By Victoria Ojeme, and Ezra Ukanwa.

The Nigerian Ambassador to the World Trade Organization, WTO, Dr. Adamu Abdulhamid, Tuesday, sought partnership with the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA, to create more international free zones investments.

Abdulhamid while speaking during a courtesy visit to the Managing Director of NEPA, Prof Adesoji Adesugba, in Abuja, said that if international free zones are created, the foreign direct investment, FDI, in Nigeria would gain momentum.

He further commended NEPZA’s MD on his successes so far, while restating partnership plans to create coordinating investment centers at
Europe and other countries that lacked coordinating investment centers.

He said: “the purpose of my courtesy call to you is actually to seek for collaboration with the agency under your leadership so that we’ll be able to deliver on the mandate given to me as Nigeria ambassador to the World Trade Organisation.

“One maybe surprise when we said we are seeking for your collaboration because probably what is known is the Geneva officials only meeting and negotiating on traditions. But during my time there was an expansion of the coverage of responsibilities.

“We have noticed in Europe there isn’t any coordinating centre on investment. All they do is write the Nigerian missions to have some debt officers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I think what we observed was not so much because anything that has to do with trade, anything that has to do with investment, then someone with professional ideas on how to go about it should be the one responsible to handle that if the target of it is to be achieved.

“So luckily, Mr. President has approved that is expansion and we are working to ensure that we have a framework within which we can work within all the European countries to see how we can mobilise more, even though we know they have invested in the country, but we have to mobilise more of them coming into the country to invest especially at our resort.

“One of my colleagues in the mission will be liaising with, so that if there is anything we can do at least we can have that direct access because sometimes long bureaucracy delays achieving some objectives. So of course, we know that whatever we’re writing to the country, normally we write to the Federal Ministry of Industry and investment, which will have to continue, but for speedy process, there is nothing wrong to copy your office and if possible, the focal officer here.

“So if we do that, we’re helping the system. And of course we can achieve the desired objective without delay. So that’s why I came to the country and I visited some ministers and chief executives to have this collaboration with the approval of the higher authority to do that. So and I can see it’s been yielding results, honestly. So and we must continue to collaborate and to ensure that we help our country we know to get the desired objective at the global level.

“I represent as a Nigerian ambassador to the World Trade Organisation. Not only some activities within the World Trade Organisation, but it cut across the International Trade Centre which have a lot of packages on small and medium enterprises. And many of the technical support they have the package the only thing is to identify who need it and then we liase and get it done. So it’s one of our key objectives during our time at least, to leave that as the landmark for us as an achievement.”

On his part, Adesugba expressed joy over the new task ahead stating that it was an extension of his mandate which is in line with his passion and duty which are: the continuous promotion of Nigeria; developing strategies towards toward improving the economic climate, investment climate.

He further stated that he would drive progress in making sure that Nigeria is counted as one of the the preferred destination for investment in the whole of Africa.

He said: “for most of us this should be the way we look at things from the prism of continuous proportion of Nigeria, developing strategies towards improving the economic climate, investment climate, as well as making Nigeria the preferred destination for investment in this part of the world. Despite what people deem to be challenges which we sometimes tell that, yes, there is absolutely no space on earth without challenges. But we can also turn those challenges into opportunities.

“WTO and what you do is very important, and I have always wondered, also like you that leaving the promotion of investments into the hands of people who are not trained, sometimes could be counterproductive because when you don’t view the prospective investor as other countries do, you lose the competitive edge that you should have first meetings, prospecting, and all that you won’t understand. But for professionals we’ve always said pleaded to our bosses to understand that we need professionals in those countries and climates where we should be prospective, where we should be promoting the country.

“As a professional in this field, I had advocated for the establishment of investment promotion agencies, IPAs, not just to the States. I think I was the first person that helped a state to set. And I think that was Akwa-Ibom then those days, but now I think we have about 23 IPAs all over the country, which makes your job a little bit easier.

“I hope all states in Nigeria will eventually come to having IPAs but most important are the local government. In China, the municipal councils and the local councils all have IPs. And the reason being that investment does not end with the federal areas it ends in a space and it’s and a spot at the local level where there is a greater understanding of the different attributes of promoting your location makes things better, also makes things better for the investment climate. It makes people understand how to treat investors better, all these issues of multi taxation, all these issues of treating bureaucratic processes the delivery of jobs is infrastructure within the local areas, people will get to understand it better.

“Now, going outside the country, you see that countries that have a great understanding of investment promotion they’ve all develop strategies to attract not just everybody particular people, or particular investments into their spheres. There are different strategies that have been used but one thing that is common with successful strategies is that they use people, professionals that have the ability to understand issues related to trade and investment.

“For instance, Africa, like Nigeria, we believe that it’s so expensive to promote investment by deploying the professionals to every country. So their own strategy was different. They identified indigenes of those countries where they are trying to attract investments from and appoint them as investment promotional agencies.

“In Nigeria, we use embassies like you rightly said, and unfortunately most of the officers are not properly equipped to deliver on this mandate of investment promotion. I think to my mind in terms of costs, in terms of your experience and exposure. I think the government’s decision to expand your mandate is quite welcoming. You have a good grasp of the situation from from your past delete, you know Nigeria very well.

“You notice all the attributes of investment promotion, just by this strategy of linking up to the agencies you have linked up with shows you know what you’re doing, and that’s why that you probably cascade down now that we know we have somebody there and we are going to identify it as a desk officer like you, you asked for, who will work directly with you.

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