By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Not very many people were at home with the decision taken by the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, at its July 20, 2016 meeting held at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Usually, the NGF meeting, which always precedes the meeting of the National Economic Forum, NEC, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is where the 36 governors evaluate different agendas and take decisions on them. Incidentally, the meeting is always nocturnal and that day’s edition was not an exception.
Outside the hall as the last meeting went on was a battery of journalists covering the State House, waiting to hear words from the governors at the end.
Hopes were indeed high that the governors would speak on the way out of the economic quagmire and the free fall of the Naira.
But such was not the case as the Chairman of the forum and governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who emerged at about midnight, told the journalists that the governors were going on a trip to Germany.
“At the peak of economic recession? These governors must either be callous, incompetent or ostentatious. Will President Buhari sanction this?”
Those were the statements that ran through the minds of some of us. But then a journalist’s job was not to judge but to report.
According to Yari, the trip was essentially informed by a presentation made by the German Ambassador to Nigeria that Wednesday night.
His words: “As usual before any National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, we usually sit down and look at what the agenda is going to look like at the meeting. So we deliberated on that and also we received some presentations from the Germany Ambassador on our trip to Germany for vocation programme and South Africa Vodacom.
“So they also made presentations to us in the area we are going to partner, health and agriculture”.
Later, precisely on July 26, Imo State governor and Chairman, All Progressives Congress, APC, Governors Forum, Rochas Okorocha, while speaking with journalists after leading his colleagues to a meeting with President Buhari at the Villa, dismissed insinuations trailing the trip as mere jamboree.
He said: “There is nothing like jamboree trip . We are going to Germany because we cannot do everything here without exchanging ideas. Everything you do in your home, your business, you share ideas. So, we want to see how they have done what they have done to succeed. It is the aspiration of Nigeria to be like other countries in the world”.
But to a people who knew the worth of the journey and had made up their minds, the governors wouldn’t budge. That same day, after the meeting with the president, they jetted out to Germany.
Recall that the same Germany was where Buhari, barely one week in office after he was sworn-in as president on May 29, 2015, took a long list of wishes to the G7 meeting, at the instance of German Chancellor Angela Markel.
And so, Buhari wouldn’t easily dissuade the governors who were going on investment hunt.
But perhaps, what may have impressed many was that NGF later reduced the number of travelers to six as against the speculation of 36 in the delegation.
Governors who made the 3-day journey, which turned out to discuss agriculture, trade, investment and industry, were Darius Dickson (Taraba State); Kashim Shettima (Borno State); Ayade Benedict (Cross River State); Dave Umahi (Ebonyi State); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto State) and Yari Abubakar.
Benue State was represented by the governor’s Special Adviser on the diaspora. Kebbi State sent its Finance Commissioner while Niger State sent a member of its House of Assembly on the mission.
Enquiries from Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, the Head, Media & Public Affairs of the Forum’s Secretariat in Abuja indicated that the meeting featured who-is-who in the German industrial conglomeration.
“135 German companies participated in the investment partnership drive. They include BEAR Technology GmBH, Aqua Consult Ingenieur, Deula-Nienburg, SUNZILLA Green Energy, Solar-und Windtech, CTS Automotive, MOBISOL, Tecknische Univeristet Berlin, Deutche Infrastructure, BVMW, Deutschtec, Sunfarming GmBH, R-Biopharm AG, Zell & Co and Heller Tools among several others,” Bello-Barkindo said.
“Ambassadors of other African countries resident in Berlin like those of the DRC, Madame Clementine Shakembo, Florence Isabelle of Madagascar, Marmo Phillips, Tanzania, Nchama Maylboro of Equatorial Guinea also seized the opportunity to attend the meeting due to its importance to their countries’ economies.
“Out of these, twenty-five companies had by the end of the mission indicated their willingness to invest in Nigeria. They are expected in the country to sign MOUs and make further arrangements towards the take-off of their projects between 4th and 8th of October this year.”
Ayade could not wait as he asked the investors for his choice projects to “return with him to Nigeria to commence the implementation of their agreed programs on alternative energy in his state.”
Another impact of the Germany trip was the boost it has given to the Nigeria’s, image abroad.
This was made possible by the presence of the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami, who informed the Germans of Nigeria’s departure from a mono-product economy towards diversification to, especially agriculture, job creation, renewable energy, rural electrification and solid minerals.
At the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development where the Nigerian delegation was received by German Chancellor Gunter Nooke, he expressed regret at the way insurgency affects the development of infrastructure and agriculture in Nigeria, while also condemning. the deplorable conditions of the IDPs which had attracted the attention of the international community to the country.
Gunther Nooke said that Germany was helping Nigeria in several projects which include energy development through energy partnerships but frowned at the wastage of gas by the NNPC through gas flaring. He suggested that embarking on small scale renewable energy projects would benefit the country if it took the lead, adding that Germany was willing to cooperate with Nigeria in that area.
Responding on behalf of the governors, Taraba governor, Darius Dickson, according to Barkindo assured the Germans that Nigeria was so much conscious of the security and other investment impediments and was addressing it headon.