After a brief illness and medical check-up on Thursday, President Goodluck Jonathan Friday made a surprise appearance at the Hilton Hotel (London) venue of the two-day Nigeria Honorary International Investors' Council meeting and finally delivered his speech.
Jonathan arrived the venue of the event at about 9:30 am in company with the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Senator Dalhatu Tafida.
Clad in a black stripped traditional South-South attire and bowler hat to match, Jonathan did not display any sign of weakness as he shook hands with members of the council and the coordinator, Baroness Lynda Chalker, before he took his seat after the national anthem.
The President apologised to members of the council for his absence on the opening day due to “ill health” and added that he was now strong enough to attend yesterday's session.
While addressing the meeting, Jonathan said his administration had made giant strides in a bid to attract new investors into the country, adding that he would continue to encourage existing investors within the country to expand.
Said Jonathan: "In 2014, we must not lose this momentum, but rather broaden our interventions to address other difficult issues like the high cost of financing in the country and the dearth of adequate skills.
"This 15th meeting builds on the last conversation we had in Abuja and begins to address the fundamental issues constraining competitiveness and investment in Nigeria. Competitiveness ultimately drives profitability, which is what investors are seeking worldwide.
"To be competitive, we must address long standing issues and introduce bold and courageous reforms, regardless of short term political pressures. This is why my government has remained steadfast in making Nigeria the preferred location for investors to do business.
"In building a truly competitive environment for business, we are addressing the fundamental issues such as internal security and power supply head-on. For the first time in Nigeria's 53 year history, we have successfully privatized the electric power industry.”
He said his administration was bringing capital, technology and operational excellence into the power sector and that 11 distribution companies and four generation companies had been privatized, realising over US$3 billion for the government.
Said the President: For Council’s information, the power assets were finally handed over on 1st November, 2013. I am delighted to inform you that investors are responding positively to the opportunities in the sector and we expect to see significant investments in the sector and across the value chain going forward. Ladies and gentlemen, resolving the power sector alone, completely changes the paradigm on doing business in Nigeria, and we are satisfied with the progress made.”
On security, Jonathan admitted that there were still challenges but that his administration had been investing in the requisite security infrastructure and intelligence network that would enable the country deal more effectively with the new threats faced which he said could hamper investor confidence in our economy.
Said the President: "In ensuring that the environment is suitable for investment, we will also continue to intensify the fight against corruption. We are indeed happy that the private sector has begun complementing our strong desire to tackle all forms of rent-seeking tendencies. The ‘Clean Business Nigeria Today’ initiative coming from the meetings of the Council is a very good example.
"I also use this opportunity to inform Council that Nigeria will be hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa, between the 7th and 9th of May 2014.
"Our hosting this event is yet again a strong sign of Nigeria’s central economic and political role on the continent. The forthcoming World Economic Forum will be used to shape matters of inclusive growth on the continent and I invite all members of Council to join us in Abuja in May 2014."
Jonathan further briefed the council on measures so far taken to secure additional sources of financing for essential development projects in Nigeria.
The President also participated in a discussion of the presentation by the Minister of Communications Technology on the development of ICT infrastructure in Nigeria.
Baroness Lynda Chalker, coordinator of the council told the President that its members felt much more positive about the opening up of investment opportunities in Nigeria.
She said that the attendance at the ongoing meeting of the council was the highest ever in its history and that its members were very excited about the emerging potentials of the Nigerian economy.