Nigeria Is Open For Business! – Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

by Paul I. Adujie

I witnessed genuine euphoria, enthusiasm and exuberance in the past several days. These are not customary or usual terms some reserve for describing Nigerian officials.

But the Presidential delegation led by Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is certainly passionate about Nigeria! The members are self-assured, excited and ecstatic about the reforms that have taken place in Nigeria, and the consequent bountiful opportunities that are now open to Nigerian and Foreign Direct Investment. The enthusiasm, the exuberance, the confidence and excitement borne of conviction by the entire delegation, was simply contagious and infectious!

Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala led the high-powered delegation of President Obasanjo’s seasoned technocrats of economic and social policies. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is simply impressive what with her full grasp and complete articulation of the nature and extent of reforms in Nigeria? What with her ability to readily spew facts and figures without a script, their dedication shined through. They were precise and concise.

Dr. Iweala and her delegation captivated audiences at every of the forums which took them to all corners of New York City. The delegation’s first stop was in Washington DC while New York City was the second leg of their dynamic efforts on behalf of our dear republic and I experienced first-hand, how the delegation effectively conveyed their message, Nigeria’s message, with panoply of explanations, specific evidence of new rules, and the results of the plethora of reforms that are now entrenched in the system.

I took the entire week off from work as I attended every event, from the grand reception at the Sky Club on the 56th floor of the former Pan Am MetLife building near Hyatt Hotel, to the ringing of the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, to meetings with American corporate executives of Chevron, Credit Suisse Fleet Boston, Oracle, JP Morgan Chase, the Business Roundtables and the Interview with The New York Times and many American Television Networks.

The delegation took the message of successes in the reforms agenda that have been vigorously pursued by the Nigeria federal government. And her delegation amply supported their presentations with detailed information and explanations in connection with processes and institutions that have been put in place in order that current policy achievements will be sustained even after the current government in Nigeria leaves office.

Wanted Nigerians With Audacity!

Every good Nigerian is a Nigerian ambassador says the minister. The Finance Minister challenged Nigerians in the Diaspora to spread the good news about Nigeria, to our friends, to our professional colleagues and to our neighbors, our bankers, our accountants, our congressmen and women, to potential investors and to the government officials at all levels in the countries where we live. Dr. Iweala reminded Nigerians abroad that we do not need any invitation or reminder to come to Nigeria for visits, for vacations and or to invest. She also threw a welcome mat to Nigerians abroad who desire to return home for good. Diaspora Nigerians do not have to wait for government sponsored home return programs.

I attended the series of events that culminated in the presidential delegation’s efforts in both Washington and New York City and the various ministers and other heads of Nigerian government were simply graceful, and eloquent. At every appearance, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and Dr. Ezekwesili were clad in various resplendent and majestic African attires, which in themselves, repeatedly made positive assertive cultural statement, even before these ministers spoke about their passions and their missions on Nigeria’s behalf. They had an air of extra dignity about them.

Minister El Rufai gave a rousing speech about the successes of reforms in Nigeria, and he announced the dawn of a new era and the formation or establishment of a mortgage system in Nigeria, including housing revolution. And how he is reclaiming Abuja from those who were defacing the territory. Those who were building illegal structures and abusing the pristine terrain as they neglect the fine world-class city Abuja was intended to be. Minister Rufai boasted that Abuja already compares favorably with any modern city anywhere in the world, and Abuja will be the envy of the world by the time he is done with Abuja, to this, he received standing ovation and thunderous applause!

FCT Minister Rufai also announced sale of land and houses by government, of which he encouraged Diaspora Nigerians to actively participate, as land applications can be completed online. Minister Rufai explained that houses previously owned by government are being sold to individual Nigerians. He added that there are adequate incentives and priority for Diaspora Nigerian applicants.

The investment promotion council led by Engr. Bello which was a part of a high presidential delegation made speeches at every stop, as Mallam Bello pitched investment ideas to Nigerians and American audiences. I was amazed at his tireless investment promotion efforts. He presented the Nigeria investment environment as a win-win for all. The entire team represented Nigeria superbly well and Nigeria could not have asked and received any better servants of our public sector and the private sector were superbly represented by the Managing Director of UBA Mr. Tony Elemelu, Managing Director of Shell, Mr. Basil Omiyi, Oracle management executive Mr. Fafie, Virgin Nigeria Airline executive

These officials articulated Nigeria’s reforms and the progress that has been made by the current federal government to eradicate and eliminate corruption. And in its place, Nigeria has installed best business practice comparable to what exist elsewhere in the world. They explained Nigeria’s enactment of various new legislations aimed at streamlining how business is done in Nigeria… Geared towards effort to attract direct foreign investment to Nigeria.

Our tourism is not about sunshine and sex, says Eborieme the Chairman of Nigerian Tourism Board in his presentation, he spoke of the various facets of Nigeria’s wondrous diversities with our diverse culture in all its splendor. Nigeria’s Tourism promotion is like no other. It is not about sex, sea and sunshine. Good things are surely happening and I wish that I am part of this epoch making and history making process as it is surely a delight to have the names of all these key players and participant emblazoned and embedd

ed in the anal of worthy Nigerian history when it is written history is surely being made.

Mallam Ribadu like all others spoke glowingly about the new regime of due process rule of law that has now become entrenched. Nuhu states the need for change, recognition of improprieties. Corruption is the reason why many things fail. Corruption compromises everything. EFCC Nigeria has had help from the world.

“No society rises above its leadership. Nigeria is where it is today through failures of leadership. Nigerians are being trained. My experience is police. I was prosecutor. I was in the US in Atlanta teaching when I was appointed. Nigeria is a changed place Nigeria has decided to tackle frauds and 419ers.”

There have been arrests and convictions and about 21 in the last twelve months It was important to demonstrate in words and actions that we meant business There have been arrests of high ranking officials, cabinet ministers have been arrested, Customs leadership removed, Investigated 38 banks, investigated oil thefts and illegal bunkering…Sending a clear message that we should remove obstacles to development. For the first time, everyone now knows that we mean business. We got a president who is a champion. He is so at home and abroad. The President has hired seasoned technocrats. He has gotten the UK, US and EEU to support Nigeria. If you are not in Nigeria you are not yet in Africa says, Nuhu. Scotland yard and the FBI, etc., support local Nigerian efforts. No one is above the law. Almie is an example of such public officers who have been arrested in Nigeria’s partnership and cooperation with authorities worldwide to tackle corruption by Nigerian public officials. Rooting out corruption is fundamental to development. Setting a new standards. Best business practices should be entrenched by Nigerians and others who come to Nigeria to do business. Nigeria insists on corporate good governance, insist on best business practices. There are reforms that state clearly that it is a new era in Nigeria.

Huge Potentials As There Is No More Corruption

Continuity? We now have good governance. It is not about individuals. As to questions visibility of progress or its parameter, what to be done to remove Nigeria from infamous his like FATF have been done. There are serious issues that have been considered Anti money laundry law have been enacted. FATF has never been to Nigeria the achievement made so far is more than enough to convince anyone that Nigeria is serious about reforms Nigeria has followed all suggestions from the UN and foreign governments

Nigeria is reforming for Nigeria’s own good. There is a resistance to corruption fight in Nigeria. The US has been supportive by denying visas to corrupt public officials. The EFCC has been funding its own budget. Nigeria will fund the EFCC soon. EFCC has recovered billions of Naira for Nigeria. It recovered millions from public officials, say Nuhu. EFCC delivered almost five million dollars to an 88 years old lady in Hong Kong. She had been duped by a fraudster in Nigeria. But this was not reported in the American or European press!

Perception is not easy to change. Corruption is debilitating. It is injustice. It leads to mismanagement and waste. Mobutu is what corruption does to countries. Selfishness and corruption is not fair. If you can spend money, it is better spent on corruption, a fraction of what has been spent on the invasion and occupation, or efforts at installing democracy, in Iraq, would have brought better lives to billions of people in the world. Mallam Ribadu believes philanthropists such as Mr. Bill Gates of Microsoft who has spent money on fighting Malaria, will perhaps be of better service fighting corruption which deprives most citizens of the world developmental monies and resources for projects.

Fight corruption, install good institutional authority that is transparent and honest and accountable officials. He recounted how some officials received vaccines dump it, but collect money and nobody gets service. Officials stole money meant for bore holes a fight of corruption establish due process rule of law and sturdy institution full maximized potentials of Nigerians with basic amenities provided as corruption is removed and money is not stolen from projects.

This presidential effort was a huge success. It should be sustained and done frequently. The delegation in all addressed Diaspora Nigerians several times. They equally addressed different segments of American professionals, government leaders, business leaders and the press. The delegation stayed on the message. They conveyed the message effectively over and over again.

The message the presidential delegation delivered resoundingly and successfully, is that it is a new day in Nigeria, reforms have taken root and Nigeria is now open for business!

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Anonymous December 5, 2005 - 4:36 am

it dosent corespond to my search am looking for population and development of reasources in nigeria

Godwin November 16, 2005 - 6:31 pm

The visitors who brought forth this good tidings did not say anything about necessary infrastucture water, good roads and electricity which are sine qua non for any investor.

Provide the basic infrastructures that are prerequisite for industrial developement and the investors will hear of it before you reach them


Anonymous November 16, 2005 - 9:50 am

Oh talking about rats, China and India have proved to have the mental capacity to provide for their active reproductive organ which stopped being active by the way (give birth to two kids in China and you are a gonner). Nigeria instead have produced thieves, prostitutes and 419ers not Kids! I beg my broda, the population is a problem, our problem not Obsanjo's problem, face the fact and say the truth!

Anonymous November 15, 2005 - 1:02 pm

Comment #5: 130 million folks in Nigeria is nothing compared to a billion folks in China or near that of India. What are you talking about Nigerians giving births like rats. Just because you are senile does not that those blessed with fertile organs should not do their thing.

You can well make a good educated arguement in reference to the going population but not the way you referenced to rats.

Anonymous November 15, 2005 - 11:24 am

Laughs..billions recovered What are you folks talking about Nigeria is a population of 130 million people and growing through no fault of Obasanjo or his government but due to many of you giving birth to kids like rats! If the total oil receipt annually is divided by the population it translates to less than 250 dollars per year on every Nigerian, this is very inisgnificant. It will not tranlstae to roads, electricity and bridges overnight. What Nigeria needs is a planned but gradual approach to development that will build on the progress of the past not on every new leaders destroying the works of their predecssors and trying to build some legacy. Nigerians need to be patient but more so their government need to be transperent..people need to know where every kobo in the treasury ends up in and may be then the present exasperation will be assuaged and leave the leaders enough brain power to tackle the ardous job of development!

Anonymous November 14, 2005 - 9:52 pm

Where are the billions of Naira that the EFCC had recovered from corrupt Nigerians If I may ask! If the EFCC actually did recover huge sums of money as proclaimed, where are they banking the billions Again, if you add the billions that the country had gained from the fallout of Iraq war, Nigeria should today be a country free of bad roads, poor electricity, nonexistent water supply, inadequate food supply and other basic amenities required by her citizens. Unless something is done fast to make life worth living in that country called Nigeria, it won't matter how many countries these ministers visit in an effort to drum support and investments for the country. Nigerians are just praying for their quick exit from power in due course. I won't be surprised if the EFCC does go after some of the serving ministers for corrupt practices as soon as they leave office. Only time will tell.

Cletus E. Olebunne November 14, 2005 - 5:52 pm

Paul; again you have displayed your love and excitement for Nigeria and her future. While I received the invitation to the reception at the Sky club and had RSVP to attend; cold/fever got the better half of me on Tuesday, November 8, 2005. It was unfortunate that I missed this wonderful event that you so eloquently talked about in your write-up. While I admire the works of the delegate of ministers in fighting corruption and economic reform programs; we should be mindful of economic propaganda; and let reality speaks for Nigeria. The Asian countries; particularly China and India did not go around the world beating their economic propaganda drums. The results of their reforms spoke for them.

As I was reading your piece, I kept thinking what an excellent writing; and what an excellent collection of delegate of ministers, but there was another part of my thinking saying "Bring Your Own Infrastructure" (BYOI). The second thinking was coming from the fact that Nigeria has not develope its infrastructure that will encourage foreign investors. A case in point is the article on Tom Peters by the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper writer Dr. Reuben Abati. Here is the complete article.

The Tom Peters story

By Reuben Abati

The press release by MTN announcing the cancellation of the company's proposed First Enterprise Solutions Seminar which had been designed around the management guru Tom Peters as speaker, star and symbol, says a lot about the cost and implications of the country's seeming refusal to address its failings, do that which is right, and inspire confidence. Tom Peters, an international management expert and one of the leading thinkers of the 20th Century on the increasingly important subject of business solutions was scheduled to address the leading lights of Corporate Nigeria on "a range of management issues" – in Lagos and Port Harcourt from November 10 – 11.

MTN had made all necessary arrangements: accommodation, travel and other logistics. The event had also been promoted in the media and in Corporate Nigeria as a special opportunity to share ideas and interact with one of the most influential figures in the world. An American, born in Baltimore in 1942, Tom Peters presents about 75 seminars annually, most of which he does internationally. He is the author of some of the most seminal books on management and self-development, published in the last 20 years including In Search of Excellence (with Bob Waterman); A Passion for Excellence (with Nancy Austin); Thriving on Chaos; Liberation Management; Crazy Times call for Crazy Organisations; and Re-Imagine: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age.

He is considered the "father of the post-modern corporation", and is rated along with the three most regarded business intellectuals in the world, the other two being Michael Porter and Peter Drucker. Fortune Magazine says he is the "Ur-guru of management"; The Economist calls him the "Uber-guru". His In Search of Excellence is rated as "one of the top three business books of all time". The distinction of Tom Peters lies in the provocative candour of his ideas and his transformation of business into a rigorous intellectual adventure and a joyful practical experience. Consultant, writer, columnist and teacher, Peters' unconventional ideas have great implications for the work-place, the company and the individual. He says women are the future of leadership, he promotes the value of diversity, he talks about people, customers and action…Warren Bennis says "if Peter Drucker invented modern management, Tom Peters vivified it."

This is a brief profile of the Speaker that MTN was bringing to Nigeria. Even if you are a cynic, you cannot deny the importance of the man's ideas. But sadly, Tom Peters is no longer coming to our country. According to MTN, he is staying away "citing concerns about what he termed the state of our international airports". When the information was passed on to me by the organisers (Pat Utomi and I had been invited as facilitators of the two-city event), my simple response was: "Can you blame the man He must have felt that Nigeria is not worth the risk". And truly, it is not just Tom Peters that is avoiding Nigeria because of "the state of our international airports." In the past six years, President Obasanjo has spent so much time criss-crossing the world in search of investors who would help add value to the Nigerian economy.

The biggest threat to that aspiration has been the general insecurity of the Nigerian society: from touts and hoodlums at the airports, to pot-hole ridden runways, poorly equipped control towers, terrible roads, epileptic power supply and the spread of anarchy. Tom Peters cited the airports, and indeed he is right. Who would hear stories about the state of our airports and risk coming to Nigeria Shortly after the crash of the Bellview aircraft in Lisa Village in Ogun state, an Associated Airline aircraft also nearly crashed at the Lagos airport. A few days later, an Aero Contractors flight from Abuja had to be aborted suddenly after birds attacked the plane's engines and destroyed two of its blades. The pilot found a way of returning to ground. One newspaper reported that the passengers were so happy they went to thank the pilot one by one. Aero Contractors has since held a press conference advising the Federal Government to provide anti-bird attack machines at our airports. Nigeria is perhaps the only country in the world whose airports have been turned into zoos.

When birds are not attacking aircraft, a landing aircraft could run into a herd of cattle on the runway as happened at the Port Harcourt airport earlier in the year. This year alone, there has been a series of near mishaps, even before the killing of 117 persons on 22-10, due to water-logged runways, power outage, the temporary failure of the control tower, inadequate illumination of the runway path at night…Our airports are generally poorly equipped and badly maintained. Tom Peters was scheduled to travel between Lagos and Port Harcourt. He must have heard that there is only one functional runway at the Lagos Airport, the other one is now such a subject of desperation that the President has had to issue an ultimatum that the repair of the runway must be completed with immediate effect, and the Minister who is obviously under pressure is threatening to deal with the contractor who has been handling the project for more than a year.

Tom Peters must also have heard that the Port Harcourt is something of a grazing ground for cattle! The American Embassy which lost one of its senior staff in the 22-10 incident, may also have told him that air travel in Nigeria is a matter of chance: you can never be too sure. The aircraft are old; and the operators are interested in profit, not service. If he was advised that he could travel by road between Lagos and Port Harcourt, he may also have been informed that he could be attacked by armed robbers; robbed by police men or captured by ritualists who are looking for a brilliant man's brains for the witches cauldron! Tom Peters calls himself a "prince of disorder, champion of bold failures, and the maestro of zest.." but the Nigerian situation must have appeared a bit too challenging for him. Literally, the man ran…

Nigeria is even more challenging for those of us who live in it and who appear to be helpless because we are faced with a system where there is no proper transportation network. The effect is that air travel is a form of captivity: once you board a plane, you are at the mercy of the overworked pilot, the profit-minded airline operators, the angry and underpaid air traffic controller, the elements, and a rickety aircraft. If anything goes wrong, you cannot ask the pilot to park since there is no parking space in the air, and so air travel in Nigeria is a test of human endurance and an art of dangerous living. At an informal discussion of this phenomenon of our time, one of the fellows in attendance had reported that he once visited an air traffic control tower; the place was so hot, with no air conditioning, the main equipment had to be kept going with the aid of a standing fan which creaked as if it would expire at any minute. Yet another fellow gave a disturbing testimony. He was on a flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt when the pilot suddenly announced that there were no lights in the airport, and he had just been cleared to land.

The poor fellow could not locate the runway. And he had lost altitude. So he decided to gamble. The plane went down, only for the pilot to discover that he was about to land on the highway with vehicles coming from the opposite direction. He quickly took the plane back into the sky. He began to circle around the airport and then noticed that there were traces of light from a direction where the runway could possibly be located. Again, he gambled and took the plane down. By pure luck, he landed safely. It turned out that the plane had been guided to the runway with the ground staff using torch lights! There was yet another story about the state of our airports and the aircraft in our skies. We were told that on another occasion, a certain aircraft ran into trouble mid-air when its communications equipment suddenly packed up. The pilot could not contact the control tower; and the aircraft had almost reached its destination. To save the situation, the pilot became creative. He pulled out his cell phone and used that to establish contact with the ground crew!

Nigerians like to boast that their country has some of their best pilots in the world. May be. But we also have one of the worst aviation systems as well. Our airports, the aircraft in our skies are below international standards. Airport security is lax; the general operations are antediluvian. Anybody can take anything unto a Nigerian aircraft. In many of our airports, there are no scanning machines. The airport staff ask you to open your bag and they actually dig their dirty hands into your private belongings! In many airports, they also frisk you under the guise of trying to be sure that you are not carrying any dangerous weapons. Luggage is taken straight from the check-in counter to the aircraft: you can carry any explosives inside your bags and pass through without detection. This madness in our aviation sector is a reflection of our disregard for human lives. When a tragedy occurs, that is when government suddenly wakes up and from President to Minister we begin to make noise like fire-fighters without equipment. When cows ran into a landing aircraft in Port Harcourt, nobody bothered, but the fact is that the cows that were killed and which ended up in the cooking pots of the airport officials, could have been human beings.

I suppose MTN had no option but to explain its situation to the public. The Tom Peters seminar ought to have been held in September, but it was postponed then because the Speaker was bereaved, and now, the event has been cancelled. Perhaps MTN should consider the option of hosting the seminar in Accra, Ghana. Nobody turns down an opportunity to travel to Ghana by air, where there are no cows and potholes on the runway. Tom Peters has made a statement which casts the crisis in our aviation sector in bolder relief. There are thousands of other investors and value-adding figures who would rather not come to Nigeria because they have heard that our airports are killing fields. Tom Peters is an investor of sorts: an intellectual investor…

And it is not enough for the President to issue military orders and for the Minister of Aviation, Babalola Borishade to go about sounding like an angry school master. There are agencies in the aviation sector whose job is to ensure that the highest standards are maintained in our airports. Government must carry out an integrity check of all those agencies; if there is any one of them where plodders and mediocres have carved out special empires of corruption and incompetence for themselves, such persons should be shown the way out of the system. Every year so much money is budgeted for the aviation sector: what has been done with all that money Why do we have an airport where there are no radars, no air conditioning and all kinds of animals have taken up permanent residence on the runway.

If care is not taken a live python will show up one of these days in the passengers' cabin and we would all be here to express our frustration. I once wrote in this newspaper that I helped on one occasion to change a plane's tyres at the airport and that I saw roadside vulcanisers being invited to help inflate the tyres. Readers protested that I was exaggerating, and that was a few years ago; now roadside mechanics are routinely invited to help repair aircraft. I also wouldn't be surprised if used parts of different brands of aircraft are available in our markets.

To make any progress, we must ensure that human dignity becomes inviolable in our land and that its protection becomes "the duty of all state authority. "

Anonymous November 14, 2005 - 1:57 pm

Let me use this opportunity to fire the first salvo! I am sure some idiots on here will accuse you of cronyism. May I inform them you are just a patriotic Nigerian that can see something good about your country. Nigeria is definitely not heaven but is changing for good and for better. Most of the blind critics will rather do nothing but complain. More grease to your elbow for doing what the elendu reports have refused to do, at least you have taken up the challenge I threw on here. I am not ignorant of the failings of the OBJ administration, but I will be very studpid to throw away the baby with the bath water, if any Nigerian has consience let them join this crusade or burn! And may I add that I look forward to US giving these corrupt officials especially Governors Visas so that they can be afforded the Guv. Alams treatement, may be if we can prosecute tham at home we can pursue them abroad. God Bless Nigeria and those who love it!

Reply November 14, 2005 - 1:46 pm

How I wish all high sounding pronouncements of these gallivanting public relations officials were true.The delagation should have included the likes of Professor Pat Utomi,Reuben Abati,Balarabe Musa,Gani Fawehinmi etc may be we would have heard a diffrent tune.Something tells me those people are lying thier heads off.I have been living in Nigeria for more than 40 years.


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