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Buhari Urges European Nations, Others to Grant Africa Debt Relief

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President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday urged European nations and international financial institutions to grant debt relief to African countries.

He also gave an assurance that Public-Private Partnership (PPP) will be fully explored to ensure more precision in development, cutting down waste and reducing chances of corruption.

In addition, Buhari urged investors to further explore vast opportunities of human and natural resources in Nigeria, while assuring them that fiscal policies will be more favourable, predictable and measurably tilted towards creating a harmonious business environment.

The president, in his presentation at the Financing Africa Summit, held in Paris, with the theme: “External Financing and Debt Treatment,” called on European countries and global financial institutions to consider reducing the devastating effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the African economies.

This, he said, could be done by restructuring debt portfolios, opting for complete relief, and releasing vaccines to the continent, which is still behind in protecting majority of its citizens.

According to him, fall in commodity prices as COVID-19 took a toll on the global economy has further slowed growth in some countries and strained health facilities.

He said: “It is in this vein that we solicit the support of the French government with its influence in the European Union to lend its voice to the efforts being made to mobilise additional resources for developing economies, most especially Africa in order to strengthen the quantum of investments to our economies. This financial support should also be extended to the private sector.”

The president said the European Union should encourage fair and equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines in less developed countries, and promote the establishment of manufacturing facilities.

Buhari stated that many African countries are already experiencing debt distress and the Debt Service Suspension by France and G-20 does not go far enough.

He added that there was need for more sustainable and affordable financing solutions, including debt relief and further debt restructuring.

On the Paris Agreement for Climate Change, the president stated that African countries would need financial support for green energy investment and COP-26, adding that Nigeria will refocus on gas while adopting a Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative.

Buhari, while also speaking on the theme of “Africa Private Sector — Reforms – Infrastructure’’ said Public-Private Partnership (PPP) would be fully explored to ensure more precision in development, cutting down waste and reducing chances of corruption.

He said: “The government intends to leverage on Public-Private Partnership to bolster its job creation, and anti-corruption drive. In terms of job creation, Nigeria has an abundant labour force since 30.5 per cent of its population is between the ages of 25 and 54.”

Buhari, at another occasion in Paris, urged investors to further explore vast opportunities of human and natural resources in Nigeria, while assuring them that fiscal policies will be more favourable, predictable and measurably tilted towards creating a harmonious business environment.

The president spoke when he hosted Chairman of Total, Patrick Pouyanne; Executive Vice President, AirBus, Silvere Delaunay; Chairman of the Board of a software company, Daussault Systems, Florence Verzelen; Chairman/CEO of General Engineering and Marketing of Telecommunications Operator, Francois-Regis Teze and Chairman/CEO, Donaflex Automotive, Dr. Donatus Nwokoye.

At the meeting with the delegation from Total, Buhari said the outlook and potential for growth in the country remained steadily positive and affirmed the government’s commitment to scale up operating standards and policies that encourage mutual benefits.

He said: ”We are very pleased with the evolving trends in technology, which is currently driving development across the world and Nigeria. Nigeria is more a gas country than a crude oil-producing country. In the 80’s we generated more from gas, than crude oil. In the ’80s, we were earning more from gas for some years and had put in place structures. We intend to further explore the gas sector. I am pleased with your consistency in staying in Nigeria.”

He urged investors to take advantage of the natural and human resources in Nigeria, saying that the demographics favour development, with more young people who are eager to be gainfully engaged and trained.

The president thanked Pouyanne for the company’s consistency and expansion in Nigeria since 1956, assuring him that the government will enhance fiscal stability to favour investors.

”We need to educate the youth and encourage more skills in technology. Technology has been most impactful in all sectors, including the oil and gas, which has witnessed a rapid transformation in exploration, processing and distribution,” Buhari added.

Also speaking, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Mele Kyari, said Total had confirmed long-term investments in Nigeria and had consistently exceeded targets in gas production.

According to him, the NNPC has designed solutions to some of the challenges in the oil and gas sector, particularly on tax.

Pouyanne told the president of the readiness of the company to stay in Nigeria, and to further expand interest in oil, gas, solar and other commodities that will directly impact the lives of citizens.

He said investors had been eagerly waiting for the passing of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as it would send a strong signal of more predictability.

“Total is very committed to Nigeria. We have no intention of leaving Nigeria,’’ he said.

Buhari also yesterday met with the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, who came to brief him on the regional security and political situation in the Horn of Africa.

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