By Lakinbofa Goodluck
In the world that we currently live in, it is almost impossible for a nation to grow its economy solely on local investments. Nations cooperate with other nations to grow their economy. This is usually the reason countries attend major international diplomatic gatherings with delegations that include businessmen in order to take advantage of mutually beneficial bilateral and multilateral agreements. Both developed and developing nations constantly strategise on how to woo investors into their countries. Some conduct roadshows and spend money advertising on international television channels in order to reach the international audience. The end goal is to present investment opportunities to potential investors. This is very important because without investment, there will be no jobs for the growing population, and eventually the economy will crumble. Beyond extending invitation to investors, countries also try to create a welcoming business environment that promotes investment. Some countries provide tax incentives and pay attention to building good relationship with investors.
For a growing economy like Nigeria’s, it is more than necessary to make our business environment comfortable and enabling for investors in order to accelerate the growth of the economy. The maritime industry is a veritable sector with huge potential to contribute remarkably to the Nigerian economy. Based on the foresight of past administrations, the government introduced the Public Private Partnership arrangement in port business in the country. Seeing the potential of the sector, many investors came into the country to invest, create jobs and add value to the country, with the hope to recoup their investments. Naturally, what is expected of the country is to further encourage the investor and incentivise them to explore other sectors of the economy worthy of attention. Beyond encouraging existing investors, such disposition will also serve as a motivation for other investors. On the contrary, the agencies of government that should really be at the forefront of creating an enabling environment for the investors are now the ones engaging in media trial of the same investors. This new strategy is gradually becoming the norm in government agency-investor relationship in port business in the country. Frankly, castigating investors on the pages of newspaper does not protect our economy; rather, it threatens our economic growth. It presents the investors in bad light to the general public and wanes their social license. The ultimate repercussion of this is the creation of an unfriendly business atmosphere for investors.
Just recently, the Managing Director of Calabar Channel Management Company Limited (CCM) raised the alarm over a smear campaign against his company. Apart from CCM, there are other investors in the maritime industry that feel the same way. As much as agencies of government must be true representative of the Nigerian people in any business agreement, it is imperative for the agencies to also create the enabling environment for investors and reassure them of support. Labelling investors with uncharitable appellations triggers tension that could eventually lead to a media war. War is never clean or palatable; it is always brutal. The damages caused by a war, media or otherwise, are often hard to repair. Even when a war is over, parties in the war still always have to deal with the attendant consequences. The point is media trials have the potential of becoming media war between government agencies and investors; and its outcome is never in anyone’s interest. The disturbing part is that these media trials are often given political colouration by the credulous public who are usually not privy to full information.
When investors no longer feel welcomed in a country, it is easy for them to look for alternatives elsewhere since Nigeria is not the only investment destination in the world. In fact, it is difficult to invest in Nigeria owing to our infrastructural challenges, inconsistency in government policies and many other reasons that discourage investment. This is why the country’s rating in ease of doing business index has continued to drop. Nevertheless, investors still consider Nigeria as worthy of their investments because of the potential for encouraging returns on investment. Since the Nigerian nation benefits from these investments, we need to promote peace and mutually beneficial business environment. If we make the environment here unfriendly, other African countries are waiting to welcome investors that leave this country. A recent example is a terminal operator known as ICTSI, which abandoned the development of a container terminal at the Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos after more than seven years of trying to overcome business difficulties in the country. ICTSI relocated its investment to Congo.
As a very strategic sector of the Nigerian economy, the maritime sector requires the cooperation of all stakeholders. Investors in the country need to feel secured about their investment. Government agencies can ensure compliance and enforce regulations without engaging in media battles with investors. Media battles are inimical to the country’s image.
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