(2) Six Months After: A performance Audit of Buhari’s Ministers
By Hamilton Nwosa (Head, The New Diplomat’s Business Desk)
With Nigeria’s resolve to leverage her enormous human and material resources as well as strategic position as an investment destination, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo seems to have on his hands enormous tasks and responsibility. His mandate include attracting investment inflow into Nigeria as well as boosting trade in various dimensions. With public confidence and expectations increasingly on the rise, it is not unusual for public officers to be weighed down by such enormity of expectations.
However, six months down the line, industry experts and stakeholders aver that Adebayo, a former governor of Ekiti State, and investment lawyer has demonstrated an excellent understanding of the intricate dynamics of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. In addition, stakeholders believe that he has recorded substantial accomplishments within this brief period. But how did this come about?
Adebayo’s first step upon assumption of office was to chart a policy direction for the ministry and align his vision with the core objectives and mandate of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. Thus at an inaugural meeting with Staff and Management of the Ministry, Adebayo unveiled his mission thus: To work collectively with his colleague(Minister of State) and staff of the ministry to achieve the following tasks: Create an enabling environment that would stimulate industrialization, accelerate domestic and foreign direct investment and ensure coordinated approach to our Nigeria’s trade policy.
At that meeting, he promised to work as a team-player to help unlock the potentials and capabilities to staff and management of the Ministry in order to help actualize President Muhmmadu Buhar’s next level agenda of catalyzing national development. He said: “Together with my colleague at this Ministry, we would together as a team work to attain the task ahead of us all. We would work as a team.’’ Six months after, what can we say he has accomplished in this regard? What has he been doing specifically in this direction?
Interestingly, the former Ekiti State governor who is generally liked for his admirable personality has used every available public and strategic fora to canvass industrialization, trade and investment. A few days back, in a keynote address, he delivered on the theme ‘Drivers, Disruptors and Delivering Value’ to unlock Nigeria’s economic potential at the Udo Udoma and Belo Osagie 2nd Private Equity Summit Fundraising & Deal Academy, the Minister appealed to local and international stakeholders, and participants in Nigeria’s dynamic private equity sector to join hands to boost Nigeria’s economic and investment potentials. Taking his drive further, Adebayo held a strategic bi-lateral deliberation on global trade and investment with the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Mary Beth Leonard; USAID Mission Director for Nigeria, Stephen M. Haykin; and the West Africa Trade and Investment Team on January 16, 2020. Of that meeting, he said: “ We discussed enhancing our agricultural productivity and increasing innovation in all sectors — through strategic and effective collaborations with the United States.”
Other priority areas of the Minister include the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) agreement, which entered its operational phase in July. For Adebayo, this instrument provides an excellent opportunity for Nigeria to improve on her export quality of its local products and services. He said: “The Nigerian government is fully committed to resolving the constraints that may affect the business environment and relevant agencies of government are implementing various initiatives that would enable companies in Nigeria to benefit from the pact.” He added: “Though the share of intra-Africa exports as a percentage of total Africa exports increased from about 10 percent in 1995 to around 17 percent in 2017, it remains low compared to levels with Europe, 69 percent; Asia, 59 percent; and North America, 31 percent.” According to him, if the continent is to achieve its potentials of diversifying and transforming its economies through the AfCTA, it must begin the work of implementing strategies for exports, diversification, industrialization and value-chain development. He added that the AfCTA agreement gives Africa a game-changing opportunity that cannot be omitted.
Similarly, the former Ekiti State governor is driving a rapid coordinated and integrated approach to Nigeria’s trade policy which would hopefully help transform the country’s industrialization and investment environment for good. Stakeholders believe that if this initiative is carried through successfully, there is no doubt that the country would experience a robust and strong economy, especially from the dynamics of the financial services sector.
Adebayo underlined this reality himself when he said recently at this year’s annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers in Lagos. He said: “The best way to improve competitiveness is through a mixture of policies designed to help, improve capital market competitiveness and long-term investment.” Other tasks which the minister seems to be confronted with include promoting the federal government’s policy of Ease of Doing Business, job creation, poverty eradication and industrialization. It is also within his purview to ensure standardization of bilateral trade agreements, stimulation of domestic small and medium enterprises, and provide an effective roadmap for Nigeria’s Foreign Direct Investment(FDI).
Interestingly, checks at the ministry of industry, trade and investment indicate that most bureaucrats are pleased with the minister’s performance so far, stressing that he has hit “ the ground in the right direction and with his experience and expertise, the ministry would go far in accomplishing its mandate especially on trade, industrialization and job creation if sustained.”
But it is not all rosy for Adebayo. For example, in 2018, Ghana for the first time overtook Nigeria, to attract the largest investment deals in West Africa, UNCTAD had reported. Equally crucial is the fact that data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that investment into Nigeria dropped by 53.5 percent in 2015 to $9.8 billion from $20.7 billion in 2014. And at the height of the recession in 2016, the figure reached its lowest levels at $5.1 billion not until the country exited recession in 2017, that investors started building up interest into investing in the country. In 2017, foreign investment however, picked up at $12 billion and went further to $17 billion in 2018.
“Nigeria is faced with liquidity challenge and unless the government rolls out far- reaching policies that would attract investments, the country would remain cash-strapped and not generate the needed revenue to achieve inclusive growth,” Dr Ayo Teriba, an eminent economist and CEO of Economic Associates, who also sits on the Advisory Board of The New Diplomat was quoted in the media as saying.
Luckily, Adebayo comes on board with enormous experience in a wide range of subject matters ranging from disputes resolution, legal and advisory services, to project financing, oil and gas, contract procurement and business facilitation. These have impacted positively on his sterling performance and accomplishments in the last six months. However, in the coming year, industry experts want the Minister to use his wealth of experience to address some issues ranging from bureaucratic processes involved in foreign investment inflow into Nigeria, and multiplicity of foreign exchange rates.
However, Dr Kayode Okoh, a development economist describe Adebayo’s approach as remarkable so far but encouraged the minister to go further in his second year by ensuring that Nigerians witness visible developments, especially in terms of job creation. He posited: “ I think on a comparative basis, the ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment under Otunba Niyi Adebayo has done quite well. He has been quite loud in promoting Nigeria as an excellent investment destination. He has sold the gospel very clearly that given Nigeria’s strategic position in the sub-region, she is a viable investment destination for all potential investors across the world. That is most commendable. I think he also drew from his rich experience as an investment lawyer and a former governor whose knowledge of the industry dynamics are quite immense. But going forward, I would suggest he should now begin to practicalize, get jobs on the ground as from next year through a number of bi-lateral trade agreements…”
Many seem to agree with Okoh that Adebayo has demonstrated significant and impressive accomplishments within this short period. Sources hinted that given the Minister’s performance, he has been selected as among a few key Ministers that are being invited to present and show-case Nigeria’s investment opportunities at this year’s Canadian Oil and Gas Conference taking place in Alberta, Canada. Industry experts while applauding this initiative, stressed that given the fact that both Canada and Norway are the two internationally respected countries that have successfully addressed issues relating to gas flaring and investment opportunities that exist therein, the invitation being extended to Nigeria’s Trade and Investment minister is a most welcome development. “
Born on 4 February 1958, Adebayo, son of late Major-General Adeyinka Adebayo, former military governor of old Western Region, had built a Business and Legal Career spanning about forty years. His experience is extensive in areas such as Project Finance, Oil and Gas, Commercial Law and Business Facilitation. He was educated at the Corona School, Yaba, Lagos, (1962–1968), University of Lagos Staff School (1968–1969), C.M.S Grammar School, Bariga, Lagos ( 1969–1974), Davies Tutors, Hove, Sussex, England (1975–1977) and University of Lagos where he took a degree in Law.
A member of the Nigerian Bar Association, the International Bar Association, the Nigerian Institute of Management, Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration of Nigeria and a Director of the Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria, Adebayo is also a member of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Nigeria. In 1999, he was elected as the first executive governor of Ekiti State. Happily married with children and grandchildren, Adebayo’s hobbies include tennis and football. He is also a recipient of the Nigeria National Honour Award, Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).