PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
SENATOR ANYIM PIUS ANYIM (GCON)
PRESIDENT OF SENATE, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.
ON THE OCCASION OF NIGERIAN PEOPLES FORUM
CONFERENCE ON INDUSTRY, INVESTMENT AND TECHNOLOGY
IN NIGERIA AT THE CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT
FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE, UNITED STATES
ON NOVEMBER 15, 2001.
Mr. Chairman, Honourable Members of the United States congress, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour and privilege for me to be in your midst today to rub minds on topical issues that are of vital importance to the relationship between our two great Countries, Nigeria and the United States.
Let me seize this opportunity to deliver the message of solidarity from the Nigerian people to the people and government of the United States of America on the sad event of September 11, 2001 and the similar unfortunate reoccurrence of November 12, 2001. The Nigerian People like all civilized citizens of the world identifies with the United States in its fight against terrorism. It is our conviction that terrorism must be subdued.
May I also express my profound appreciation for the support, which the Government of the United States and its institutions have extended to the promotion and entrenchment of democracy in Africa in general and Nigeria in Particular. I am aware that this support was possible as a result of the relentless commitment of the members of the US Congress as well as the officials of your government. Kindly accept our sincere gratitude for your efforts.
For the past 15 years, Nigeria went through a painful process of political, social and institutional decline. During this period, the constitution was suspended, the principles of separation of power were jettisoned and rule of law seriously fettered. The civil society was nearly decimated. All elements of participatory politics became non-existent.
As the people of Nigeria rose up in various forms and manners to challenge this situation, the full weight of authoritarian repression was brought down upon them with draconian ferocity. As friends of Nigeria within the international community tried to mediate on the situation, there resulted a stalemate and near collapse in the Nigeria’s well-cultivated diplomatic relations with several nations including yours. The Nigerian economy suffered a prolonged setback as a result of this ugly development from which it is yet to recover.
The above scenario truncated the advancement and development of our Country, which is blessed with abundant wealth and human resources. Today, the question topmost on the mind of the current Nigerian leadership, and I imagine on the mind of well meaning supporters of Nigeria, is how to effectively pilot the affairs of Nigeria to the path of meaningful recovery. To this regard, our government is aware that it needs the understanding, cooperation and assistance of the international Community.
It is worthy to note that Nigeria’s political and economic situations at all times directly and indirectly impact substantially on other countries within the West Africa sub-region. Nigeria remains a strong regional power. Nigeria has a population equal to the combined population of the rest of countries in West Africa. Nigeria has always rendered assistance to its sister countries in Africa during periods of crisis.
For example, Nigeria played key roles during the Congo crisis; the liberation struggles in the then Apartheid enclave, the Ruwandan & Burundi massacre and the Liberia and Sierra Leone hostilities.
The trend of instability within the sub-region shows that if Nigeria is to face extreme political or economical calamity, there would be serious spin-off effects on countries within the sub region. Conversely, the greater the political and economic stability of Nigeria, the more able Nigeria would be to render assistance to her neighbouring countries in moments of political difficulties.
Having attempted to put in perspective Nigeria’s unique role in Africa, the question is; How far have we fared under the new democracy? Let me recall that on May 29, 1999 Nigerians voted in a free and fair election. On that day, Nigerians elected various leaders for all tiers of government to run their affairs.
Indeed, it culminated in the formation of the present democratic Government founded on the principles of constitutionalism and separation of powers. Under the new constitutional arrangement, the Legislature, of which the Senate is the senior chamber, constitutes a vital engine for sustenance of democracy and good governance.
The National Assembly has remained committed to the protection of our nascent constitutional democracy. This commitment was founded on the conviction of members of the National Assembly that unless there is a transparent and accountable government, Nigeria could very easily slip to the edge of arbitrariness.
The government has remained focused in its crusade against corruption. Restoration of favorable foreign investment climate, employment generation, and improved security of life and property of the citizenry have remained a major policy thrust of the government.
In its crusade against corruption, the Anti-corruption bill was passed into law by the legislature. This law is intended to minimize various forms of corrupt practices. The Attorney-General by the new law is vested with significant prosecutorial and investigative authority over corrupt behaviours and at the same time it provides the courts with expanded jurisdiction over a range of corrupt practices that are inimical to healthy business environment. The anti-corruption is picking momentum. It’s positive effect is already been seen and felt by individuals, corporate and government agencies.
Furthermore, the Nigerian legislature has continued to support our President and Commander-in-chief in his vigorous campaign aimed at normalizing and strengthening diplomatic ties with major capitals of the world. Not too long ago, only few countries in the world maintained full-fledged diplomatic relationship with Nigeria. Almost in all aspects of international diplomacy, Nigeria’s position steadily slipped into some fractured state.
But today, less than two years after the present government assumed office, we have significantly advanced the process of diplomatic reconciliation. Mr. Chairman, dear compatriots, ladies and gentlemen, may I note that my presence in your midst today is very much a part of this process of restoration of diplomatic goodwill. And I thank you immensely for your unrelenting efforts.
With respect to the global trend of privatization, we, the members of the National Assembly have taken clear stance jointly with the Executive in favour of privatizing a long list of state-owned enterprises in order to give the economy the right tonic. Equally, we have in place a robust program for attracting private and constitutional investors to Nigeria.
A number of bills favorable to foreign investment are being considered by the legislature and I am confident that these bills will be pass shortly into law. Our goal is to put Nigeria on a competitive position vis-à-vis other emerging economies of the world when it comes to the ability to attract foreign investment capital. Nigeria like most countries of the world do witness occasional civil unrest and sectional uprising. These unrest sometimes are fall out of religious, social, political, economic and ethnic differences.
The legislature has been prompt in taking initiatives in search of solutions to the sundry tensions and conflict. There have been numerous sociological and philosophical explanations of these instances of violent eruptions in our polity. However it is understandable that pent-up grudges have suddenly found unhindered expression under a democratic set up. I believe it’s existence is evidence that democracy and freedom of expression have arrived in Nigerian.
The National Assembly will remain alive to its constitutional responsibility to legislate for order and peaceful co-existence of the Nigerian people. And within this constitutional scheme, it is our duty to ensure, through the passage of good and responsive laws, that innocent person does not suffer violence or injury as a result of the actions of his or her neighbors. Out commitment to law and order overrides any philosophical sophistry in the evaluation of the National internal conflict.
While I am glad to report on the various efforts of the present government and its legislature to stir Nigeria away from her past and put her in the direction of progress, prosperity and socio-economic advancement. Undoubtedly, the road so far as been rough. We are under no illusions about the challenges and obstacles on the path of the government to achieve a stable polity. Nevertheless, our resolve is firm and resolute to achieve meaningful democracy dividend for our people.
As the government strives to create the enabling environment for socio-economic activities, we urge our friends and well wishers to join Nigeria and other third world countries in the campaign for debt relief and /or forgiveness. Our new democracy faces serious threat unless it could yield economic dividends to the average Nigerian in the form of employment and better economic prospects.
Government policies in this regard would hardly work unless some effective, fair and equitable solutions are found to the Nigerian debt problems. Mr. Chairman, I seek your assistance to our efforts at ensuring that substantial relief is given to Nigeria to cushion the crippling debt obligations that she faces.
Further, our efforts at attracting foreign investment to Nigeria can only succeed if it is supported by appropriate policy initiatives of the home countries of foreign investors. America has often demonstrated the willingness and ability to fine-tune their fiscal and monetary policies to ensure that the American investors pursue investment in certain regions and under certain conditions that are mutually beneficial to the investors and the host countries.
We in Nigeria have always believed that favourable trade arrangements between the United States and Africa would work to the benefit of both continents. While we shall sustain our renewed efforts at attracting American private and institutional investors to the Nigerian economy, we would sincerely request that the American government through the advise of this Sub-Committee goes further in providing the right incentives aimed at encouraging its citizens to invest in Africa.
Distinguished guests, I started my address by reminding you of the American leadership in the global scheme of things, particularly your support for Nigerian people during the darkest moment in their struggle for democracy.
I further indicated that we are grateful for your support to our evolving democracy. While the Nigeria of today has remarkably improved from what it was about two years ago, we stand constantly reminded that we still have a few more steps to walk before we could substantially be considered out of the wood. In the forthcoming months and possibly years, the leaders of Nigeria shall remain challenged to take bold steps and seek international partnership for consolidating the gains so far made.
However, our democratic situations calls for greater interest and support from the United States. We need the American support in the process of national reconstruction. Nigerians continue to count on the friendship of the Americans and their support in moments of need. We applaud the efforts of the Nigerian Peoples Forum.
I salute the support of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. We are grateful to the American government and its people. I equally salute the numerous Nigerians residing in the United States and urge them to continue to foster closer relationship between our both governments and its people.