By Folarin Emmanuel, Abuja
Bukola Saraki, Senate President on Thursday, stated that one of the primary objectives of the 8th National Assembly is to increase private sector participation in all spheres of the economy in order to make the country viable.
According to a statement by Sanni Onogu, his Chief Press Secretary,Saraki stated this while welcoming the Board of Directors of the United States (U.S.) Chamber of Commerce and the Africa Business Centre (ABC) during their courtesy visit to the leadership of the Senate at the National Assembly.
Other members of the delegation led by the ABC Co-Chair and Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, included the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, President of the ABC, Scott Eisner and several other board members.
The Senate President was was joined by Ahmad Lawan. Majority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah , Deputy Leader, and 13 other Senators.
Saraki said that the aim of the 8th National Assembly under his leadership is to reduce “government intervention in sectors that traditionally are guided by market forces.”
“One of our primary goals is to increase the private sector’s participation in the economy by reducing government intervention in sectors that traditionally are guided by market forces,” Saraki said. “This reform will help create more industries needed for job growth and economic stability. To this end, several of the Senate’s priority economic bills are making their way to final passage in both Chambers.”
He said that “trade and job creation through trade is a two-way street and that the National Assembly is open to listening to ideas about how to further the cooperation between Nigeria and the U.S. private sector.”
Over the past two years, Nigeria has invested heavily in the agriculture sector as an integral initiative to diversify the economy.
Saraki said that “obviously we have invested too much to change our national strategy. The current challenge is how do we attract investment to grow the industries within the agriculture sector.”
Several members of the delegation thanked the President of the Senate for his leadership on economic reform issues and in undertaking a review for recommendations to enhance Nigeria’s ICT sector.
IBM announced at the meeting that the company will soon commence its Digital Nation training program in Africa where they seek to train some 25 million people—mostly in Nigeira—for “new collar jobs.”
The Senate President applauded the project and commended the companies for their efforts to train young Nigerians.
“Nigeria’s ability to grow the economy with jobs is a national priority” Saraki said. “ICT development is the way to develop employment and skills training opportunities for many young people in Nigeria and we must continue to work together to create the enabling environment to realize this potential.”
He also welcomed the Co-Chair of the Africa Business Center, Aliko Dangote, to the National Assembly and commended him for his contributions that helped shape the Senate’s Economic Legislative Agenda through his participation in a business leader’s roundtable in Lagos in September 2016.
“It should be noted that several of his keen observations and ideas were incorporated into the National Assembly’s Recommendations to President Muhammadu Buhari, on growing the economy,” Saraki stated.
According to Eisner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents three million U.S. companies. “The creation of the ABC represents a new era of economic engagement. It is intended to help breakdown market barriers for increased U.S.-Nigeria trade and investment.”
On his part, the leader of the delegation, Dangote, said the visit to the President of the Senate and the Leadership of the Senate by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Africa Business Centre was meant to discuss things of interest “as they affect Nigeria, Africa and the United States.”
“There are a lot of things in terms of what other companies are doing in terms of job creation, training, Africans in ICT and also how to improve the situation and get most of the U.S. companies to come and be involved in agriculture where Nigeria can have food security and be major exporters of food items rather than importing food,” Dangote said.