Obasanjo: Nigerians Will Benefit from Debt Relief

By Moses Jolayemi with agency report, 07.07.2005
Thursday, July 7, 2005
Nigerians, irrespective of where they live in the country, will benefit from the expected debt cancellation from its creditors, President Olusegun Obasanjo has assured.
Speaking yesterday on the Cable News Network(CNN), Obasanjo who is the chairman of the African Union said "for Africa to be empowered to be able to produce so that it can increase its trading capacity with the rest of the world",  there is need for debt cancellation.
The 60 per cent debt relief being expected by Nigeria's creditors, according to Obasanjo, "is a very good beginning". This he assured will translate into improvement in the vital sectors of the Nigerian life such as education, health, agriculture and food security as well as water supply.

" We are being told to expect 60 per cent. If I get $1 billion extra from debt relief, I have pledged to Nigerians that it will reflect in education, health, agriculture and food security and water supply".

According to him, "these are what the average Nigerian, whether he lives in the village, on his farm or in town, will benefit from".

On how to stamp out corruption in order to ensure that the gains of debt cancellation are felt by Nigerians, Obasanjo made a quick reference to some of the measures put in place to make corruption a difficult venture in the country. The Due Process set up by his administration he said has saved well over $1 billion so far.

The money he said would have been lost though over-invoicing of contracts if the measure had not been in place.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) which are anti corruption units of the government, have also succeeded in taming the corruption monster which has eaten deep into the country's economic and social fabric of the nation.

When money is disbursed to any level of government, the President said "we can see where the money is going".

Nigeria, Obasanjo said, has now "reached a stage where corruption is no longer a way of life".
He however said he was not yet satisfied that corruption has been eliminated from the country, pledging that his administration will continue to fight the scourge in every way possible.
At another forum Obasanjo  said the debt  relief extended to the country by the  Paris club was another indication that  his administration's economic reforms are working.

Speaking at a meeting of the  presidential advisory council  on investments (PACI) in London  yesterday, the president said that  the relief was also indicative  of the confidence that western  nations had in Nigeria.

Briefing newsmen on some of the president's activities while in  London within the next two days,  his senior special assistant on media, Mrs Oluremi Oyo, said that Nigerians were gradually owning up to the reforms.

She quoted the president as  telling members of the council,  which included Baroness Lynda  Chalker that commercial banks  that had protested the reforms in the banking sector, were now working with the CBN.

The president, she said, had  noted that the banks were now  ''partners with the CBN.''
Obasanjo said the collaboration between the banks and the apex bank was also an indication that what the country had embarked upon was the right thing.

''Tell me what you think we are doing wrong, I will tell you where we are coming from, but together we will be able to work for the betterment of our country and indeed the world,'' the president was quoted as saying.

He said that there were ample  investment opportunities in the  oil and gas, agriculture, industry,  tourism and solid minerals.

He, however, invited interested investors to make the country their preferred destination as government would support them.

Several top government officials including the ministers of finance, information, communications, industry, solid minerals, power and steel and the CBN governor, are attending the meeting.

Oyo said that later in the day, the president would meet with members of the UK chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO).

She said the body had contributed about one million pounds (over N250 million) for investments in the country.

The president is also scheduled to meet with leaders of the G-8 in Gleneagles on behalf of the rest of Africa over the debt issue on Friday before leaving  for home later that day.