Govs’ visit to Germany: Waste or gain?

LEON USIGBE reviews the recent controversial trip made to Germany by some state governors which they said was for investment drive.

RECENTLY, states governors caused quite a stir when it was revealed that many of them would be traveling to Germany for a vocational training under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF). It was strange. What are governors doing on a vocational training? What are they going to learn? Who will they impart their newly acquired skill on when they return?

At the time the news of the trip broke, not all governors were interested in the endeavour and at least, one of them, Nasir el-Rufai of Katsina State did say that publicly. Six of them made it to Germany along with other lesser state officials who represented some of their chief executives. The governors that made the trip were Darius Dickson, Taraba State; Kashim Shettima, Borno; Ben Ayade, Cross River; Dave Umahi, Ebonyi; Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto and the Chairman of the NGF and governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar. Benue State was represented by the governor’s Special Adviser on the Diaspora, Kebbi sent its Finance Commissioner while Niger State delegated a member of its House of Assembly on the mission.

The suggestion that the journey was for a vocational training riled some governors including Ahmed  Abdulfatah of Kwara State who queried its necessity.  He was also not happy over how it had been portrayed in the media. But the NGF denied that they were on the trip for a vocational training. According to the NGF, the trip was an idea generated by the German ambassador in Nigeria, Dietmar Kreusel, who made a presentation at the July 17, 2016 NGF meeting showcasing several areas that Nigeria could tap to diversify its economy as the nation bids to lessen its dependence on oil.

On their return, the NGF gave a report on the trip which showed that 135 German companies participated in what it said was an investment partnership drive. They include BEAR Technology GmBH, Aqua Consult Ingenieur, Deula-Nienburg, SUNZILLA Green Energy, Solar-und Windtech, CTS Automotive, MOBISOL, Tecknische Univeristet Berlin, Deutche Infrastructure, BVMW, Deutschtec, Sunfarming GmBH, R-Biopharm AG, Zell & Co and Heller Tools among several others.

Ambassadors of other African countries resident in the German capital, Berlin like those of the Congo DRC, Madame Clementine Shakembo, Florence Isabelle of Madagascar, Marmo Phillips, Tanzania and Nchama Maylboro of Equatorial Guinea also seized the opportunity to attend the meeting “due to its importance to their countries’ economies.” According to the report, out of these, 25 companies had by the end of the mission indicated their willingness to invest in Nigeria. The NGF now expects that they will be in the country to sign MOUs and make further arrangements towards the take-off of their projects between 4th and 8th of October this year.

The forum argued that the relevance of the presence of the governors on the trip could not  be allowed to simply evaporate as Cross Rivers Governor, Ayade declared a one-stop-shop by asking the investors to return with him to Nigeria to commence the implementation of their agreed programmes on alternative energy in his state. It also explained that apart from the immediate benefits that could accrue to the mission, another thing that made the governors’ presence absolutely imperative was what the NGF noted was “the reputation that Nigerians has acquired in the eyes of the world.”

The NGF also highlighted the role played by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who was on hand to inform the Germans of Nigeria’s departure from a mono-product economy towards diversification to, especially agriculture, job creation, renewable energy, rural electrification and solid minerals. Malami explained that it was against this background that the governors were in Germany to partner with prospective investors and declared while enumerating the numerous business opportunities in Nigeria that his office has “revised Nigerian laws and policies to provide an enabling and clement business environment, where investors monies are safe and secure, as well as their lives.”  Malami was also keen to stress that Nigeria has successfully tackled insecurity in the country and therefore allayed investors’ fears for their personal security.

At the end of the visit, Ambassador Spasswasser of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was hopeful that his compatriots would capitalize on the improved security atmosphere in Nigeria to invest in the country.  The governors, on their part, are also hoping that the investors would now partner with their states in different sectors to exploit their vast potentials for the benefit of their people.