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Anambra: How to boost investments despite rising insecurity

By Lawrence  Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
20 November 2022   |   3:07 am
Low investments has for long been identified as a critical challenge to the development, growth and revenue earnings of the southeast region.

Mbanefo

Low investments have for long been identified as a critical challenge to the development, growth and revenue earnings of the southeast region.

Statistics show that inspite of the relative peace in the zone, investors including indigenes of the region have continued to prefer taking their investments elsewhere.

Part of the reasons adduced for the low investments includes poor social infrastructure and unfriendly policies of governments of the region against those obtainable in other parts of the country as well as low patronage.

Perturbed by the growing trend and in an effort to remedy the ugly situation, apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo had some time begun a campaign, titled, “Aku rue uno” (Invest at home), aimed at encouraging sons and daughters of the re
gion to bring their investments home, so as to boost the economy of the region.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo in propagating the idea that it later handed out to a committee had reasoned that investing in home would ensure the creation of employment for the teeming youths who roam and dissuade them from running to other regions to seek paid employment after graduation. It added that it would reduce other social malaise that was fast enveloping the region among others.

In asking for investments in the region, Ohanaeze Ndigbo had agreed to liaise with the various governments in the area to provide suitable policies that could attract any investor to the zone
 
However, the recent upsurge in insecurity in the region, coupled with the weekly (Monday) sit-at-home may have hampered the idea, as many businesses and investments in existence in the region have either relocated or are battling survival due to poor and low patronage among other factors.

It is probably against the backdrop that the Anambra State indigenes under the auspices of Anambra State Development Unions (AASDU), in Lagos, used their annual investiture and award ceremony to review the impact of insecurity on investments in the state.

Indeed, Anambra State has received its fair share of the rising insecurity pervading the region. Businesses have been attacked, lives have been snuffed out forcefully; security outfits and their personnel have been attacked among others, thus creating fear in the residents among others.

Ifeanyi Igwebuike Mbanefo, the Publicity Secretary of Aka Ikenga in a keynote speech he delivered at the occasion titled, “Anambra State: Investment, Security and Misperception”, examined how the state can attract more investments in the light of the security challenges as well as the huge costs made by the government to attract investors and provide security.

He noted that unknown gunmen, Fulani herdsmen, agents of the IPOB, cults and common criminals among others have been identified as security challenges plaguing the state, but quickly added that available facts did not support the assertion that Anambra was under threat.

Buttressing his submissions with statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, he, however, insisted that it was wrong to allude that investments had eluded the state because of rising insecurity, stressing rather that part of the problem had been the inability to implement policies, plans and programmes that could attract investments to the state.

He said: “The myth that current security challenges discourage investment in Anambra State is far from the truth. Anambra State crimes ranked lowest when compared with Lagos and Abuja.” He said the report was the last by the agency since 2018.

“The report stated the number of offences committed, categorizing them thus: crimes against persons (murder, rape, assault, infanticide, 45,554); against property (stealing, car-jacking, obtaining by false pretence, 65,397); against lawful authority (tax evasion, illegal gambling, 12,144); and offences against local Acts (selling liquor without a license, local government levies, 2,695).

“A total of 125,790 crimes were committed in all 36 states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2016. The data was provided by the Nigeria Police and validated by NBS. In that report, Lagos State had the highest crime rate with 45,385 and FCT 13,181 cases and Anambra 2,534 cases.

“It is, therefore, something of a puzzle that Nigerians feel safer in Lagos with 30 percent of crimes committed in 2016 and FCT with 10.86 percent than in Anambra with only 2.01 per cent crime rate. It is also curious that the past governors of Anambra State spent more on security votes than other governors with higher crime rates,” he added.

He continued: “The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) rated Anambra State the seventh best state on ease of doing business. On a 10-point scale, Anambra was rated 6.35. Anambra was declared a major foreign investment destination by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Anambra attracted a total of $13,775,975.00, from January 2017 – June 2018. Foreign Direct Investment inflow to Anambra in the last three years stood at 7.2 billion dollars, according to chairman of Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) Igwe Cyril Enweze.

“People feel insecure because of their attitudes, suspicions and emotional responses”, adding that democracy and economic progress do not automatically lead to a greater sense of security.

“This is why we require a new approach to development; one that allows people to live free from want, fear, anxiety and indignity. “, he observed.

Mbanefo stressed that security challenges have not been a major deterrent to investments in Anambra State, arguing that the problem was the inability to implement plans and policies of the government.

“Before the current administration, what we had was a litany of failed plans. The fact that so many budgets and development plans have failed suggests that they were based on the wrong premise or that the plans themselves were faulty.

“It could also be that the implementers were not up to the task. As an illustration, asking a driver to fly an aircraft may not be evidence of good planning or rigorous thinking. Whatever the plan, we have had bad plans or plans that we could not implement to achieve the objectives of economic emancipation”.

Still on insecurity, Mbanefo stated that previous governments in Anambra had relied on broad approaches of using existing military capacity but regretted that too much focus on the fight against “big crimes” had neither stopped violent crimes nor improved the general security atmosphere.

He recalled the several billion spent by previous administrations to improve security but regretted that: “In Nigeria, insecurity has become a major criminal industry driven by governors and government officials, top military officials and at the bottom rungs of the ladder, bandits, herdsmen and kidnappers. Other thriving criminal industries are oil theft and petroleum subsidy. This is why the Anambra State Government needs to re-examine its security management strategy.  We should learn from good examples elsewhere”

 
He stated that “ Anambra State cannot achieve progress if the government cannot firmly address challenges related to corruption, impunity, unquestioned privileges, and lack of rule of law. We must return to the sensible and common syndical view that the government ought to protect communities as well as individuals. Newspaper headlines highlight individual crime statistics and individual losses, but they do not report communal losses.

Just as doctors and healthcare institutions and teachers and educational institutions recognize the importance of fostering health rather than simply treating illness, of raising literacy and numeracy rates rather than schools test scores so should the government — and the rest of us—recognize the importance of maintaining, intact, communities without broken windows – zero tolerance for petty crimes, idleness, cults”.

On how to improve the investment climate of the state, he said that the government should examine and prune down the cost of governance. He said that the cost of maintaining the state legislature was on the high side, stressing that besides making laws and approving government expenses, they should stop attracting and executing community projects as it is a conduit for money laundering.

He also suggested labour mobility, saying that easy communication, quick travel, and greater collaborations between developed and developing countries are increasingly more common and “we need to develop ways in which foreign professionals can contribute to our state”. 

“Healthcare is a rapidly growing sector of the world economy and trade in health services has created diverse means of accessing these services across borders. For example, information technology can provide telemedicine services and tele-preventive services. These information technologies can be used as a mode of sharing knowledge and research skills in a cost-effective manner.

“One such large network is already in place called super course [www.pitt.edu/∼super1] which has connected more than 20, 000 scientists, healthcare professionals and researchers together through IT connectivity, and they share their knowledge in the form of teaching lectures (currently there are more than 2000 lectures) for free to a global audience.

“Our expatriate citizens can develop a similar kind of connectivity to contribute their knowledge and skills to the development of our homeland without incurring any major costs. We can take this one notch up. Use foreign professionals to teach in our teaching hospitals, to impart knowledge in telecoms hubs in our various computer villages, teach in our schools and universities”, he added.

He further recommended the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund whose control will reside with the people and not the government. The Fund, he said had become necessary because funds from crude oil and Federation Account to states have been dwindling.

“Anambra State should create an independently managed, well-governed Sovereign/Citizen’s fund that will build long-term savings and investment and that once it achieves benchmark returns, would direct its financial returns to specific policy objectives”, he said.

He said that the Sovereign Fund will invest in infrastructure in the South East at market rates; compete with Chinese loans/investments in infrastructure; buy depressed-priced assets in Nigeria and abroad;  serve as a fund of funds – a big lender and stabilizer of the economy; target important programmes such as Health Insurance, basic education, power, water and support Igbo Apprenticeship scheme and Igbo traders in Nigeria and in the diaspora.

To make the Fund work, he suggested that the state shall pass a law establishing the fund and yielding control to experts and technocrats;  expressly agree that repayment of monies borrowed from the fund be on first line charge; ensure that it is professionally managed; grant favourable taxation, including pioneer status exemption, whilst it is building its funds and struggling to find its feet; create laws and regulations/policies that ensure impeccable Board of Trustees; reject non-financial motivations as part of investment considerations; invest in targets that satisfy pre-determined labour, environmental and transparency standards; demand / incorporate ethical screening before investment and ensure that its policies and programmes are market driven.
 
He suggested the formalization of the Igbo apprenticeship scheme, saying respected businessmen such as Ibeto, Innoson, and Coscharis, all passed through the scheme.

“ It was this scheme that helped our people recover quickly from the devastating effects of the civil war. My dream is that the scheme should be formalized and undergird with financial support. We need banking and insurance programs that will guarantee the scheme. It is a very important program capable of creating jobs, reducing youth unemployment, and creating wealth. The government can work with banks to provide financial support for the scheme. It is one way to pull many out of poverty”, he said
 
Mbanefo said the Anambra dream must be about collective moral character; a vision of commonwealth, common well-being, and well-being that is held in common and therefore mutually supported.