By Ambassador Raymond Udoffe Brown, Charge d’ Affaires a.i., Embassy of Nigeria in Romania
Today, October 1, 2020 marks a watershed in the history of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a nation. It is the diamond jubilee anniversary since we exited British rule and secured political independence. Today makes it exactly 60 years that Nigeria recorded that historic feat. How has the country fared since the Union Jack was lowered and the green white green flag was hoisted? This has been the question on the minds of an average Nigerian anytime drums are rolled out to celebrate the country’s Independence Day. In spite of the challenges confronting Nigeria at the moment, there is every reason to celebrate. For a country that has gone through a 30 month civil war, years of political crisis, daunting security challenges, including religious and ethnic crisis, its unity and resilience are worth celebrating. This explains why the theme of the diamond jubilee celebration is “Together at 60”.
To commemorate this historic occasion, The Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of H.E. President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved an inclusive National Independence Celebration program that will see that the thematic and creative aspects of the anniversary celebrations are designed by Nigerians for Nigeria. The government intends to use this opportunity to harness the power of Nigeria’s creative minds to create a new brand identity around the anniversary theme which will be celebrated in the public space for one full calendar year.
While unveiling Nigeria’s 60th-anniversary logo in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari said it depicts the country’s togetherness, explaining that, “the neatly encrusted diamond on the Nigerian map symbolises our age of treasure, the worth of the Nigerian people with our sparkle to the admiration of the world. In the same vein, the pear green and dark green colours should respectively remind us of our warmth, welcoming spirit, and love as well as the abundant wealth inherent in our human capital and the richness of our land. All these properties make us unarguably the most prosperous black nation in the world and Africa’s largest economy.”
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and 27th in the world with a GDP of $402 billion and immense growth potentials. A stable and peaceful Nigeria will contribute to Africa’s rise and integration into the global economy. Bearing this in mind, the administration of President Muhammed Buhari has left no stone unturned in its attempt to build a new Nigeria, laying the building blocks for industrial and technological development by investing massively in infrastructural development in the areas of power, roads, bridges, rail, etc. and by developing human capital among other efforts have rekindled the hope for a better Nigeria.
Since the inception of President Buhari’s administration in 2015, the Government has been committed to changing international and domestic perceptions regarding Nigeria’s commitment to fight corruption and foster good governance. It is indisputable that the government has made some headway in fighting corruption in the society. Apart from the recovery of money from looters of the treasury, the administration had implemented some tough measures, including Treasury Single Account that allows government to manage its resources, Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS, a transparent government payroll and personnel system that eliminated duplicate and “ghost” workers syndrome and recently the signing of a new Company and Allied Matters Act 2020. The Act provides a legal framework for the implementation of Beneficial Ownership Information Disclosure in Nigeria. Another notable effort to curb corruption is the Whistle blowing Policy introduced by the Government in 2016 which has since yielded several billions of Naira in recoveries from tax evaders and public officials. (In the first two years alone it yielded N7.8 billion, US$378million, and £27,800 in recoveries from public officials targeted by whistle-blowers).
On the economic front, President Buhari administration’s objectives have been to stabilize the macro-economy, achieve agricultural and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, develop infrastructure, fight corruption and improve governance. Due to this avowed commitment, the country has witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession in 2017. The GDP grew from one point nine-one percent in 2018 to two point two-seven percent in 2019 but recorded a moderate decline to one point eight-seven percent in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the decline in global economic activities due to the COVID nineteen pandemic. This is understandable as every single economy in the world has suffered a decline.
In order to stabilize the economy, the Government through monetary policies took steps to build the external reserves which resulted in improved liquidity in the foreign exchange market. The external reserves grew from thirty three point four-two billion US dollars on April 29th 2020 to about thirty six billion US dollars in May, 2020 which is enough to finance seven months of import commitments. More importantly, progress has been made in the enforcement of the nation’s ambitious infrastructure programme of the development plan (ERPG 2017-2020).
In his quest to attract Foreign Direct investment to Nigeria, President Buhari administration introduced some ease of doing business reforms. These include:
- Starting a business: Nigeria made starting a business easier by reducing the time needed to register a company and by improving online platforms. This reform applies to both Kano and Lagos. Nigeria (Kano) also made starting a business easier by no longer requiring on-site inspections for business premises registration.
- Dealing with construction permits: Nigeria (Lagos) made dealing with construction permits less costly by eliminating the Infrastructure Development Charge (IDC, the fee for construction permits) for warehouses.
- Getting electricity: Nigeria made getting electricity easier by allowing certified engineers to conduct inspections for new connections. This reform applies to both Kano and Lagos.
- Registering property: Nigeria (Lagos) improved its land administration system by implementing a geographic information system (GIS)
- Trading across borders: Nigeria reduced the time to export and import by further upgrading its electronic system and by launching e-payment of fees. This reform applies to both Kano and Lagos.
- Enforcing contracts: Nigeria made enforcing contracts easier by introducing a pre-trial conference as part of the case management techniques used in court. This reform applies to both Kano and Lagos. Nigeria (Kano) also made enforcing contracts easier by issuing new rules of civil procedure for small claims courts, which limit adjournments to unforeseen and exceptional circumstances.
- 65% reduction in cost of registering a business
- Payment of registration fees through the online company registration portal (CRP)
- Reservation of company name (now electronic) – Less than 24 hrs
- 80% discount on NAFDAC registration (Period of 6 months May-Nov 2020)
- Elimination of requirement for company seal for business registration
- Non-requirement of physical inspection of business premises in Kano State.
As a result of such reforms, Nigeria was named one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world for the second time in three years. The country currently ranks 131 out of 190 countries on the World Bank Doing Business Index, moving up 15 places from 146th position in the 2019 Report. The report acknowledged reforms carried out in some of the World Bank Doing Business indicator areas such as starting a business, registering property, getting construction permits, getting electricity, enforcing contracts, and trading across borders.
The steady rise in the ranking of Nigeria is a testament to the works that have gone into trade and business by the government since the establishment of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in 2016 and shows a green light to investors seeking to tap into the numerous opportunities available in the country.
There is no doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari will leave behind the legacy of massive and sustainable infrastructure development in Nigeria as his administration has demonstrated a commitment to upgrading and developing Nigeria’s transport, power and health infrastructure. Three major rail projects inherited from previous administrations have been completed and commissioned: Abuja Metro Rail and the Abuja-Kaduna Rail, and the 327km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail have been completed in 2020.A fourth Rail Project, the Lagos-Ibadan Rail Project, kicked off in 2017 and is due for completion this year. The track laying for the main component of the project was completed in March 2020.
In May 2018, the Federal Government launched the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), under the management of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. The PIDF kicked off with seed funding of US$650 million and has already disbursed funds for three critical road projects: Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway. The Buhari administration has not only empowered farmers through provision of inputs, seedlings and extension services, it is also providing major road links to reduce their loss by bringing their produce to the markets. In fact, as the nation celebrates its 60th independence anniversary, the administration is currently intervening in 25 major road projects and 37 bridges across the country, either at dualisation, construction, repairs and rehabilitation.
It is a truism that Nigerians cannot enjoy the dividends of democracy in the face of security threats and absence of peace in the country, Having this at the back of its mind, the administration has accorded priority to ending the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East region, banditry and other forms of criminality across Nigeria. The Nigerian Armed Forces have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones. It is noteworthy to mention that all the Local Governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram Insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States have been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of these areas who were hitherto forced to live in Internally Displaced Persons camps (IDPs) far from their ancestral homes. The total collapse of the economies of these areas, which constituted a threat to Nigeria’s food security, has also been reversed with the gradual recovery of farming and other economic activities.
As Nigeria marks its 60th independence anniversary, though low keyed, the Embassy of Federal Republic Nigeria in Bucharest welcomes the international community, investors, private sector and business community in Romania to take advantage of Nigeria’s large market, unequalled incentives in all sectors, flexible tax system and its position as the most profitable investment destination in Africa.
The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Bucharest uses the auspicious occasion of the Diamond Jubilee anniversary to felicitate with the H.E. President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal government of Nigeria, our compatriots at home and abroad including Nigerian students and businessmen in Romania, the Romanian government and its people. We wish you all most prosperous and progressive years ahead.