Managing Risk: investment protection and arbitration in West Africa.

I attended a seminar on the above topic on Thursday. On the panel was a very intelligent Nigerian lawyer who practices from a top Lagos firm. He spoke about our local content law which I found quite interesting. It gives me great confidence to know that our leaders are thinking about opportunities that will control what I consider to be unforgivable exploitation of our resources and our labour market by some greedy investors with no care in the world about the future generation. Another Nigerian lady spoke eloquently about the investor protection only attitude of some investors when she raised her concerns about poor practices which do not seem to be thinking about the people.

I left very happy. I do not think that I have seen such investor optimism about Nigeria in a long time. There was visible interest in investing in Nigeria under PMB’s watch. Good to know was the fact that there are now insurers willing to insure against the risks of none payment by business people and governments. That to me is an indication that there is clear interest in investing in West Africa. The appetite is sure to create the much needed job opportunities for our young people and supervise the reckless movement of money from the poor to the rich which only becomes money laundering when some people are caught.

On speaking with one of the attendees as we left the seminar, there was notable confidence that if PMB could be allowed to deliver as he plans, Nigeria will see the influx of investors very soon. The fear of successive state governments taking advantage of existing commercial and investment agreements signed by their predecessors but refusing to pay contractors and investors will become history. He believes that this practice is fueled by corruption and greed which makes every new leader feel the need to enter into fresh agreements and make money from such agreements. So personal gains are always at the bottom of the arrangements. Though the international law principle of sovereign immunity (“rex non potest peccare,” ) does not apply “willy nilly” to all contracts, many Nigerian states and other West African governments will usually try to rely on it to refuse payments while still hoping to attract investors. Then there was mention of the corruption of some members of the African judiciary which makes litigation for breaches of contracts or enforcement of judgments very difficult and time consuming. I was embarrassed when the recent scandal rocking Ghanaian Judiciary was mentioned.

What I found quite interesting really was a question by this attendee to me. He asked:

That took me back to a question I put to Anambra State government in the days of BAKKASSI. Then people were simply beheaded for being suspected of any form of criminality because a machete allegedly turned hot red at the waving of the same over the victim’s head or face. This was just not primitive but totally inhuman and unforgivable. In panic I asked this big question “after Bakassi who and what next”?
It was my view that the idea of killing anyone in such primitive ways was bound to drive real criminals underground where they will wait and return with vengeance when the storm was over.

I was ignored but look what our state turned into after that madness; armed robbery, extortion, intimidation, thuggery, kidnapping etc.
So in the same vein, as we bask in the euphoria of change brought about by the election of Buhari as our president and some of us believe that he could not have come at any better time, my questions are:
1. is the fight against corruption going to be limited to PMB’s tenure

2. If not ,are we happy to go back another 16 years of total rot and then seek another Messiah to clean up before we return to what to many is our second nature: bad leadership fueled by greed and corruption

3. How can we sustain his zero tolerance anti-corruption crusade and eradicate corruption

4. If we are happy with the anticipated changes, who do we think will be best suited for the office when he leaves in 4 or 8 years

5. Is it not necessary to start grooming many young people for that office now and be sure that they learn more about integrity and good leadership
a. Do you think that commissioning a leadership academy where good governance and integrity as the foundation of good leadership devoid of corruption will be at the heart of the training may help?

6. How do we stop the wanton greed of many of the past and current leadership rearing its head again or in the future

7. Does anyone think that we can kill corruption of tens of years under or within 4 or 8 year

8. How can we successfully address the resolve?

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