries.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Board of the NESG, Mr. Foluso Philips said that the Nigerian economy was set to be discovered by many international investors, expressing optimism that more investors would come into the nation than had been witnessed in the past.
“Nigeria offers every investor, not just a good ready market but a good return”, he told the audience, while urging the government to ensure a good business environment that could provide employment opportunities for the nation’s large youth population..
US security alert: FG moves to avert occurrence
Meanwhile, in a swift move to avert further terrorist attacks as predicted by the United States government, President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the immediate completion of top security equipment project in the country, before the end of November.
The presidential directive coincides with an order by Andrew Azazi, National Security Adviser, NSA, to Ministries, Departments And Agencies, MDAs to volunteer capable hands to be trained by his office on counter terrorism and emergency response strategies. The officials will manage related security issues in their respective MDAs to complement the efforts of key security agencies in the country.
The new security equipment, it was learnt is to complement the already existing tracking device put into operation a few months ago by the police as well as the over two thousand units of Close Circuit Televisions, CCTV, being installed in Abuja and Lagos and the Aerial Unmanned Vehicles, AUVs, which are also expected to be deployed in the nation’s borders.
Already, following the security alert, the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, it was learnt has ordered a 24-hour-surveillance around all hotels that have over fifty room capacity while all public infrastructure and private recreational centres are now to be manned by plain-clothes security operatives.
A top Presidency source told Vanguard on the condition of anonymity that the different security agencies under the office of the NSA have intensified physical security checks across the FCT and major cities across the country as well as deployment of intelligence personnel to busy hotels and offices across the country.
Federal Government, the source said, was also discussing with border countries on the need for a mutual cooperation in dealing with the emerging security challenges along the border towns and cities within the West African sub-region.
“We are doing our best to ensure that we protect the lives and property of the citizenry and foreigners in this country”, the source stated further adding that once the government puts the entire new security apparatus into use, “you can be sure that these criminals causing so much trouble for the government will be taken care of adequately”.
The source urged Nigerians to ensure that the war on terrorism was not left for the government alone to handle.
“The fight on terrorism should be a collective one because the man or woman who has turned himself or herself into a weapon of destruction is difficult to monitor so every Nigerian should consider this fight his or her own. It must not be left for the government to fight alone,” the source appealed.
The multi-billion naira state of the art security equipment is designed to help the security services tackle emerging security challenges in the country and will serve the army, air force, navy, the state security services, SSS, the police, office of the NSA and other arms of the security services.
The project, which is coming under the National Public Security Communication System and cost the Federal Government about N10 billion, is fashioned along the line of the Global System of Telecommunications, GSM.
It was leant that the security equipment which will be principally coordinated by the office of the NSA, has installed line capacity exceeding MTN and Globacom combined and that when fully deployed, it has an excess of over one million lines.
Boko Haram attacks police post kill two
Meantime, some gunmen believed to be Boko Haram members on Wednesday evening bombed the Mainok Police outpost and the office of the Federal Road Safety FRSC, leaving two people dead. Mainok is a town in Kaga Local Government area of Borno state situated along the Maiduguri- Damaturu- Kano road. It was gathered that the gunmen arrived the town at about 6pm, bombed the police outpost and also attacked the FRSC office and escaped without being arrested.
Spokesman of the Joint Task Foce, JTF, Lt. Col. Hassan Mohammed told our Correspondent that unknown gunmen attacked Minok Police station as well as the office of the FRSC which left two people dead.
He said that, the gunmen who came to the town at about 6pm first attacked the police outpost, before they went to the FRSC office, and that his men are now on top of the situation.
Also speaking, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Simeone Midenda told our Correspondent that there was an attack by some gunmen in Mainok Police outpost and other places, which led to the killing of two people.
Midenda said those who were killed in the attack were not policemen, but civilians, whom he suspected were killed from stray bullets. He assured that investigation was going on to arrest those behind the attack, even as he reassured the general Public not to panic but to go about their normal businesses as the security agencies are on top of the security challenges in the state.