Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.M. / H.E. Godfrey Bayour Preware

A West African Giant Meets the Challenge of Change  
 Two years ahead of the next presidential elections, President Olusegun Obasanjo has launched new initiatives designed to bolster Nigeria’s democratic transition and economic development, including an intensified battle against corruption and a campaign to cancel the country’s foreign debt. The Ambassador of Nigeria to France, H.E. Godfrey Bayour Preware, details this new strategy and talks about Nigeria’s aspirations in the African and international arenas.
The Diplomatic Letter: Ambassador: After being reelected to serve a second term in April 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated a national political reform conferenceon  21 February 2005. Could you outline the main goals of this vast consultative process, which seeks to redefine and reshape Nigeria’s political system? Has Nigeria’s young democracy already made significant strides forward?

H.E. Godfrey Bayour Preware: The purpose of the Political Reform Conference is to provide a forum for widespread consultation and active dialogue among stakeholders on aspects of governance for reinforcing unity, cohesion, stability, security, progress and development of the Nigerian federation.

Representation to the confab was organized in such a way as to ensure participation and contribution from all sectors of the society and all communities and constituencies. The selection of representatives from diaspora, women, youth, and persons that are physically challenged has been done taking into account geographical representation and balances.

During the inauguration of the Political reform Conference in Abuja, the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, stated that the Conference was an opportunity to reassess, refocus, redefine and redesign Nigeria’s political landscape in a direction that would strengthen the bonds of unity, enhance the process of democratic consolidation, strengthen structures so as to solidify those values that promote democracy, good governance and good neighbourliness and open opportunities for all Nigerians to be, and to feel that they are part of the evolving process and socio-economic advancement.

Nigeria’s historical experience at constitution making shows that certain adjustments may be required to satisfy some legitimate yearnings. Additionally, some of the contradictions and challenges bequeathed by colonial administration have continued to pose problems for the nation to this day.

The path taken by Nigeria’s nascent democracy is that of a holistic economics reform agenda covering accelerated privatisation, public and civil service reforms, and a war against corruption. These reforms are being pursued vigorously and are yielding results. As recent key macro-economic indicators show, for the first time in decades, in 2004 Nigeria either met or surpassed key economic targets. Growth rate in 2004 was over 6 per cent better than the targeted 5 per cent. Federal fiscal deficit/ GDP ratio on cash basis was 11.99 per cent in December 2004. The nation’s stock of external reserves rose from US$3,7 billion in 1999 to US$18,4 billion in January 31, 2005.

T.D.L.: With about 130 million inhabitants living in 36 states, Nigeria is the most heavily populated country in Africa. It also has over 200 different ethnic groups, which has led to ethnic and social strife. In October 2004 federal authorities signed a peace agreement with key leaders of the Niger Delta rebel movement. What must be done to ensure lasting social peace in Nigeria?

H.E. G.B.P.: The Federal Government has put in place mechanisms backed by institutions to address the restiveness of youths in Niger Delta region and ensure lasting peace. Government has set up Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which is responsible for providing social infrastructure and amenities in the region. New road networks are being built while old ones are being rehabilitated. Government is buidling more schools and hospitals as well as providing potable water to the communities. Government has also instituted skill acquisition programmes to empower the youths and make them productive.

Oil producing states enjoy 13 per cent derivation i.e. 13% of all oil revenue from the states where oil is produced is given to the state government for development and social programmes in the communities.

Government is also encouraging dialogue among, oil producing communities, oil companies, youth leaders, traditional rulers and other stakeholders. This has helped to promote better understanding among the various parties and helped to dispel suspicion.

There is no religious dimension to the youth restiveness in the Niger Delta. Rather, the fundamental issues are their displeasure with degradation of their land and their desire for more social development, greater employment opportunities and more control of the oil wealth found in their region.

T.D.L.: Already a West African economic powerhouse, Nigeria has launched a series of deep-reaching economic reforms with the support of the international financial community. Could you describe the NEEDS national development plan, and tell us what is being done to ensure its successful implementation?

H.E. G.B.P.: The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) is the response to the development challenges facing the nation. The guiding principles of needs are:

– Re-orienting values

– Reducing poverty

– Creating wealth and generating employment

These guiding lines are predicated on the belief that these goals can be achieved by creating an environment in which business can thrive. Government is rededicated to providing basic services and people are empowered to take advantage of the new livelihood opportunities the plan will stimulate.

NEEDS has set out far reaching public reforms supported by institutions that will prevent corruption and graft. Government has established the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit as well as the Code of Conduct Bureau.

The guidelines for NEEDS are:

– To halve the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day.

– Achieve Universal Primary Education

– Reduce maternal/child mortality, by halting and beginning to reverse the spread of AIDS/HIV, malaria, etc.

– Introduction of a health insurance scheme.

– To significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million people who do not have proper habitation by 2020.

– Providing affordable housing, water, sanitation skills as well as providing entrepreneurial


– Improve access to credit.

T.D.L.: In light of the Blair Commission’s recommendations for promoting African development, what prospect in the G8 summit open to your country concerning the cancellation of its foreign debt?

H.E. G.B.P.: The recent announcement to cancel the debts of 18 of the countries listed under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), 14 of them in Africa, is indeed a welcome development.

The Obasanjo Administration has made debt cancellation a major plank of its Administration’s policy since assuming office in 1999. Debt cancellation will encourage the Federal Government to continue with its laudable economic transformation, socio-political reforms and anti-corruption crusade.

If the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) to develop a global partnership for development is to be actualised, Nigeria’s crippling debt burden must be cancelled to give her a fair chance. As you are aware, Nigeria is a pro-active regional player. Her efforts in peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance have been promoting peace, security and economic progress in its areas of influence, thereby contributing to global security and prosperity. Nigeria needs to be freed from its debt burden if it is to efficiently and effectively cope with its international responsability for the benefit of the region in particular and the global community in general.

T.D.L.: Nigeria produces 2.4 million barrels of crude oil a day, making it Africa’s number one exporter. Paradoxically enough, your country still imports half of its fuel needs. What is the government doing to rectify this situation? The oil sector currently accounts for over 40% of GDP and more than 90% of exports. Are steps being taken to expand the still underdeveloped industrial and agricultural sectors? With the privatization program set to resume, could you tell our readers about the opportunities Nigeria holds for foreign investors?

H.E. G.B.P.: The decision to import fuel into the country was a temporary measure to ameliorate the problem of fuel shortage in the country. In the longer term, the government has liberalized and deregulated the oil sector thereby enabling private investment in that sector.

Specially, government is privatising the nation’s refineries. This is aimed at attracting experts who can provide sound technical and administrative skills in the operation of the refineries and enable them to perform at optimum capacity and meet domestic demands.

Government has also given licences to some state governments to build refineries, all in an effort to boost the capacity of production. Government is also requiring that in the near future, oil companies operating in Nigeria refine a percentage of the crude oil they explore. It is expected that by the time deregulation fully takes place, importation of fuel into the country will cease.

The present Administration is giving great priority to the diversification of the economy in order to reduce dependence on oil as a source of revenue. Renewed attention is being accorded to the non-oil sector. In the agricultural sector, hitherto neglected cocoa farms are being rehabilitated and new trees planted through the National Cocoa Development Committee (NCDC) set up by the present Administration on December 2, 1999. Additionally, palm oil plantations are being resuscitated. Cassava, which is gradually becoming the black gold is being extensively cultivated and exported to such countries as China. As a result of investor friendly policies put in place by the Government, the nation’s privatisation programme is in full throttle. We welcome investors to come and take advantage of the generous incentives that are on offer, which will guarantee investors of lucrative returns on their investment.

Numerous opportunities are available to investors in the newly privatized industries. Opportunities abound for investments in the oil sector, agriculture, telecommunications, energy, solid minerals amongst others. Government is encouraging local manufacturers to produce high quality goods which will compete favourably in the international market and has established an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) to further boost export.

Government is promoting the establishment of small and medium scale enterprises (SME) and ensuring that loans and micro credits are accessible to farms and entrepreneurs.

T.D.L.: The Gulf of Guinea holds over 4% of the world’s oil reserves. With the Middle East still rocked by instability, the Gulf of Guinea has become one of the most promising areas on the planet for hydrocarbon production. The United States is showing growing interest in the region. Has this new situation altered Nigeria’s geostrategic outlook? Are measures being taken to ensure the security of your oil fields?

H.E. G.B.P.: The Gulf of Guinea is becoming strategic to the western world in view of the vast quantity of oil that has been discovered here. Nigeria in conjunction with her neighbours in the Gulf of Guinea has consequently established a Gulf of Guinea Commission. The Commission is to essentially protect the interest of the countries in the Commission and ensure the peaceful development of the resources of the region. Already, Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe are working together to jointly develop some fields.

T.D.L.: Despite the reinvigorated peace process in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa remains highly unstable, with political crises still boiling in Guinea and Togo. Nigeria carries great weight as a regional mediator. What is your country doing to help create effective conflict prevention mechanisms?

H.E. G.B.P.: There are already regional and sub-regional mechanisms for conflict prevention and conflict resolution in the West African sub-region and on the African continent. The sub-region of West Africa has had more than its share of crisis and ECOWAS continues to play a mediating and stabilising role in our sub-region. Other African problems, like Darfour in Sudan, are equally being addressed by the African Union that already has peacekeeping troops on the ground there. Hopefully, logistic and financial support form United Nations memberships will enhance prospects for a definitive solution to the Darfour problem.

T.D.L.: Africa is yet to establish a strong presence on the international stage. Nigeria is vying for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, along with Egypt and South Africa. What type of voice would your country like to be on the council, as the representative of the African continent?

H.E. G.B.P.: Nigeria would like to voice in the Security Council, especially, on African issues, the realities, concerns, and sensitivities, of the African peoples. Nigeria has great faith in the United Nations system and sees merit in the proposals for its reform to make it even more responsive to the global challenges of peace, security, democracy and development. These challenges also constitute global goals to which Nigeria remains very strongly committed. Nigeria, believes therefore, that the continent of Africa, which faces many of these challenges, deserves to be more effectively represented at the Security Council, the highest policy and decision making organ of the United Nations. Any  Nigerian interest and candidacy for a permanent seat on the Security Council must be seen in the context of the country’s demonstrated and continuing commitment to the promotion of sub-regional, regional and global peace, security and development, particularly, on the African continent. Before the next general assembly of the United Nations, the African Union summit would have held at Sirte, Libya; that summit will definitely confirm the emergence of a consensus African position on the proposed United Nation reforms. It is hoped that the next United Nations General Assembly in September will duly discuss the proposed reform agenda.

T.D.L.: France and Nigeria have stepped up their relations considerably since 1999, with President Olesegun Obasanjo making a state visit to France last May. Did this visit help foster new convergences between our countries? Should we expect to see stronger bilateral relations in the future, particularly in terms of economic ties?
H.E. G.B.P.: From the early 1960s, Nigeria has maintained healthy relations with France. Irritants caused by French nuclear tests in the early 60’s, initial frictions over the take-off of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have given way to remarkable convergence of views and foreign policy objectives of France and Nigeria; this is particularly true in the West African sub-region. Economic relations have flourished to a point where France remains the second largest foreign investor in the Nigerian economy.

The recent visit of the President Obasanjo to France, gave the leadership of our two countries the opportunity both to reconfirm the attachments to democratic values and an engagement for the promotion of partnership for development. The visit also provided the partnership of an interactive meeting between the President and corporate France represented Mouvement des Entreprises de France (MEDEF) and CIAN. At the meeting, the President highlighted six strategic areas of priority attention by his administration, areas to which foreign investors were invited. These are oil, gas, manufacturing, tourism and solid minerals. The President pointed out that Nigeria’s “invitation for foreign involvement and, indeed, critical participation in shaping the emerging contours of Nigeria’s economy is borne out of conviction of the mutually reinforcing opportunities of what Nigeria and France have to offer to each other”. The visit of the French external trade Minister to Nigeria would have a very positive effect on promoting trade between the two countries. In the West African sub-region, France and Nigeria have remained committed to the promotion of peace, security, and development. On the domestic and continental scene, the next emphasis by African leaderships, on democracy, good governance and accountability has created a more favourable environment for forging partnerships with countries like France for development.  

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