Private Sector Participation in Fighting Corruption Crucial-Ag President Says

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria

**Adds – Fighting corruption not just government business alone

“I want to say to those of you in the private sector, this issue of fighting corruption and rent-seeking is existential for us all. It is not government business alone; it affects everything, it affects the judgement of those who make decisions that affects business and our economic growth.”

“I think it is important that the private sector should invest in calling out those who make these things difficult, or those doing things that are wrecking our economy and the businesses that you stand for.”

“We must see ourselves as partners, government and private sector, not just in the incentive regime, not just in providing facilities and incentives, but also in fighting what you and I know, is the basic problem of our country and one of the major problems of our economy.” – Acting President Osinbajo

REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, ACTING PRESIDENT, THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT MOJEC INTERNATIONAL METERING FACILITY, LAGOS, ON FRIDAY, 10TH AUGUST, 2018.

PROTOCOLS

Let me first say, how deeply honoured I am, by the very warm welcome here, to this very special place. We have been talking a lot about indigenous Nigerian effort, especially in the electricity sector, I think that MOJEC International clearly stands out, as one of those very exceptional enterprises that have devoted so much time and resources to being not just Nigerian, but being very careful to be the best that is possible.

Looking round the factory and speaking to several members of staff, you can see that there is a certain pride about the work that they do, and they are concerned for detail and excellence. I want to congratulate you, this is really excellent stuff.

Most of you will be very familiar with the way things have gone in the industry, especially since the reform in 2005. A lot has happened and I don’t need to recall all that has taken place, but one of the critical things is the problem around the deficit in metering. All of our DisCos, and practically everybody in the industry, recognises that metering has constituted a major problem, but we cannot solve that problem by merely talking or debating about it.

I think that one of the ways of solving the problem is by indigenous enterprises such as MOJEC, to take the bulls by the horn and begin local manufacturing. But local manufacturing also means local financing and all the problems that are associated with that.

I think that it is up to us, to work out ways by which industries such as this, can get the kind of funds that will be required to make this profitable and for it to make sense.

The DisCos are expected to pay up for these things, but I think that they have somehow, managed to pass on that particular problem, and it is now looking as if all of us have to jointly solve the problem. But it is a matter we must all take a good look at, and try to resolve as quickly as possible, because we are in my view, at the threshold of a solution, especially around metering, and with the MAB, we have now gotten to a point, where at least, we think we can start expecting to see some positive results.

The other point I would like to make is around the whole philosophy of government helping private enterprises and ensuring that private enterprise succeeds. One of the critical things for us is the fact that without private enterprise, economic growth is unlikely, and any kind of serious economic growth is unlikely.

Just a couple of hours ago, we were talking about an investment of $16billion that was made by an indigenous company. If you look at that kind of investment, it is somewhere in the order of N5trillion. Our entire budget is N9trillion, and our spend on infrastructure, which is the highest by the way, in the history of the country, is about N1.5trillion in this past year.    

Now, if one private investor is able to do N5trillion in investment, it tells you that what government can do, or what government should be doing, is ensuring that the regulatory space is comfortable and convenient for those who want to do business, and to ensure that the environment is right, because government’s resources alone will not even scratch the surface of what is required for a country such as ours, in terms of economic growth.

For us, the whole idea of private sector leadership and not just participation, in our economic development, is not just rhetoric, it really is a pillar of our economic policy, and you see that it runs through our Economy and Recovery Growth Plan, and it is the reason behind all we are doing around the ease of doing business. We believe that without the private sector, economic growth is at best a mirage, it simply wouldn’t happen. We want to create an environment where there is a kind of partnership that makes things work.

I am sure that all of us agree that our environment is manned by people, people like you and I. One of the major issues is a change of attitude, because by and large, you find that regulatory authorities, who are individuals, given to indiscretion, tend to be difficult and create obstacles rather than be facilitators, which is what they ought to be. They do this for various reasons; some it is rent-seeking purposes, others it is because they like to exercise authority one way or the other. But whichever it is, it is important that the change of attitude is inculcated, and we are working hard on that.

That is why one of the first executive orders that we signed, executive order 001, was to look at how to improve efficiencies and change attitudes. It is very difficult by the way.

In some ways, we have been able to change some things, but by and large, we are still at the point where we know what the problem is and know what the issues are, but we are not at the point where we can say we made a difference in terms of changing attitudes.

I said a few minutes ago, one of the biggest, if not the biggest problem we have, is rent-seeking, corruption. It is one of the biggest problems we have. Resolving the issues around corruption itself is not a walk in the park, because just grand corruption alone is what we have been able to deal with. By grand corruption I mean just simply going to the treasury to take out resources and sharing it. That we have been able to stop. That accounts for the reason why we are able to put the investments we are putting in infrastructure, we are able to ensure that money goes to where it ought to go.

That does not mean in any way, that we have been able to resolve the problems around contract fraud, contract corruption or the attitudes of regulatory authorities. That is quite another matter, but again we have to deal with it.

I want to say to those of you in the private sector, this issue of fighting corruption and rent-seeking is existential for us all. It is not government business alone; it affects everything, it affects the judgement of those who make decisions that affect business and our economic growth.

I think it is important that the private sector should invest in calling out those who make these things difficult, or those doing things that are wrecking our economy and the businesses that you stand for.

We must see ourselves as partners, government and private sector, not just in the incentive regime, not just in providing facilities and incentives, but also in fighting what you and I know, is the basic problem of our country and one of the major problems of our economy.

I want to urge you to be part of that process in whatever way that is possible. I am sure some of you attend the Quarterly Business Forum we have, some are members of the Industry and Competitiveness Council, and some of the other fora where we interact with the private sector.

It is very important for us, and in my view for the country, that we take these issues, especially the issues of transparency in doing business and transparency of the regulatory authorities, seriously.

I was saying the other day, nobody in Nigeria argues about where you see the way people do things in official circles, it always has to do with private sector close connivance not collaboration. We ought to take ourselves seriously as a nation and join in working together.

Again, let me congratulate the management and staff of MOJEC International; I have heard so much about this particular enterprise, and it is such a pleasure to be here, to see all the great things going on. I want to say that this is really impressive, and it shows how far we can go, with Nigerians doing this business by themselves, and with the new factory that we have just opened. It is evident that this is just the beginning of real progress and quantum leap in terms of your activities here.

Thank you for hosting me, thank you very much.  

Released by:

Laolu Akande

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

Office of the Acting President

11 August, 2018

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