The President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has assured his compatriots abroad that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was working assiduously to solve the myriad problems the country is confronted with.
Saraki was speaking when he met representatives of the Nigerian community in Berlin. He assured the gathering that the National Assembly was well alive to its responsibilities of making laws for the good governance of the country. And that the legislators were aware of the difficulties Nigerians were going through as a result of the current economic crisis.
Senator Saraki, who was in Germany on a 3-day visit, also talked about the efforts Nigeria was making towards closer bilateral economic and political ties with Germany. He lauded the Germans for their sincerity to work with Nigeria.
Saraki said that Nigeria could only get better as the economic crisis had bottomed out. However he was hesitant to say how fast or soon things would get better in the country. “We’re doing things to make things better,” he assured. “The fundamentals of our country are strong.”
The Senate president attributed the crash of the national currency naira to the import-dependent nature of the country’s economy. He spoke at length about the efforts that are being made to diversify the economy by focusing on agriculture and manufacturing. “We will soon stop importing rice,” he assured, vowing that Nigeria would be self-sufficient in basic food items in the near future.
Saraki also revealed that government was working on a policy to ensure that the country’s refineries work properly and optimally utilize their installed capacity so that the country will no longer import petroleum products.
“Refineries will be run on the basis of repair-operate-transfer model,” he said. Under the scheme, the refineries will be handed over to international companies with the requisite competence to repair and operate for a number of years to recuperate the costs of the repairs before being handed back to the government. This is to ensure that the companies do a good job as they can only recoup their investment if the refineries function well.
Saraki also mentioned several projects that are being implemented to lay a basis for the sustainable development of the country. He cited the ongoing construction of modern rail lines and power plants, and the rehabilitation of roads and seaports as efforts to tackle the infrastructure deficits of the country.
He assured that foreign investors would respond positively to these efforts to place the country on a strong pedestal for economic growth and development. “It takes a while to build confidence for foreign investors to come in,” he noted, appealing to Nigerians to be patient with the government.
Saraki hinted that Nigeria was working with Germans on the issue of migration. In a reference to the Nigerians earmarked for deportation by Germans, he said there was an understanding that they would be provided training before being sent home. He pleaded with Germans not to be afraid of Nigerians because of a tiny minority among them who tarnish the image of other Nigerians and their home country. He described Nigerians as hardworking people wherever they’re.
In his welcome speech at the event, Kenneth Alaekwe, the chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) Germany, called on the National Assembly to make the necessary law to enable Nigerians abroad to vote at elections.
Alaekwe, who is a conferencing expert, enumerates the efforts of NIDO Germany to take investment to Nigeria and he revealed that the group was currently working with a number of German companies to invest in pharmaceutical and food production in Nigeria.
“We’ll continue to drive investment in Nigeria,” he assured and called on the government to engage the organisation in its efforts to attract investment from Germany.
Alaekwe noted that Nigerian delegations regularly visit Germany without the knowledge of NIDO Germany which prevents such delegations from profiting from the expertise and experience of the Diaspora group. “NIDO should be carried along in their activities,” he pleaded.
A number of issues were raised at the meeting, which took place last Friday in the conference room of the Nigerian chancery. Among them was the period of passport expiry. Obiora Nweke, a Berlin-based development consultant, called on the federal government to make passport have a longer duration, say of 10 years, to reduce the stress Nigerians go through when renewing their passport every five years.
The Chargé d’Affaires of the Nigerian Embassy, Mr Chimezie Ugwu, praised the Senate president for meeting Nigerians in Germany despite his tight schedule, pleading that the National Assembly should see to the points raised by NIDO Germany leadership and other speakers at the event.
Senator Saraki and members of his delegation have since returned home.