Ben Murray-Bruce, the senator representing Bayelsa East (or representing Twitter according to his detractors) spoke yesterday in the Senate on President Muhammadu Buhari’s “anti-corruption fight” during a debate about the recession. But the man who loves to claim “I’m just making common sense” seemed to have abandoned his mantra when he alleged that the president’s approach to anti corruption was scaring investors.
“Buhari’s approach to anti-corruption is wrong: let us forget the foreign investors, what about the local investors? If people are afraid, they will not invest; fear will not be a policy to grow the economy.
Money is a coward; it only goes to places where there is peace and tranquility.I have a friend who paid legitimate 50 million naira into his account and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) came and picked him up.
We cannot be afraid to be Nigerians; we cannot be afraid to live in our country.”
Bruce seems to be suggesting that the EFCC were harassing people with millions to invest on the basis that such amounts could have come from the proceeds of corruption. But does this make sense? Is this really why investors are not falling over themselves to invest in Nigeria?
There is little merit in Bruce’s claims and he appears to be playing to the gallery. The most critical factor in investing in Nigeria is security. Early this month, British MPs debated the Chibok girls issue at Westminster Hall in London and one of the MPs recalled that during their visit to Nigeria, they had to be followed around by heavily-armed security. She said that this was an indication of the risks for British nationals in Nigeria. The threat of violence from kidnappings, armed robbery, Boko Haram terror, Fulani herdsmen and so on is an impediment to investment. This is reflected in travel warnings from the US State Department, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other foreign governments. Many farmers have abandoned their farms in several parts of Nigeria due to clashes with herdsmen. This can’t be conducive for investment in farming.
Fear of arrest on suspicion of corruption just doesn’t figure in terms of deterring investment. It just doesn’t add up, especially as it is inconceivable that any major investor would be shifting large amounts of money in cash, or doing so without the required clearances.
Poor infrastructure is another significant factor in making Nigeria less favourable for investment. Epileptic power supply, poor transportation network, etc hinder productivity, increase costs and make it difficult to move around goods and services.
Bruce is right that money goes to where things are stable, but he is wrong on the sort of instability that deters investment.