Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN (right) discussing with the Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Austria, His Excellency Dr Michael Spindelegger (left) during a courtesy call on him at the Lagos House, Marina, on Wednesday, June 6, 2012.
WorldStage Newsonline-- Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Wednesday in Lagos wooed Austria investors to come to invest in the State saying in spite of the impression being created by the foreign media, Nigeria is safe for business.
Governor Fashola, who spoke at the Lagos House, Marina, while playing host to an Austrian business delegation led by that country’s Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister, Mr. Michael Spindelegger, said, although Nigeria has challenges like other countries of the world, the government has continued to respond to the challenges on a daily basis.
The Governor told the delegation, “In terms of security, let me assure you that Nigeria is safe. We have challenges, of course, like any other country of the world but the government is responding to the challenges and to me that is the most critical thing that government, on a daily basis, continues to respond to these challenges”.
“There will be no situation where there will not be issues of non-compliance by citizens at various levels. Our democracy, in its 13th uninterrupted year, the longest self-governance experience that we have had, continues to strengthen itself, continues to throw up its own challenges and we have developed the capacity also to correct and improve where there are lapses”, the Governor said.
According to him, “It is a learning curve for us; how to deal with new rights, how to deal with new duties and responsibilities and how to organize them around institutions so that they will be self-sustaining and long-enduring”.
Noting that the environment in Lagos has enormous returns for capital, Governor Fashola declared, “What we are doing here is to build legal frameworks to support the development of business; the registration of business. We are extremely computerizing in Lagos; we are reviewing our business processes so that our services with the private sector are more business-friendly, more responsive and more commercially oriented”.
He further informed the delegation that the State Government has set up, by Parliamentary Legislation, a Public Private Partnership Office to act “as a one-stop shopping centre for midwifing partnerships between the private sector and government”.
In terms of financial strength, Governor Fashola told the delegation, “All of the federating states get monthly financial support from the Federal Government but, Lagos is, perhaps, the least dependent on the Central Government because we fund about 70 percent of our annual budget from our own resources. We raise money by bonds from the Capital Market and also from banks and we have continued, without default, to service all our commercial and loan obligations”.
“Our Judiciary is the largest in the country, if not the Continent. We have over 57 High Court Judges and over 125 magistrates and we are developing, very strongly, arbitration, an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, because we understand that in the business world, in a human world of interactions, you will have conflicts.
“When it is business-defined, it is best to resolve it in a very commercial and time conscious way. So arbitration is strong here able to resolve business disputes and arbitral awards are easy to enforce while capital can be moved in and out conveniently subject to regulations by the Central Bank of Nigeria”, the Governor further explained.
On the areas of focus for investment in the State, Governor Fashola named Power, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing as the most critical pointing out that these were the areas identified at the last Economic Summit of the State which, he further explained, is held biennially.
“This year’s summit was predicated on a strong focus for the Lagos Economy in areas of Power Generation, Agriculture and Agro-Allied development, Transportation and Housing (PATH). We thing that those are the sectors where, if we really exert ourselves and deploy our time and resources too, they would achieve for us bigger economic growth, much more intense prosperity for our people”, the Governor said pointing out that they would also be the enablers of the other critical sectors of the economy.
Insisting that PATH is the “the most critical path to the prosperity of Lagos”, Governor Fashola expressed the confidence that the four sectors would provide strong basis for the creation of useful partnerships between the Austrian business delegation and the State Government for the mutual benefit of Lagos and Austria.
Governor Fashola paid tribute to Austria for the role she has played in peace keeping in the world saying the country has become, more or less, the Diplomatic Capital of the world. “Your country deserves the expression of gratitude from all of the people of the world for the role it has played in peace-keeping”, the Governor said.
Commending the Austrian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stefan Schozle, providing the platform for the meeting to hold even as the nation still mourns the Dana Plane crash victims, Governor Fashola declared, “This is what diplomats sent to represent their countries should be doing, leading the building of partnerships”.
Earlier, in his introductory remarks, the Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Affairs Minister, said the Austrian business delegation was in Lagos to explore areas of mutual business collaboration with the State Government and the Private Sector adding that the Austrian investors were interested in building partnerships with their Nigerian counterparts.
According to him, it took Austria 50 years to come to Nigeria, and having come, the country has been impressed with the development in the country, adding, “You are now a stable democracy; you have got a lot of economic growth, a lot of young people and that is an economic advantage”.
The Minister, who disclosed that his country has established a Centre for Economy in Lagos “manned by a young lady representing Austrian Enterprises”, said there is a lot of interests among Austrian enterprises to invest in Nigeria and Lagos but added that the investors needed good infrastructure and assurance of security.
He said there was need for Austrian investors to explore the environment in the state in order to know the areas of need as well as have a permanent contact adding that there is also need for Nigerian business delegation to visit Austria to present their needs and to find a contact to Austrian enterprises.
Also present at the occasion were the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Ben Akabueze, his Finance counterpart, Mr. Tokunbo Abiru, among members of the State Executive Council, Nigerian Ambassador to Austria, Mrs. Maria Laose and other members of the Austrian Business delegation.