The Emir of Kano and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Muhammadu Sanusi II, has said that foreign companies were looking to make investments in other sectors of the Nigerian economy apart from oil.
Sanusi made these comments while speaking with journalists at a US-Nigeria Investment Summit held at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, United States of America.
The emir remarked that investors were keen to do business in the country's agricultural, power, technology and other sectors and said that what was needed was the right policies and attitude to attract them.
"I think we need to just look at those kinds of things that investors look at and have a very honest conversation, sector by sector, region by region, and state by state; what do we need to do to make those areas attractive? People are interested in agriculture, in power; they are interested in technology as you can see; it is not just oil," he said.
The former CBN governor added that Nigeria had the potential to grow if the government can fix power issues. According to him, if the country could grow at seven per cent when it was generating between 4,000 and 5,000 mega watts of electricity, "imagine what it would be when it generates 40,000 or 50,000mw.
"If you look at it all, the opportunities are not explored, for example, trade across the South and North Africa. We focus entirely on the coast. If you look at the diversification impact of getting a non-oil export that would protect this economy from the shocks; if you look at all the things being done by Dangote on refinery that would reduce our import, particularly petroleum import and conserve our foreign exchange; then we talk about technology - if we got the mobile penetration; if the reality is the opportunity itself, then we have to have the right policies."
Sanusi stressed the need for the country's leaders to project the things that attract investors at such a forum, even as he berated ministers and state governors who were billed for the investment summit but were absent.
The former CBN governor lamented the poor attitude of government officials towards attracting investors into the country, saying their lackadaisical attitude is a discouragement to investors.
LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that the summit was to have a session where governors would pitch their states with investors.
Several plenary sessions were also supposed to be attended by ministers: Kemi Adeosun (finance), Ibe Kachikwu (petroleum), Audu Ogbe (agriculture), Ogbonnaya Onu (science and technology), Lai Mohammed (information and culture), Babatunde Fashola (power, works and housing), Kayode Fayemi (solid minerals), as well as the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
However, the sessions with the governors could not be held as they were not in attendance whereas the plenary sessions held without the minsters.
A disappointed Sanusi, who was at the event to inaugurate the Committee on Diaspora Credit Union, said: "We have a meeting today with investors. We were supposed to start by 9am; we started at 10am. When I came in, they took me to the ambassador's office to sit down - when investors were waiting down there. We had a list of people who were to be there - vice president, ministers - some of them are in town, but they haven't come up.
"You invite top investors, your ministers are in Washington and they do not come to talk to the investors about Nigeria. That is not how you attract investors. If you have this forum in the Rwandan embassy, I assure you President Paul Kagame himself would be there telling people to come to Rwanda.
"Sometimes, it is about how we market ourselves, how we package ourselves. There is absolutely no reason for the Nigerian embassy to arrange a 'Nigeria Is Open For Business Forum' with ministers in town, with governors in town and not have the coordination that they are actually here to meet with these investors. There is no reason why we should start one hour late, and there is no reason why the public address system should not work.
"At the end of the day, this is the first point of the country; he (investor) hasn't even come to Nigeria, so what will be his experience in Abuja? And he will say to himself, 'if I am having this experience in Washington, what will happen when I go to Abuja, when I go to Kano?
How do I get to see the governor? Will it take me 10 hours? And for these people (investors) who are in Washington, they have investors to meet, they have heads of states to meet, they have the World Bank to meet, one hour is a lot of time for them to be sitting down waiting for you to start your project."
Sanusi noted that some African countries were working hard to attract investors.
"Africa has been on the move for a long time. We have countries like Ghana, like Cote d'Ivoire, like Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, that have actually worked on how to make their environment attractive to investors and that is the kind of conversation we need to have - what we need to do as a country, because you can have everything and at the end of the day, for the person sitting in London and who has a billion dollars to invest, he's got Nigeria, he's got Ghana, he's got Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa; you may be the biggest economy, but he may decide that rather than go through the hassle of investing $500 million in Nigeria, why not put $100 million in Ghana, $100 million in Rwanda, $100 million in Cote d'Ivoire, just to have diversification benefit and the benefit of reaching out," he said.
The names of the governors who were invited to the meeting were not listed on the programme card, so it was difficult to ascertain which governors were actually supposed to be at the event.
Minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi, was present at the meeting, although he left before the end of the programme.
The forum was meant to be a one-hour meeting with foreign investors. The governors from Nigeria were to present the opportunities for investments in their various states and the improvements they had made to shore up investments.
The moderator of the event was Robin Sanders, former United States Ambassador to Nigeria and Congo.