Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Foreign Investment in Present Day Nigeria: Where is the Sense?

"Our vision is for Nigeria to become a financial services centre in Africa and for Nigeria ultimately to become a global player in the financial services industry"-- Dr Ngozi Okojo-Iwela

Pro-foreign investment statements similar to that credited to the Nigerian finance minister are common in the Nigerian mainstream media. The fact is there are enough Nigerians in the Diaspora to ignite and set the investment drive into motion. Nigerians know the terrain better and are conversant with sociopolitical terrain, so why has this not happened on a significant scale? If deep-pocketed Nigerians in the Diaspora are reluctant to invest in Nigeria, why would a foreigner?

The answer can be found in the last paragraph above: “Nigerians…are conversant with sociopolitical terrain”. The abject disregard for rule of law and wanton lawlessness in the country would make any serious investor think twice before setting up shop in Nigeria.

The Nigerian government has made the matter worse in through its mockery of the judiciary by repeatedly disregarding and disobeying court orders. It seems the Nigerian executive arm of government have forgotten that a strong and independent judiciary and legislature are critical to a thriving economy.

The Nigerian courts have been on lock-down following the “stay at home” actions of lawyers in protest of the incessant disobedience of court orders by the government. What indictment can be more damaging than this?

The nations in the western hemisphere became the economic heavyweights of the world because their law courts are scared and are respected by all. The justice departments in these countries are, to a great degree, autonomous, free, effective, and the final arbitrator. At the moment Nigeria courts are far from these.
So when are we ever going to stop deceiving ourselves in Nigeria? When will those smart Ministers in Abuja stop making statements about investment when the very crucial ingredients and entities that would cement and bind any deal have been rendered grossly impotent by the very government that wants “foreign investment”?
In Nigeria of today, wealth and societal status do not even matter; anyone can be robbed or assaulted by the men of the underworld.

This week, I read about the visit of the Nigerian Vice President and the Inspector General of Police to one Nigerian VIP who was attacked/robbed at his highbrow residence of Abuja. How can these men, particularly the Police chieftain, not be ashamed that they have failed in their primary responsibilities?

These “reformer bureaucrats” need to step out of their comfort zones in Abuja and take a look around the country, interact with common Nigerians and then decide if events in present day Nigeria lend much (if any) sense to the call for foreign investments. Just last week the media reported that power (electricity) generation was down by a significant percentage, yet they all yap about foreign investment.