If they’re not evident or talked about with much appreciation, the achievements that the government of Nigeria and president Goodluck Jonathan have earned the country were strongly supported and highlighted at a recent Goodluck Support Group USA (GSG) forum at New York’s Millennium Hotel.
Monday, December 9, the group hosted a dinner (A Night for President Goodluck Jonathan in New York) where special adviser to the president on political affairs, Barrister Ahmed Gulak, outlined progress and benchmarks related to Nigeria’s insurgency difficulties, policy changes, business climate, economics and corruption.
Gulak, Ambassador Habibu Habu, GSG Deputy National Coordinator Eddy Olafeso and other officials urged Nigerian professionals to gain business skills in the U.S., and bring their know-how and potential back “home” to Nigeria.
“My role here is very simple, it’s just to welcome you to New York. I’m a civil servant, I’m not a politician, but to the Nigerians in the diaspora; please join politics,” Ambassador Habu said during his brief speech. “I don’t say join politics and run for elections. What you do as a politician is bring good practice and politics to Nigeria — and you can’t buy that.”
While countless initiatives for job creation (The Public Works and Women/Youth Employment Project), Agriculture (Young Graduates Commercial Farmers Scheme), and Infrastructure (Operation Safe Passage) have been launched — corruption and rebel activity remain an imminent issue to those with an outside perspective of Nigeria.
“Boko Haram is much more than what you see on the surface. The foot soldiers are being tackled, they are being arrested — but you should not lose sight of the fact that Boko Haram in Nigeria has links to Al Qaeda in North Africa and the Middle East — and the Al- Shabaab in East Africa,” Gulak said in front of a press round-table prior to the program.
He said that Nigeria is a big country — larger than the small arms and ammunition that are swelling the strength of insurgent group Boko Haram. The government has made an effort to combat attacks by deploying operatives to the countries borders, “especially the northern part,” Gulak added.
Constitutional provisions must be altered and implemented by Nigeria’s court of law in order for corruption to truly be addressed. Gulak assured the press that extensive prosecution periods, which allow criminals to walk free until they’re proven guilty, is an exercise that goes being presidential action:
“To an ordinary Nigerian [who] sees people accused of stealing billions and in a week or two sees them walk freely on the street, they begin to wonder: ‘Is the government really fighting corruption?'”
Addressing the government’s measures to bolster international relations and foreign investment, Gulak explained that Nigeria has recognized lacking areas as well as international business partnership potential.
“First and foremost the government has successfully privatized the power sector. When you put your power in the proper perspective, all other things will key in. You provide the conducive atmosphere for foreign direct investment,” Gulak told AFKInsider.
By the first quarter of 2014, the government expects to increase it’s current 4,500MW electricity generation capacity to 9,000MW, a GSG booklet titled See What President Goodluck Jonathan Has Done in 2 Years, noted.
“We have opened up our economy, privatization in the power sector, infrastructure and what have you,” he continued.
The booklet also showed that Nigeria’s overall fiscal deficit-to-GDP ratio had been reduced to 2.41 percent in the first quarter of 2013. Also then, fiscal reserves (ECA/SWF) and external reserves capped out at $9.5 billion and $48.8 billion, respectively.
“Our Ministry of Trade and Investment is there to assist direct foreign investors who come to Nigeria and tap the untapped areas; we have a lot of them. The opportunities in Nigeria, I believe, are much more than the opportunities in the U.S,” Gulak told AFKInsider, elaborating on collaborative economic planning.
“When you have untapped resources: mineral resources, water resources, petroleum, gas and agri — they are all waiting for direct foreign investment — and Nigeria guarantees you a return on investment. That is what the government is doing strategically to really encourage foreign direct investment,” he said.
At the event, representatives from the UN and State of New York encouraged partnerships and skill exchanges between the U.S. and Nigeria. Through GSG, directors and members are working to enlighten nations abroad about the work and opportunities that have become available under president Jonathan’s administration.
“I’m here not just to celebrate the important work, but to join and roll up my sleeves in support of president Goodluck Jonathan,” New York senator Kevin S. Parker said to the audience.
Opening the program, Dr. Godwin Chinedu Duru, GSG Deputy Director Diaspora, summed up what the guests speakers sought to leave attendees with:
“All that you have seen and heard — the documentary and the speeches that were made — are the true position of Nigeria.
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