Nigeria’s vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, on Wednesday reiterated the need for Nigeria to exploit the potential of diaspora investment in its bid to facilitate growth and diversify the economy.
A statement sent to newsmen from the vice president’s media office said Osinbajo made the remarks at the first-ever Nigerian Diaspora Investment Summit (NDIS) which held in Abuja.
The summit, slated for 27-29 November and themed “Activating Diaspora Investments for a Diversified Economy,” sought to attract investments into Nigeria.
It was put together by the senior special assistant to the president on foreign affairs and diaspora, and nominee of the president as chairman and chief executive officer of the newly established Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, in partnership with other stakeholders.
Speaking at the event, Osinbajo maintained that Nigeria has one of the most resilient, hardworking, intelligent and resourceful people in diaspora, in every field of human endeavour and that it would be very tragic if the nation fails to tap this immense potential.
The summit was attended by members of the diaspora community including entrepreneurs, professionals, and sector experts.
Osinbajo said since May 2015, when the present administration came into office, it has focused on three key areas of reviving and diversifying the economy, improving security, and fighting corruption.
“You are all aware of how the questionable economic decisions and practices in recent years sowed the seeds of many of the economic troubles that became full-blown, shortly after we came to office,” he said.
“We emerged from the biggest oil boom in the history of Nigeria with oil prices from within a $100 – $114 barrels, lasting from 2011 to 2014, but we emerged not just with depleted external reserves, but also no commensurate level of investment in infrastructure or the welfare of the Nigerian people.
“The economic growth we experienced between 2011 and 2014, averaging between 5 – 6 percent per annum, was driven mainly by high oil prices, which is how our economic growth story has always been because we haven’t always diversified our economy.
“Naturally, high oil prices do not necessarily translate into jobs because the oil industry ‘does not’ employ many people nor does it mean shared prosperity of any kind, for the majority of Nigerians, hence the talk, even at such times, of ‘jobless’ growth.”
It was an oil-fuelled party to which the majority of Nigerians were not invited, Osinbajo said, adding that only a small minority enjoyed the dividends, through oil lifting contracts, defence contracts, and generally brazen transfers of wealth from public coffers to private accounts.
No country in the world can progress with any kind of economic policy if there was the sort of corruption that the nation saw in the past few years, Osinbajo said.
He said Nigeria needs to deal with the issue of grand corruption and the fight against corruption must be central to its economic policies.
“I am pleased to note that we are now out of the recession, and firmly on the path of sustained and diversified growth. In the last three years, we have seen growth in the non-oil sector and an impressive rise in the exports of agriculture products and solid minerals.
“We have added six million new taxpayers since 2015, a 50 percent increase in the taxpayer base as part of efforts at diversifying government revenues. Inflation is down dramatically from 18 percent in 2017 to about 11.1 percent today.
“The Nigerian economy has continued to attract significant capital inflows, with a total value of capital importation into Nigeria in excess of $16 billion in the first quarter of 2018,” he said.
The vice president said foreign reserves are up to $42 billion, from $29 billion in May 2015 and there is the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) which has been funded with $650 million to focus on critical road projects in various parts of the country, including the long overdue Second Niger Bridge.
Apart from the state of the national infrastructure, he argued, Nigeria’s challenging business environment had substantially raised the cost of doing business, which discouraged both domestic and foreign investors.
The vice president also spoke about the government’s efforts on issues of insecurity and the welfare of Internally Displaced Persons in the Northeast, de-escalation of banditry and violence in the North Central and holistic security as a foundation for investment and economic prosperity in the Niger Delta, among other initiatives.
“As we continue to make progress along these fronts, we strongly seek the cooperation and continued engagement of the Nigerian Diaspora,” he said.
As a government, Osinbajo said the present administration will support whatever will facilitate the mobilization of investment and talent into Nigeria, adding that the country is today, one of the leading countries in the world, in terms of diaspora remittances.
He said, “Every year, Nigerians abroad send back the equivalent of about $20 billion home, almost the equivalent of our federal budget. Even as Foreign Investments have ebbed and flowed over the years, this remittance flows, a large percentage of which is informal, have mostly remained stable. Our diaspora community is an important resource, in terms of revenue for Nigeria.
“The Nigerian diaspora, like most Africa diaspora, have an emotional connection with their homeland that has impelled them to maintain contact with their home countries. The Internet and Social Media have of course, made it a lot easier for you to stay connected with home.”
He said the government wants to help create the environment that allows diaspora investments to be made in a structured manner that brings maximum benefit to the Nigerian economy, adding that it is also important for members of the diaspora community to be able to have confidence that their investments are secure and protected.
“Our focus on the diaspora is clearly evident from the fact that we are the first administration to appoint a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, which has finally led to the establishment of the Diaspora Commission.
“This inaugural Nigerian Diaspora Investment Summit is a further demonstration of our seriousness about the role of the Nigerian diaspora in building our country. We want to partner with you and listen to you and implement your advice and insights,” he said.