President Muhammed Buhari yesterday told international investors in Paris, France that Nigeria has what it takes to attract and sustain Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). He said his administration was widening the space for investment.

The Federal Government, Buhari said, plans to spend $1.5 trillion on infrastructure upgrade, grant tax holiday and facilitate stress-fee repatriation of profits to stimulate investors’ interest in the economy.

The President also said the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) will liberalise the oil and gas sector and open it up for private sector-driven investments.

President Muhammadu Buhari

Besides the tax holiday, Buhari said investors in the sector will have access to interest-free credit facilities.

Unfolding the nation’s new economic outlook and security efforts of his administration in a remark at the Nigeria International Partnership Forum in Paris, the president said: “Recognising the importance of security to a nation’s risk profile, we re-assessed and updated our National Security Strategy in 2019.

“The implementation of this multi-sectoral strategy has contributed to the progress we have made in fighting insurgents and terrorists in the Northeast of the country.

“Working closely with international partners, we are firmly addressing the root causes of crimes, and taking measures to prevent and counter violent extremism.”

The President, who described Nigeria as the gateway for investments in Africa, urged investors to take advantage of the PIA and the country’s new drive for FDI.

Announcing some of the incentives in the PIA, he said: “In the oil and gas sector, I recently signed the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). The legislation, which is expected to serve as a liberalising force in the industry, introduced incentives such as tax holidays, zero-interest loans, and easy repatriation of profits.

“Our plan is to increase Liquefied Natural Gas (NLG) exports and expand our domestic market. Partnerships in textile and leather processing, tourism, and health sectors are also areas we can explore.

“In the agricultural sector, through our Anchor Borrowers Programme, we provided loans and technical support to small holder farmers, leading to the expansion in the number of rice mills in Nigeria from 10 in 2014 to 40 today.

“The country has also increased the number of active fertiliser blending plants to more than forty-six, from fewer than five in 2014.  Similarly, we have set aside several million hectares of land for agriculture, and have embarked on the creation of Special Agriculture Processing Zones across the country.”

On FDI, he said Nigeria will open its doors to investors, which will be backed by the rule of law and practical security policies.

He said: “I am proud to reiterate our resolve to reduce and ultimately eliminate obstacles to access and retention of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

“Our investment-friendly policies are backed by the rule of law, practical security policies and a resilient population.

“Let me finally stress that Nigeria is open for partnership and cooperation. I invite the French business community to take advantage of the vast investment opportunities in Africa’s largest economy.

“As our development partners, rest assured that we will stand together with you throughout our partnership journey to guarantee our mutual interest.

“As I said at the fifth edition of the Future Investment Initiative Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, investing in humanity is investing in our collective survival.

“With this in mind, we have incorporated the Public-Private Partnership model into our economic recovery plan, to attract private sector participation in the financing and operations of critical economic and social infrastructure.

“This measure is already helping to mitigate COVID-19 triggered capital flight and decline in grant and development financing.

“Once again, I sincerely appreciate the time taken by our friends and partners to be here today, and the confidence reposed in Nigeria as the gateway for investments in Africa.”

Unfolding plans to support investment drive with about $1.5 trillion investment in infrastructure, the President said: “Also, at the just concluded COP26 in Glasgow, I stressed the link between modern infrastructure and the overall economic development of a nation.

“Hence, the massive infrastructure expansion programme, we have been executing in various sectors since the beginning of this administration.  $1.5 trillion is the cumulative amount estimated to be spent within a period of ten years from 2015.

“So far, we have made significant investments in railways, seaports, roads, renewable energy, housing, and many others attractive to prospective investors. Institutions such as the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the recently created Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria run as independent world class institutions to support and facilitate investments in the country.

“We have not only provided several opportunities for investment in the mining sector but we have also simplified the licensing processes.

“Extensive investments in transportation of raw materials, equipment and other mining elements by road and by rail have also been made.”

On the rationale behind the Fifth Generation (5G) Network approval, Buhari said: “To keep the progress in the digital economy, the fastest growing sector in Nigeria in both 2020 and 2021 on track, we recently approved the national policy on Fifth Generation (5G) network.

“Our ultimate goal is to leverage ICT platforms to spur further investments and create jobs, while diversifying support to other emerging sectors.

“Already, several foreign investors are taking advantage of our recent ranking as the leading start-up ecosystem in Africa.

“Over a week ago, I launched the e-Naira, the electronic version of our national currency. When fully operationalised, this innovation will increase participation in fin-tech within Nigeria, increase efficiency in the banking sector, and boost our capacity to combat illicit flow of funds.”

Speaking on the Franco-Nigeria relationship, Buhari thanked the diplomatic and business communities for their “sustained faith in Nigeria, confidence in our government, and significant contributions to our economic prospects.”

He went on: “France-Nigeria bilateral relations are currently at their best. Our administration has capitalised on the strong political and economic ties between both countries to deepen trade relations, retaining Nigeria as France’s biggest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Most recently in Glasgow and earlier in Riyadh, I stressed the importance of international cooperation in addressing the diverse challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If anything ever tested multilateralism, and signalled the poor state of international cooperation, it was the absence of a viable global plan for tackling the pandemic. However, with the emergence and efficacy of vaccines, the world anticipates a brighter future.

“For us in Nigeria, lessons drawn from the pandemic prompted us to redouble efforts to mitigate its socio-economic effects.

“Despite prevailing uncertainties, our equitable and sustainable reform initiatives resulted in substantial economic gains and steady recovery.”

French Minister for Trade and Economic Attractiveness, Franck Riester said over 100 French companies have been operating in Nigeria with about 10,000 jobs created.

Giving a list of what French investors and companies would want from Nigeria, Riester said: “Some conditions have to be met. French companies need your support which is a credible and stable business environment. They also seek smooth dialogue and infrastructural investment in transport and energy.

“They want a good foreign exchange system. We expect business to grow between the two countries. I am extremely pleased that this dialogue is bearing fruits.

“What we want is to build a new partnership. We are aware that Nigeria ia power hoyse in Africa.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama asked French investors to come up with more business initiatives in Nigeria.

He described Nigeria as the Africa’s investment-destination of choice.

The minister pleaded with France to help African countries on how to increase their drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Onyeama said: “We have put some strategies in place to get us out of this challenging time. We appeal to France to look at Nigeria with confidence to come and invest in our country. Nigeria is going to be the new frontier of investment in Africa. In fact, Nigeria to Africa is the last frontier.

“We plead with France and others to look at how to help African countries to increase their drawing rights from the IMF and the World Bank.”

France-Nigeria Investment Council Chairman Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu said the forum was designed to look at how to fast-track economic development in Nigeria following challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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