A Special address by President Ibrahim Babangida at a Seminar of African-American Institute at Eko Hotel on September 24, 1985

In the next two days, very knowledgeable people drawn from a wide section of the Nigerian and the international community will devote time to examine issues related to Nigeria’s Economy Recovery. In view of the wide spectrum of our national life covered by this topic, I regard this seminar as part of the ongoing national debates devoted to finding consensus on the problems that face our country.

In organising such an extremely important and high level seminar therefore, the Institute and the Chamber are not only contributing to the economic progress of this nation but are indeed fostering international understanding and interchange both of which are vital to the development progress. It is my earnest hope that at the end of this seminar, constructive and useful suggestions would have emerged to assist us in facing our economic future with renewed hope and confidence.

The theme of your seminar, Mr. Chairman, is most timely, considering the enormous task facing this administration and our desire to quickly put this country on the path of economic recovery. We cannot go on, as we seem to have done in the past, on a care and maintenance basis hoping that everything will come our right at the end of the day. This administration recognises that now is the time to plan for tomorrow and take the measures necessary, some painful, to place this nation once more on the path of growth.

After a quarter of a century of nationhood, Nigeria is still trying to cope with the numerous problems of a backward economy, these include a very weak industrial and technological base resulting in massive importation of machinery and even raw materials; inadequate foreign exchange earnings with its attendant balance of payment problems; unemployment; poor infrastructures such as electricity, water, telecommunications, roads, banking services etc; high rate of population growth; unskilled manpower; food shortages etc. Our problems have, to a large extent been self inflicted. Successive Governments have tended to be unable or unwilling to alter course even when the economic policies being pursued have turned out to be, to say the least inadequate but more often ill-conceived. This administration is determined to take the bull by the horns and get on with the structural changes that will get the economy back on its feet.

I do not intend to proffer what I consider were the reasons for the present state of affairs. Rather, during your seminar I expect you to undertake a thorough analysis of the nature and type of past economic policies, objectives and programmes and see to what extent they had been defective. Before arriving at any suggestions, you need to properly diagonise the character and reasons for the economic crisis which we, as a nation, have tended to experience from time to time and also why we have failed to attain a reasonable degree of self reliance and sustained growth in spite of the comparatively substantial resources at our disposal. Other important and related issues to which this seminar should address itself include:

  1. the development of domestic raw materials and substitutes wherever possible;
  2. the sustained and measurable development of agriculture in order to attain sufficiency in

       food and to provide raw materials

  • development of the Export subsector in order to diversify our foreign exchange earning

       potential away from oil;

  1. privatisation versus commercialisation of government commercial undertakings;
  2. investment promotion and the related issue of incentives;
  3. adaptation of foreign and the development of indigenous technology,
  • development of skilled manpower, and
  • development of basic and intermediate industries etc.

These and other issues which I expect your seminar to advert to will be of immense assistance to us especially as we look forward to taking decisive steps in the near future to unbottle the economy.

Mr. Chairman, without prejudice to the outcome of this seminar, I must emphasise that in the future, our watchword will be self reliance. In this connection we intend to consolidate whatever achievements this nation has managed to achieve at so great a cost in the past. We especially accord top priority to certain key projects most of which are already at various stages of implementation. These include:-

  1. the paper mills at Jebba, Oku I boku and I wopin,
  2. the fertilizer project at Onne and the SSP at Kaduna,
  3. the machine tools industry at Oshogbo,
  4. the petrochemical projects (phase 1 & 11),
  5. the various steel projects,
  6. the LNG project, and
  7. the third refinery at Port Harcourt.

Though committed to the completion and or consolidation of these projects, the administration nevertheless welcomes ideas on how this can be achieved at least to boost the economy.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I could not help but notice that the organisers of, and participants at this seminar are drawn from within and outside the country. This international flavour is most welcome and is indicative of the desire of our foreign friends to see us succeed. It is perhaps appropriate at this juncture for me to turn attention to the important issue of foreign investment especially by American entrepreneurs. I am aware that the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce and similar groupings exist to promote business between our two countries.

I am also painfully aware of the frustrations which prospective investors suffer in their efforts to establish in Nigeria arising from bureaucratic insensitivity and endless procedural hurdles. I would like to assure our foreign friends that urgent efforts will be made to streamline procedures, eliminate bottlenecks and introduce workable incentives. In a world where the competition for investment capital is so fierce, I am surprised we have even got this far! I believe that in this part of the world, Nigeria with its size, population and resources, represents a new frontier for serious minded investors. What we need to do now is to create the right conditions and atmosphere that will attract badly needed foreign capital to supplement our local resources.

I am aware that we had set up a few study groups to examine some sectors of our economy. These groups, in which the Private Sector participated very actively, have since submitted their reports which were considered during the tenure of the former leadership. Let me assure you that this administration will get down to work to ensure immediate implementation of those aspects of the findings that are in our national interest.

Since ours is an open administration, we intend to benefit from the vast experience and knowledge of others at various levels and sectors of this country. The private sector is one such reservoir of experience and knowledge that we must tap from. The Ministers in charge of the Economic Ministries will be required to hold regular and meaningful dialogue with all of you in the private sector so that your collective wisdom can help in enriching the basis of our decision making.

Mr. Chairman, I wish to end this address by further extending my warm regards to the organisers of this timely seminar. I look forward to the ideas that will emanate there from and wish to assure you that Government will examine them with every seriousness and those that will lead Nigeria to the path of economic recovery will surely be adapted.