Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala affirms Nigeria will overcome its economic challenges


Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has expressed optimism that Nigeria’s economic challenges will be tackled, noting that the problem with the economy is not potentials but implementation of the plans to revive and boost it.

Meanwhile, the African Free Zones Association (AFZA) has called on the National Assembly to facilitate the passage of the bill to promote the activities of Nigeria’s free zones and make them better able to compete with their types across the world.

The bill has been pending at the National Assembly for seven years now.

Executive Secretary of AFZA, Mr. Chris Ndibe, who spoke with some journalists in Abuja, also called for far reaching reforms in the sector, noting that many countries of the world had taken advantage of free trade zones to boost their economies and create employment for their people.

On the kind of reforms he would like to be effected, he called for merger of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority and the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority into one body to give room for better coordination of free zones activities.

“Nigeria seems to be the only country in the world with two different bodies regulating free zones. This shouldn’t be. One body is okay to regulate the zones in any serious system,” he said.

To accelerate development through public-private partnership, he also argued that the pattern of appointing board chairmen for NEPZA should change.

He said: “The chairman of the board of the Nigerian Free Zones Authority should be the Minister of Trade and Investment as is done in most countries of the world that are progressing in the scheme.

“For free zones to work in any country, it must find a place in the heart of the President of that country. As far as I am concerned, Nigeria is just playing politics with free zones. If you look at most countries where free zones scheme is progressing, it changes to meet the needs and changes with the economy.”

Speaking at the 15th anniversary of Hallmark of Labour in Lagos at the weekend, Okonjo-Iweala stressed the need to make the young generation believe in Nigeria.

The minister said: “It has been seven weeks since I came back, but it is like seven years because the amount of work we need to do for economic development is tremendous. But I am optimistic that we can solve them. I keep saying that Nigeria’s problems are not insolvable, they are solvable. We need to give our young people the opportunity to be optimistic.”

Okonjo Iweala, who urged Nigerians to think more of how to assist the government and not what government can do, noted that “Nigerians are tired of hearing about economic potentials, what we need now is implementation.”

Also speaking at the occasion, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega stated that there were a lot of issues to be argued about but, “we cannot just sit and diagnose our problems, we need to contribute our own quota to ensure that these challenges are addressed amicably.”

The INEC boss posited that for the nation to move forward, Nigerian youth must be involved in order to bring out positive attitude towards good governance.


Related stories: Okonjo-Iweala Unveils Governments Economic Priorities

Video - Newly appointed Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala focuses on creating jobs


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