President Muhammadu Buhari has called on world leaders and investors to devote more energy to the advancement of humane policies and practices that would guarantee global peace and stability. Buhari said this would help in addressing the rising tension and violence across the world.
The president spoke yesterday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at the opening of a three-day “Future Investment Initiative Summit.”
He canvassed debt relief for struggling economies, especially, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Buhari stressed that the rising global social unrest was caused by deteriorating social inequalities and unfair distribution of wealth and resources, which according to him, denied the majority the opportunity to participate.
He said the only way to prevent further escalation of global social unrest was for both governments and private sector stakeholders to start engaging in “humane investments,” which would factor the majority into the growth and development loop.
The president said his administration would keep encouraging public and private initiatives to increase investments in health, education, capacity building, youth empowerment, gender equality, poverty eradication, climate change, and food security.
“By so doing,” Buhari stated, “it will go a long way in re-energising the global economy in a post COVID-19 era.”
He explained, “Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation. Our economic reforms, which focus on ‘humane’ investments, are ideal for investors looking to have profitable returns while positively impacting the citizenry.
“Investing in humanity is the right thing to do. I strongly believe the historical under-investments in ‘humane projects’ is the genesis of most of the insecurity and socio-economic challenges the world is experiencing today”.
Speaking on the theme of the summit, “Investing in Humanity”, Buhari said the Nigerian perspective was to focus on people-oriented development policies, with diversification from oil to more inclusive sectors, such as agriculture, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and mining. He said his government was also channelling its energies into tackling corruption, insecurity, and climate change, as well as introducing social investment programmes.
Buhari stated, “Investing in humanity is investing in our collective survival. This is why we in Nigeria believe that public and private partnership should focus on increasing investments in health, education, capacity building, youth empowerment, gender equality, poverty eradication, climate change and food security.”
The president also told the audience, “Nigeria’s population today exceeds 200 million people. Some 70 per cent are under 35 years old. When we came into government in 2015, we were quick to realise that long-term peace and stability of our country is dependent on having inclusive and humane policies.
“In the past six years, our government took very painful but necessary decisions to invest for a long-term prosperous future, knowing very well that this will come with short term pains.”
He emphasised that humane investment practices were the only way to address the global challenges the world currently faced following the pandemic.
According to him, “We should continue to sustain our efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its negative socio-economic impact on our societies, build resilience and achieve recovery.
“It is, therefore, my hope that this session will leverage on the enormous economic opportunities that lie ahead in order to satisfy the prevailing needs of our people and planet.”
The president stated that investment in humanity must also take into consideration the debt burden on nations, which had been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, “We cannot invest in humanity without relieving our countries from the crushing effects of the debt burden, especially, when the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of deepening the debt portfolio of poor countries.
“These nations increasingly allocate more and more resources towards external debt servicing and repayment at the expense of the health, education and other services that contribute to the overall wellbeing of their populations.”
Buhari told the gathering that Nigeria’s diversification effort had continued to yield result, particularly in agriculture.
He disclosed, “We introduced policies that supported investments in agriculture and food processing. We provided loans and technical support to smallholder farmers, through the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
“As a result, Nigeria today has over 40 rice mills from less than 10 in 2014. Nigeria also has over 46 active fertiliser blending plants from less than five in 2014.
“Furthermore, in agriculture, we have reformed the process of obtaining inputs, such as fertiliser and seeds. We have several million hectares of available arable land and have embarked on the creation of Special Agriculture Processing Zones across the country. These initiatives we believe will make it easier for investors in agriculture.”
The president said the oil sector was undergoing a reform that would make it more attractive and inclusive.
He told the global investment public, “Two months ago, I signed the Petroleum Industry Act. The Act will serve as a catalyst to liberalise our petroleum sector. It has introduced a number of incentives, such as tax holidays, 100 per cent ownership, zero interest loans, and easy transfer of funds. In addition, we have highly skilled in-country workforce and a large domestic market.
“In mining, we have also made several opportunities available for investors. Nigeria is a country rich in minerals from gold, iron ore, tin, zinc, cobalt, lithium, limestone, phosphate, bitumen and many others. We have made the licensing process easier and also made extensive investments in rail and transportation.
“Infrastructure investments represent significant potential for investors in Nigeria. We have opportunities in seaports, rail, toll roads, real estate, renewable energy and many others. We have created several institutions that are available to co-invest with you in Nigeria.
“We have the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and more recently, I approved the creation of Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria. These institutions are run as independent world-class institutions to make investments in the country and are available to co-invest with you.”
He called for more interest in infrastructure, such as healthcare and education, which “present enormous opportunities for investors in a country our size.”
Buhari said, “Digital Economy in Nigeria has many potentials for investment, as it has remained the fastest growing sector in both 2020 and 2021. Nigeria has many opportunities for investment in broadband, ICT hardware, emerging technology and software engineering.
“We have recently approved the national policy on Fifth Generation (5G) network. Our aim is to attract investors in healthcare, smart cities, smart agriculture among others. The benefit of real time communication will support all other sectors of the economy.”
As a means to further improve and reposition Nigeria’s economy to attract investors, the president said the, “e-Naira, the electronic version of our national currency, which puts us on track to become the first African country to introduce a Central Bank Digital Currency,” was launched on October 25.
He said, “We believe this and many other reforms will help us increase the number of people participating in the banking sector, make for a more efficient financial sector and help us tackle illicit flow of funds.
“To further strengthen our anti-corruption drive, increase accountability and transparency, we have centralised government funds through a Treasury Single Account, and ensuring that all Nigerians with a bank account use a unique Bank Verification Number (BVN).
“These initiatives, coupled with our nationwide National Identification Number (NIN) exercise, reinforce our efforts to tackle corruption and fraud. We believe that this should give investors a lot of comfort.”
He also told the world leaders about the devastating effect of climate change on livelihoods of people around the Lake Chad.
He added, “As we strive to build resilience towards a sustainable economy in our various countries, let us not forget the negative impact of climate change on our efforts to achieve this goal. Nigeria and many countries in Africa are already facing the challenges posed by climate change.
“Climate change has triggered conflicts, food insecurity, irregular youth migration, rising level of sea waters, drought and desertification, as well as the drying-up of the Lake Chad.
“In the Lake Chad Basin region, where Boko Haram insurgency continues to undermine the peace, security and development of the region, climate change is largely responsible for the drying up of the Lake Chad, which has shrunk by more than 85 per cent of its original size.
“The diminishing size of the lake is at the root of the loss of millions of livelihoods, displacement of inhabitants and radicalisation of teeming youths in the region who are recruited to serve as foot soldiers in the insurgency.
“In order to redress this situation and restore the lost fortunes of the Lake Chad Basin region, strong public-private partnership through massive investments will be needed to recharge the waters of Lake Chad. I am confident that this forum will rise to the challenge in the interest of durable peace and sustainable development of our region.”