Chris Steven, Abuja
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has assured foreign investors that Nigeria is good, open and secure for business, as President Muhammadu Buhari administration has taken concrete steps to diversify the economy and restore sustained growth.
He also said that the present administration has made significant gains in fight against corruption and insurgency as a base for the enthronement of a secured and stable polity.
The Minister stated this while presenting the country position at the concluding session of the Labour and Trade Ministerial Roundtable of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) over the weekend at the State Department, Washington D.C, United States of America.
He expressed the determination of the present administration to create an enabling business environment, attractive to foreign investments.
“President Buhari has taken the initiative to create enabling environment for businesses to grow, attract investments that are essential for growth, expand our manufacturing base and diversify the economy. Perceived constraints on business and investments are being removed so that both can thrive.”
He further said that to ensure that this objective was fully realized, the administration has initiated the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) with the, Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES) in the works.
He added, “In the current economic situation, Nigeria needs continued support from her partners and friends such as the United States as we move forward as a country. I am confident in reassuring investors that Nigeria is good and open for business.”
Listing the gains of Nigeria’s participation at the forum while addressing journalists at the side line of the forum, Sen. Ngige said that Nigeria has secured the firm commitment of the United States for the establishment of labour projects and technical aide which countries like Kenya, Madagascar and Zambia currently enjoy. The Minister also said that Nigeria has made a strong case for the establishment of Africa Skills Development Fund with Nigeria as the Headquarter, being the hub of West and Central Africa sub-region.
On trade imbalance between Nigeria and the United States, the Minister stated that he utilized the opportunity to explain to the United States Labour Secretary, the adverse push, which the sudden stoppage of the importation of the Nigeria’s crude by the United States gave to Nigeria’s slip into recession.
Sen. Ngige made a case for the reconsideration of the suspension of the import of Nigeria’s cocoa into the United States.
According to him, “I was upset that throughout discussions on agriculture, Ghana and Cote D’ivore became instant toasts in West and pride of other West African countries delegates. Is it not the same cocoa that Chief Obafemi Awolowo used to build the Western Region? The same cocoa which Chief Michael Okpara had built massive plantations along Arochukwu axis of the Eastern Region? I was peeved and therefore made a strong case for technical assistance towards the production of cocoa that meets the standard of export into the (US) United States of America and European market.”
“It was also an opportunity for me to dispel a negative report making rounds at the international forum that Nigerian laws are labour – restrictive. I gave concrete examples, the deep constitutional provisions on fundamental freedoms and the flourishing democratic tenets that guide government relations with labour,” Ngige said.
Responding earlier to the country’s position, Michael Froman, the United States Trade Representative, assured the increased cooperation and coordination between US agencies such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the reconsideration of constraints faced by African Nations in Trade with the United States of America.