RIGHTSView, By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: Ugwuanyi/Okorocha: A tale of two investment drives

Posted by News Express | 22 January 2016 | 11,029 times

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Nigeria’s economic downturn has brought out the best and worst of some governors on how and how not to embark on global drive for foreign direct investments (FDI). The South-East state governors have not been left out in this frenetic pursuit of foreign direct investors to come and invest their hard-earned cash to boost their respective states.

 Whereas some governors, such as Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, has gone about his chase of credible foreign direct investors with a certain amount of equanimity and zeal others, such as the helmsman of the next door neighbour of Imo State, saw it as another jamboree and bonanza for some of his boys and girls to have a taste of foreign trips and draw from the generous travelling estacode and other pecks of official trips.  As if that was not bad enough, they chose no other place but Turkey, of all the potentially attractive European economies, from where credible and genuine investors could be poached.

Just before the Yuletide, Governor Rochas Okorocha was at his best as the official Father Christmas of Nigeria when he reportedly flooded Turkey at public expense with nearly 100 delegates, including journalists from unverifiable media houses, in the guise of pursuing foreign direct investors. Soon after his return what happened? Over 3,000 Imo public workers were shut out of their jobs, for alleged redundancy. Yet, some those agencies of government have been sub-contracted to lackeys of the Imo State governor.  Imo State government agencies, including the Water Board and Imo Job Centre have been concessioned to God-knows who, in the name of public-private partnership (PPP).

Tongues are wagging as to why the Okorocha administration had to spend huge fortunes to chase shadows abroad only to come back and unleash a tsunami of mass job cuts, thereby increasing social tension in Imo. How does the Imo State government expect foreign investors to bring their massive capital and invest in such a tensed atmosphere?

Well, the highly-compromised Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) should be tasked to protect the jobs of their members in the state, who are now thrown out into the job market; even as no single foreign direct investor has come to Imo as a result of the bonanza that was staged in far-away Turkey, by Governor Okorocha for his 120 loyalists and bootlickers, who were paraded as business executives from Imo State. Okorocha, who jetted out before the compulsory job cuts were militarily and unilaterally imposed, had earlier deceived the national leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress that his government wouldn’t embark on job cuts.

Fast forward this conversation to few days back when the Enugu State Government said some Irish investors have indicated interest to invest in the state, after only one investment advocacy-visit that was carried out devoid of the usual Nigerian political razzmatazz and empty media propaganda.

The disclosure about this strategic but cost-friendly foreign trip to attract investors is contained in a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Uwakwe Abugu, in Enugu recently. Abugu said that the foreign direct investors indicated their interest at an investment summit in Dublin, Ireland, addressed by Ugwuanyi.

He said that scores of investors were keen to do business in the state. This is attested to by the calibre of persons who participated in the event.

According to the statement, a former President of Ireland, Berie Ahern, is making moves to assist the state government grow its economy by shopping for investors and donor agencies to shore up the state’s revenue base. “Prospective investors have already held talks with the state governor and officials of the state government,” it said.

The governor’s spokesman noted that the business trip to Europe had yielded the desired results, adding that very soon the effect would manifest. Abugu said that the state government also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dublin City University, Ireland aimed at promoting relationship with the state-owned university. “This move is to develop the education sector in the state in a manner that will offer value to stakeholders. By this agreement, the Dublin City University and relevant agencies in the state will enter into mutual beneficial relationships.”

Abugu believes that such relationships would open up opportunities to attract funding agencies in a move that would address noticeable lapses in the sector. His words: “The president of the institution, Brian MacCraith and other officials of the university are already billed to attend the state’s economic summit in Enugu by March.”

 I can assure you that this particular trip, more than any other, has the prospect of yielding positive results compared to the merry-go-round type of choreographed foreign trips by most Nigerian state governors.  The aspect of signing a memorandum of understanding on educational empowerment of Enugu youth is noteworthy. This drive for credible foreign investors is expected to bear fruits that will result in sustainable economic development and growth of the job market in Enugu State; because if manufacturers are assured of good working environment and they agree and, indeed, invest in Enugu State, then the highly-skilled youths of Enugu would be productively and constructively engaged. As a result, wealth creation would become readily available to the greatest percentage of citizens.

Some of the governors have come under scrutiny for hiding under such foreign tours to engage in money laundering and other untoward ventures meant to enrich only their families and friends, at the detriment of the good people of their states. For instance, a certain governor belonging to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from a core South-West state was accused of hiding under the guise of foreign investment and business trip to use his wife to launder millions of dollars of his state into his several offshore accounts. 

These damaging allegations have yet to be investigated. The fact that state governors hide under such foreign trips to steal their states blind was demonstrated clearly when the late Bayelsa State governor, Solomon Peter Deprieye Alamieseigha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was caught napping by the London Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom; and further searches revealed that he had over £1million Sterling concealed in his private flat somewhere in Central London. How he managed to escape back into Nigeria is a notorious history. We were recently informed of his demise.

The foreign investment drive by the Enugu State governor is completely different from all the others in that it is structured to pragmatically address the economic needs of the people of Enugu in a very positive way. The Enugu State governor already has given a time-line within which the results of this trip could begin to actualise. The people await the positive results with hope and aspirations. The latest foreign business trip of Governor Ugwuanyi must yield fruits because Enugu is in dire need of genuine foreign investors in the area of coal-powered electricity projects and the much-neglected tourism sector. Enugu has good manufacturing climate and is heavily endowed with abundant agro-allied raw materials to power any confectionery and fruit-juice firms of extensive reach.

Enugu is endowed with potentials for best avenues for foreign tourists to spend valuable and quality time away from any possibility of attacks by terrorists. But the governor must get the security agencies to control the infiltration of armed nomadic Fulani herdsmen, if it ever hopes to grow the agricultural sector of the state, which is critical to the building of formidable revenue profiles. Enugu is one of the most peaceful states or stable entities within the federation of Nigeria. And, as a result, the current governor is developing rural infrastructures to turn around such hitherto neglected areas, such as Nsukka and Udi, into attractive industrial zones. Gender equity has already been embraced in such a way that highly-skilled women have been attracted to work in different capacities to run the bureaucracy of Enugu state.

As I write this, several road infrastructural transformations are taking place.  Besides, quick-win mechanisms for monitoring compliance to completion deadlines and best global practices have since been activated by this ebullient new helmsman of Enugu State. This is to ensure that only the best infrastructures are delivered on time to his people and millions of other persons visiting or doing legitimate business activities in the state. The Ugwuanyi administration deserves all the support it can get from genuine quarters to deliver quality and, indeed, good governance to the good people of Enugu State.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via doziebiko@yahoo.com

Source: News Express

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