The reported participation of Nigerian governors at the 11th Global Annual Investment Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirate, under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), was a frivolous, wasteful and non-productive exercise. Intended by the NGF to convince investors to invest in Nigeria’s comatose economy, the participation of the governors was another reflection of the bare-faced exhibition of corruption and extravagance. It is very pathetic that in a bleeding economy as ours, governors, accompanied by their spouses and aides, would embark on a jamboree of this sort at the expense of tax payers.
A notorious example of the economically banal and self-seeking nature of this frivolous expedition might have been captured by a widely circulated memo made to the governor of Plateau State by the secretary to the government of the state. In that memo, a total of N73.6 million was approved for the jamboree. This might be a lean expenditure when compared to those of other governors. It is ironic that in many of these states, workers were still being owed salaries prior to the investment summit.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria and the states of the federation need foreign direct investments. As the 2021 capital importation report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed, 24 out of the 36 states of the federation attracted zero investments in 2021. Consequently the value of the capital importation for that year fell by 30.78 per cent from $9.68 billion in 2020 to $6.7 billion in 2021. Indeed, any reasonable move to shore up capital importation is justified.
It could thus be argued that the governors participated in the summit to attract investors whose favourable response would be expected to positively transform the economy of the states. However, how true can this be? What mechanisms are in place to ascertain this? Granted that there was genuine intention on the part of the governors to seek investors; granted too that there were exhibitions of Nigeria’s economic potentials, what results came out of all this? Nigerians who visited the country’s stand at the summit stated that there was poor patronage by prospective investors. One commentator stated that Nigeria’s presence at the expo was an embarrassment to the country because those who visited the stand were said to have come out as soon as they entered. It was a sad commentary for us all.
For the governors to think that on their own they can attract investors at summits is an act tantamount to undermining the intelligence of Nigerians. It is a tortuous route and unwise move to assume that personal visits and formal meetings will on their own attract genuine investors into the country.
Considering that this is another election campaign year, it is not unusual to think that our governors’ participation at the investment summit is a smokescreen for pillaging state coffers. If governors would take liberties to ferry themselves and their offices to the Middle East to advertise for investment, what then is the job of the Minister of Trade and Commerce? Even if state governments have any need to be part of that summit, why not send the state Commissioner for Trade and Commerce?
Our state governors need to be advised that attracting investments to a badly run economy as Nigeria is like a hungry wolf advertising itself to be a watchman over a bird hatchery. What will happen to the chicks? Will they survive? Attracting investments requires a trust-building relationship that governors must cultivate. It requires patience, tact, and painstaking effort to resist the temptation of greed and nepotistic exploitation of state resources. It also demands mental alertness, uncommon power of persuasion and passion to keep the relationship.
We believe that fundamental things must first be in place before investments could be attracted. Governors should first of all put their economic think tank to work to identify the investible and commercially viable potentials of the state. We are convinced that every state in Nigeria has what it needs to cater for the citizens in that state. Conversely, one of the maladies of economic progress of states in the country is their dependence on Federal Allocation. The allocation has become a disincentive for creative economic intelligence so much so that reliance on it has become the mainstay of many states.
Rather than belabour their citizens and corporate bodies with painful taxation on poor or non-existent service delivery, the federal and state governments should create sound policies to attract the private sector to their states. The ‘Father Christmas’ arrangement of doling hand-outs to states should be reviewed; states should work for what they earn. In this regard, the Federal Government should also pursue a fiscal federalism structure that will enhance competition amongst states.
Furthermore, governors as chief security officers of their state should make their states investment-friendly by providing adequate security for lives and property, respect for the rule of law and promote expeditious dispensation of justice. Who among the governors will willingly venture into even his own state for any meaningful investment, in the face of senseless killings and kidnappings by rampaging criminals; coupled with utter helplessness of law enforcement agencies? Again all these could be achieved through the establishment of a proper federal structure, proactive measures, adequate enlightenment and value education.