Honourable Barrister Legor Idagbo is the Chairman Nigerian Content, Development, & Monitoring Committee in the House of Representatives. Barrister Idagbo pointed out that there are challenges in doing business in Nigeria, since the country has no enabling environment for business to thrive. He said investors can only invest in an enabling environment.
He asserted that the country needs virile legislation for investors to invest, including capacity building. Idagbo advocated that indigenous companies should be listed into the stock exchange market, adding that NASS members need support from Nigerians, in order to take viable decisions that will benefit the country.
Hon. Idagbo spoke to journalists after a panel session at the Practical Nigerian Content conference that was held at NCDMB headquarters, in Bayelsa State.
What are the challenges of doing business in Nigeria?
There are lots of challenges that affect the ease of doing business in Nigeria, we don’t have the enabling environment like I said, and we don’t have the infrastructure. That is why there is call on government to create that enabling environment, by ensuring that there is peace, security, road infrastructure and power in order for the environment to be conducive.
If an enabling environment is created, investors will invest in the country. Again, we are looking at how we can create the free trade zones, so that we will not put too much tax levies on investors. When investors invest in the country, they will have gotten every thing they need in one stock, so that their businesses will thrive. Other climes have done it, for instance, there is Dubai Industrial City, the China Industrial Hub among others. If Nigerian government follows this trend, create enabling environment, investors will come, and invest in the country.
One thing is important as they come to invest, the country should put its legislation in place so that we give Nigeria a good deal from this investment coming into the country, and create jobs for Nigerians, so that their capacity can be built. In future, Nigerians can go to other countries, and invest there. The Chinese did it, before it was the Americans going to China, but China came up with legislations that improve their capacity, whatever the Americans manufacture a Chinese company is able to manufacture, and even better products. Today, there are examples like Ali Baba, Huawei from China doing better products than the ones that were done in America.
Infrastructure is an important issue in Nigeria without it there is no base for investment to grow. The level of infrastructural development we have seen in this administration is clearly divided by political considerations. What is the National Assembly (NASS) doing to make sure there is even spread of development through infrastructure?
That is a major challenge we have, and that is why when I spoke, I emphasized on most of the companies involving in infrastructure, getting listed in the stock exchange market. If you look at the bigger picture for instance you have a company like Julius Berger that is listed in the stock exchange market. The Calabar-Ogoja Highway that leads to the northern part of the country, analysis can be done on how the road can be fixed, and tolled in order to raise fund. The public could be sensitized about the project, and its cost including the profit margin, that will be made. Everybody will be part of the project considering the cost, and profit margin. If for instance, one million naira is borrowed and put into the project, the dividends from it may quadruple, people will invest in it. This is how infrastructure will be spread when it will be needed. I think if we follow this model, we will go a long way.
How do you help people overcome approval processes because it is a major problem especially when it involves exclusive list?
Approval processes is a challenge, and I don’t think there is any straight forward answer on how to overcome it. You must play the politics of getting the approvals. Like the example I gave you on the Governor of Cross River State, if you know the politics he played, and money he spent, but at the end of the day he got the approval, but the companies have reneged on their initial commitments.
What is NASS doing to checkmate the executive especially ministers whenever viable projects are given political or ethnic consideration?
We have tried our best that is why we want Nigerians to stand with us, because we represent the people. I remember in the last NASS I was Deputy Chairman of Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, and when they brought the budget to us, we said no, these projects you are putting, do not reflect the needs of Nigerians. You are putting white elephant projects, and Nigerians will accuse NASS of padding the budget. We will rather advise that boreholes or access roads be built, that will benefit the communities, but the Federal Government will object to it, that NASS is padding the budget, and the legislature does not have any right to put in projects, in the budget. Unfortunately, Nigerians will take side with the executive and call legislatures all sorts of names.
NASS members need people’s support because they are close, and have access to them whenever they go to their various constituencies. If you don’t do that you will lose election, so you need to interface with your people. When we come and take a position that the budget from the executive does not reflect the yearnings of the people, we know the stand point we are coming from. We need the support of the people, and we are your own, stand by us, and we can indeed begin to move this change.