With the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2018) holding in the British capital entering its third day, President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday assured foreign investors gathered for the Commonwealth fest that Nigeria was safe for business and urged them to come to the country and invest.
Fielding questions at the Commonwealth Business Forum held in Westminster, London, the president informed participants that Shell was preparing to invest another $20 billion in Nigeria.
“On security, certainly, both in the North-east and in the South-south, there has been an improvement in security. This morning, I met with Shell staff.
“They came and broke the news to me that they were ready to invest about $20 billion in Nigeria. So, really, we are not doing badly,” he said.
In his keynote address at the forum, Buhari counselled the Commonwealth to avoid trade wars and employ opportunities presented by trade to spur growth in the global community.
He addressed participants at the forum on the efforts his government had made to improve the business environment in Nigeria and the attendant results.
According to him, the effectiveness of such efforts was evident in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business Report’ published in November last year, which saw Nigeria moving up 24 places from its previous ranking.
He also said the development earned the country recognition as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world.
At the event held behind closed doors, Buhari acknowledged that more work still needed to be done as Nigeria proceeds to the next stage.
The president, who said industry and labour are always bothered in developing countries by distortions in trade policies, added that if doing business must be made easier among the Commonwealth nations, trade wars must be avoided and collective efforts made to promote the global trade order and deliberate support for regional initiatives.
“In developing countries, labour and industry are concerned about distortions in trade policies that result in subsidised products which have contributed to exports dumped in developing economies. These have had bad effects in the form of job losses.
“Growth is not yet inclusive and remains elusive. There are downside risks about disruptions to trade and investment. Global and regional markets have been considerably rattled by the risks of trade wars. Concerns over climate change are unabated and are increasing. There are tasks and duties on all sides.
“But if we are to make business easier between our countries and going beyond the Commonwealth, we must avoid trade wars and work collectively to preserve the global trading order, support regional initiatives as well as support domestic structural reforms that focus on the priorities of individual countries,” he said.
Details of the president’s speech, which was contained in a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, also reiterated his belief in wealth creation and employment opportunities within the Commonwealth.
“If there is a collective Commonwealth commitment to the ease of doing business, we shall spur growth, multiply wealth and expand employment opportunities. These objectives will be accelerated by trade and investment facilitation,” he added.
The statement said Buhari identified trade and investment facilitation to generate resources for sustainable development; ease of doing business and regional integration that expand markets, with safeguards against injurious trade practices from third parties; more inclusive growth with the empowerment of women and youths, as factors capable of making business among Commonwealth countries easier.
It also said the president identified the provision of a platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs); radical expansion of human capital for the 21st century, now known as “knowledge economy”; and the provision of hard and software infrastructure for the 21st century digital economy to boost e-commerce, increase efficiency, solve development problems and enhance cyber security, as factors necessary for an easier business environment.
According to the statement, Buhari informed his audience that Nigeria had already started championing this course with events such as the High-Level Trade and Investment Facilitation Forum for Development convened by Nigeria in November 2017 in Abuja in partnership with ECOWAS.
It added that the president also shared the experiences of Nigeria regarding on-going deep and extensive ease of doing business reforms, which were staged under a 60-day National Action Plan.
“Stage 1 focuses on eight areas that make it easier to register businesses, obtain construction permits, get credit, pay taxes, get electricity, trade across borders, facilitate entry and exit of people, and register property.
“These reforms were codified in an Executive Order. Transparency and efficiency across government was mandated and made enforceable. These reforms have resulted in improvements: reduction in cost and time and greater transparency, particularly for micro- small and medium sized enterprises.
“Stage 2 is focused on 11 areas, improving on Stage 1. This stage also covers new areas, including contract enforcement, simplifying the procurement process and trade within Nigeria. Action on this and subsequent stages will revolve inter alia, around reputational issues,” the president said.
Buhari also encouraged prospective investors in the Nigerian economy to participate in the forthcoming 2018 UK-Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum scheduled to hold at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).