Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Wooing investors with permits

Written by the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper

It is a welcome development that the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Bello Dambazzau has commissioned 28 Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC) Centres with a view to attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) into Nigeria. The centres, well structured, equipped and staffed with individuals having the requisite skills and right attitude make obtaining entry visa and residence permit, among other things, easier for foreigners willing to invest in Nigeria. It is particularly a healthy initiative especially as the centres are located across all the states in the country with the exception of Borno and Yobe where, understandably, the insecurity induced by the Boko Haram terrorists is enough to scare away investors – local or international.

For many years, Nigeria has desired that foreign investors come into the country with train-loads of money for investment. Government officials had flown to countries far and near in search of foreign direct investments. Unfortunately, despite the obvious knowledge that the country has yet to prepare itself to be attractive to investors, officials had gone through all the world’s financial and business centres for the elusive investors. Even then, those who dared met with woes enough to cause them never to consider a second trial. Little wonder that much success was never made. How could Nigeria have been successful with the efforts and resources deployed when it had both tacitly and explicitly shown that doing business in the country, when compared with other countries, was not only daunting but very risky? Within the comity of nations, Nigeria has always been ranked abysmally low in ease of doing business.

To underscore that fact, fingers had been pointed to the subsisting issues of inadequate, ineffective or even non-functional infrastructure, policy inconsistencies, multiple taxation, high interest rates that cannot support gainful productivity, red-tapism, poor attitude to work, wide-spread corruption across both public and private sectors of the economy. There are also issues of insecurity, dwindling economic purchasing power anchored on low per capita income of Nigerians, inefficient justice system and over-bearing bureaucracy. Most of these challenges that have metamorphosed into severe intractable problems can still be resolved by a government which appreciates that their removal will sign-post the country as ripe and viable for destination of foreign direct investments.

With the Interior Minister’s commissioning of the 28 centres, it would appear the government has finally woken from a deep sleep. But everyone who cares about how inflow of FDIs to any country can be influenced knows that the step taken by the present administration is about the first and a very good one for that matter. This, though, is subject to ensuring that those who will operate it are properly trained and reoriented to proving that new and better service delivery annals have dawned in Nigeria. Some of the other necessary steps to be taken are that the Nigerian missions abroad should not only promote this development but also ensure that visa and residence permit applicants have noteworthy and unforgettably positive experiences. To this end, every effort of the government should be turned towards satisfying at least, the common or basic needs of the embassies and missions as well as the welfare of their officials. Apart from positive contributions of human capital, the roles of appropriate and modern technology cannot be down-played.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s pronouncement that Nigeria would soon become the irresistible foreign direct investment destination will become a truism only when these issues are resolved. Yes, Nigeria needs to encourage easy access to the country in order to generate enough international investment inflow.

Yes, achievement of this objective will greatly assist in revitalising the economy and pulling it out of recession quicker than many envisage. However, it stands to good reason and perhaps, caution that the government and people of Nigeria should, upfront, be mindful of the security implications of granting visa and residence permits without thorough due diligence on applicants. Therefore, all necessary measures must be put in place to ensure that only genuine and credible applicants are the ones to be granted such important security documents as otherwise, the country and the citizenry may be exposed to dangers and risks associated with global terrorism, money laundering and other vices.

It is hoped that the government would, therefore, use all its apparatus to make sure that the security of the nation and its inhabitants is not impaired through the 28 centres for Combined Expatriate Residence Permits and Alien Cards.

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