13 June 2017

Nigeria: Remark By the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Senator (Dr.) Abubakar Bukola Saraki, At the Stakeholders Roundtable to Address Increasing Interest Rates in Nigeria

press release

REMARK BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR (DR.) ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, AT THE STAKEHOLDERS ROUNDTABLE TO ADDRESS INCREASING INTEREST RATES IN NIGERIA. TODAY TUESDAY THE 13TH JUNE 2017, 2PM AT THE SENATE CONFERENCE RM 022, SENATE NEW BUILDING.

Protocol:

1. It is a pleasure to be here with you today to discuss this very important national issue - our rising interest rate regime.

2. I am especially gladdened by the fact that you found time out of your busy schedule to answer to our call. Your being here today is heart-warming. It shows that you are bothered as we are about this issue and are willing to work with us to find solutions to it. It is also an indication that you share with us the vision of a more sustainable interest rate regime that enables our people to do business, create wealth and be empowered to follow their dreams. Thank you for coming.

3. It is no longer news that the 8th National Assembly has made the issue of the economy its number one legislative priority. Our decision is anchored on our belief that unless we expand opportunity for our people to create wealth and improve their livelihood we will continue to have significant challenge maintaining the peace and securing our union.

4. There is so much the 8th National Assembly is currently doing in this light. We are creating a new overarching framework for our infrastructure market by expanding the opportunity for private sector in the market. We are expanding access to finance and we are working on reviewing our market rules to meet international best practices. We are doing all of these through some of the bills we are passing into law. From the Nigerian Railway Bill, the Public Procurement Act AmendmentBill, the Nigerian Ports & Harbour Bill, the National Road Funds Bill, the National Transport Commission Bill, the National Inland Waterways Bill and the Federal Roads Bill, the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, the Investment & Securities Act Amendment, the Companies and Allied Matters Act Amendment, the Secure Transactions in Movable Assets Bill, the Independent Warehouse Regulatory Bill, the Bankruptcy & Insolvency Act (Repeal & re-enactment) Bill, the Electronic Transactions Bill and the Nigerian Postal Commission Bill.

5. All these legislative actions we are taking is rooted in our believe that if we are to attract more investments, add more jobs in the market, promote business development and widen the range of possibilities and opportunities for our teeming youthful population, a demographic advantage we are yet to fully explore, we must create the right legal regulatory and institutional frameworks that is enabling in a free market.

6. As much as our people value and commend us for these new initiatives for growth, they are also worried and have complained to us bitterly about the impossible interest rate regime our businesses face today to survive. It is inconceivable that businesses anywhere can survive on a 25-30% interest rate regime. How can an investor anywhere survive on these rates? How can they create jobs and make returns? But this is the situation our businesses currently live with.

7. The Senate fully appreciates the economic complexities that determine interest rate regimes. It fully recognizes that high inflation times call for interest rate hikes and such other arguments. But unless businesses are able to survive, inflation and all other market conditions alone will not make the difference. We must as a matter of deliberate policy frame our monetary policy regime towards support for businesses otherwise our economy rescue mission may not be attained. It will be profoundly improbable to genuine businesses like agriculture, production and solid minerals to survive on interest rate regime of 30%.

8. A 25-30% interest rate regime is a yoke too hard to bearfor any real sector business. Our businesses need a breather. I am a firm believer that unless we are ready to think outside of the box and task ourselves to make sacrifices and take hard decisions with a view to the future we will not make much progress.

9. Let's give a chance to our poultry and cassava farmers, welders, builders, our fashion designers, filmmakers, shoemakers, furniture companies and our other numerous small and medium sized industries a chance to stay alive and make a living for their families. These people; the SME's are the reason we are gathered here. These entrepreneurs employ 88% of our work force. They have demanded and we should find a means to give them a new interest rate. If we don't, we will all be poorer for it. If we are able to, we will all ultimately benefit.

10. I am confident that with the caliber of people gathered here, we will find a workable solution that will put a halt on the current rising interest rates regime and return profitability viability to Nigerian enterprises. This will be the beginning of a new era of prosperity and inclusive growth that we all yearn for. This is our only option if we are to build a virile private sector that will meet our developmental needs.

11. This is not a time for excuses but a time for solutions. Let's make this happen.

12. God bless Nigeria.

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

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