The United States of America (USA) has indicated its readiness to partner the Federal Government in Nigeria's quest in expanding the maritime sector of the economy through jobs creation.
US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Terrence P. McCulley, stated this while addressing the Nigerian delegation to the International Workboat Show, which took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
Apparently aware that corruption may hinder its quest to assist Nigeria, McCulley warned the Federal Government to strengthen measures aimed at eradicating corruption in the country.
He also used the occasion to officially introduce promoters of some American companies wishing to invest in Nigeria's maritime, oil and gas sectors, as a mark of his "faith in the in the development process in Nigeria".
"I am very optimistic about development process in Nigeria. For over two years, that I have been in Nigeria, I have been extremely impressed about the dynamism of growth in the country in all spheres", he said.
Prominent amongst the Nigerian representatives to the event are the Director of Cabotage, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mrs. Oruwari Etete; her immediate predecessor in office, Mr. Onwuka Igwe; Deputy Director and Head of Public Relations, NIMASA, Hajia Lami Tumaka; the Divisional Head, Transport and Shipping, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Ndubuisi Agoh, and a representative of the Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Mr. Kunle Bankole.
The American envoy however stressed that beyond the need to address corruption, government must also focus in reviving the power sector and internal security in order to stem the tide of youth's restiveness.
His words: "Nigeria is no doubt facing a lot of challenges, in the power sector, addressing corruption, addressing insecurity, but I truly believe that the current government is making great strides to address the problems in the power sector...and we have been very supportive of those efforts.
"We strongly believe that you can tackle insecurity as associated with youths restiveness by creating jobs-particularly in the oil and gas sector, because that is an area where Nigeria has a huge advantage.
"In the area of corruption, I think the government needs to do more in checking official corruption with impunity. My message to the American companies wishing to invest in the country is that Nigeria is too important to be ignored. There are too many opportunities to be assessed in so many areas. Added to that, Nigeria has a huge market for investment outputs, a country with more than 160 million people, which the American companies cannot ignore".
McCulley called on the American investors to be diligent in their dealings, saying it is part of the policy trust of President Barrack Obama's administration to do business with the African sub-regional countries in order to boost bilateral relationships.
"My message to the American companies is therefore to look at these opportunities in Nigeria. On the other hand, my message to the Nigerian government is that you need to create an enabling environment for investments. You need to create a level playing ground for such enterprise. You need to ensure that the sanctity of terms of contracts is well observed and respected. There has to be a level playing field for investors and this should send a strong signal to investors that Nigeria is indeed ready for investment", the envoy added.
While stressing that America currently has a great bilateral relationship with the government of Nigeria, he said the latter must do more in fighting corruption, even as he pointed that "we have a bilateral commission which was inaugurated in 2010, and the whole issue of corruption and good governance formed major agenda in the discourse.
"And so what we are saying to government is that you need to create structure. You need to uphold your anti-corruption institutions. You need to end the culture of corruption with impunity. You need to demonstrate to the people of Nigeria and beyond that you are indeed serious with what you are saying about your readiness for business. These are very crucial issues that will encourage people out there that Nigeria is ready for foreign investment," he said.
On the development of the maritime, oil and gas sector in Nigeria, he said: "There is a tendency to focus on the oil and gas sector, which is a huge capital intensive sector, but that underscores the importance of that sector. Nigeria should, and can create jobs for over 45 per cent of its population that are above the age of 15, from that sector alone, away from the dismal record that you currently have.
"Clearly Nigeria needs to diversify its economy, and I think the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is looking in that direction. There has to be conscious efforts to reawaken the factories. You need to tame them, and make them viable for employment .That is the way forward, that is just the way forward. Let me also say that fundamental to that is getting the power sector reformed. You cannot do that when majority of organisations and individuals rely on power generators.
"Essentially, I think government is cognisant of these, and as partners in progress. The government of the United States is currently looking at ways to offer help. It is part of the policy of President Obama to promote business initiatives in Africa...as a government, by that I mean the government of the United States of America, we are there to help you surmount those challenges. We are prepared to help you find suitable partners that can help you grow your businesses," he added.
Responding on behalf of the Nigerian team, Chairman of Novalux Associates, Mr. Moses Omoduemuke, thanked the American envoy for his faith in Nigeria, even as he assured the American investors that government is addressing the challenge of insecurity in the country, particularly in the Niger Delta region.