Nigeria: Why Foreign Firms Are Afraid of Coming to Nigeria - Utomi

2 January 2020

Professor Pat Utomi, in this interview gives reasons why foreign investors are not coming to Nigeria, though the market is still viable.

In your opinion, what are the reasons why foreign investors are not coming to Nigeria and others are even divesting to other African countries?

Nigeria's quest to develop her obsolete transport infrastructure may continue to be elusive due to low level of private investment inflow occasioned by weak property rights in the country. Governors should stop the needless and indiscriminate revocation of Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) and other land titles.

Funds for the development of transport and other infrastructure do not come from the national budgets. The revocation of C of O frightens foreign investors from coming. This development makes it expedient for government to remove all impediments to inflow of investments into the country. Government should strengthen the country's property right laws.

People do not invest in a country where property rights are threatened. In Nigeria, governors revoke C-of-O's that were approved by their predecessors in order to reallocate such titles to their cronies and friends.

We are talking of landed property that people have invested billions of naira to acquire and build only to be revoked due to political considerations. People do not come to countries like that.

But money is budgeted for the development of infrastructure. Why is it that such funds are either not used or diverted?

Over the years, capital has remained in the hands of a few people, in California for instance less than 10 people have enough capital that could address the infrastructure gap in Nigeria. These people are looking for where to invest. The right environment must be put in place to attract such huge capital into Nigeria. The federal and state governments must jettison political interference in contracts and concessioned projects.

The country needs to create an enabling environment that supports indigenous and foreign private sector investments to develop transport infrastructure.

The practice of frivolous interruption of legitimate infrastructure concession agreements and contracts have scared Nigerian private sector investors as well as foreign direct investments. The result of this is that the nation suffers the consequences of dilapidated transport infrastructure.

How can we, as a nation, put our politicians in check as regards the indiscriminate revocation of C of Os?

We need to develop strong institutions that can hold politicians back. Politicians in the United Kingdom or anywhere in the world are not different from those in Nigeria but the only thing is strong institutions that hold them back. This is absent in Nigeria.

I tell you one thing; Nigeria is central and crucial for the development of other parts of the African continent. It has become expedient for the country to develop her infrastructure and systems so that other African nations will take a cue from her and develop theirs. The flying geese concept of the Asian nations is a topical example.

In the same vein, transport and logistics are key in economic development. China's dramatic rise is due to the fact that they were able to turn around their logistics sector.

Africa will not make the progress that it is destined to make, unless Nigeria leads the flying geese. What transformed South East Asia economy? One country, Singapore, began to get it right, and others looked across the border and joined in the development stride. Before you know it, Malaysia, Thailand and others had their economies transformed.

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