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Jonathan recovers, participates in HIIC Conference in London

By The Citizen

President Jonathan yesterday joined other participants at the Hilton Hotel at Parklane London, venue of the conference on investment being coordinated by the Honorary International Investors Conference, HIIC but was forced to stay away due to a sudden  illness earlier on Thursday, saying he was now fit to continue with the meeting.

Jonathan who arrived at the second floor venue of the event at exactly 9:30 am, London time in the company of both the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Senator Dalhatu Tafida and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, apologized to members of the council over his inability to attend the conference on Thursday.

Blaming his ill health for his inability to attend the meeting from the beginning,  the President however  promised that the Federal Government would ''intensify the fight against corruption  in the country.''

''We are indeed happy that the private sector has begun complementing our strong desire to tackle all forms of rent seeking tendencies,'' he said.

Jonathan said that his administration had  remained steadfast in making Nigeria the preferred location for investors to do business, saying that competition was the catalyst that drove profitability, which was what investors were seeking worldwide.

'As we approach the end of 2013, it is only ideal that I begin this address, first by thanking you all for your continued commitment to Nigeria. Our country is indeed honoured to have friends and partners like you, with whom we can openly share ideas, and shape our agenda.

''With every HIIC meeting I attend, I am always encouraged to see the quality of the debate, the frankness of the conversation, and the big things Nigeria can achieve. I am also sure that likewise, you are inspired by the vast potential and opportunities within our great country. Indeed at the HIIC, I can sincerely say that we are all in very good company.

''This 15th meeting builds on the last conversation we had in Abuja and begins to address the fundamental issues con-straining competitiveness and investment in Nigeria. Competitiveness ultimately drives profitability, which is what investors are seeking worldwide. To be competitive, we must address long standing issues, and introduce bold and courageous reforms, regardless of short term political pressures. This is why my government has remained steadfast in making Nigeria the preferred location for investors to do business, because it is our only pathway to create jobs, generate wealth, and guarantee our security.

''In building a truly competitive environment for business, we are addressing the fundamental issues such as internal security and power supply head-on. For the first time in Nigeria's 53 year history, we have successfully privatized the electric power industry.

'We are bringing capital, technology, and operational excellence into the sector. As a result, 11 distribution companies, and four  generation companies have been privatized, realising over $3 billion for government. The assets were finally handed over on November 1, 2013.

''I am delighted to inform you that investors are responding positively to the opportunities in the sector and we expect to see significant investments across the value chain going forward. Ladies and Gentlemen, resolving the power sector alone, completely changes the paradigm on doing business in Nigeria, and we are satisfied with the progress made. Equally, although challenges remain, we are investing in the requisite security infrastructure and intelligence network that will enable us deal more effectively with the new threats we face which can and do hamper investor confidence in our economy.

''In ensuring that the environment is suitable for investment, we will also continue to intensify the fight against corruption. We are indeed happy that the private sector has begun complementing our strong desire to tackle all forms of rent seeking tendencies. The 'Clean Business Nigeria Today' initiative coming from the meetings of the Council is a very good example.

''I urge the council members and key functionaries of government to meaningfully participate in the discussions towards our desire to transform the Nigerian economy to one of the world's largest economies by the year 2020.

''I also use this opportunity to inform Council that Nigeria will be hosting the World Economic Forum  in Africa, between the 7th and 9th of May 2014. Our hosting this event is yet again a strong sign of Nigeria's central economic and political role on the continent.

''Dear Council members, in the year 2013, I can sincerely say that Nigeria has attained significant momentum on the drive to attract new investors into the country, and also to encourage existing investors within the country to expand. In 2014, we must not lose this momentum, but rather broaden our interventions to address other difficult issues like the high cost of financing in the country, and the dearth of adequate skills,'' President Jonathan said.

Earlier in her speech, the Coordinator of the HIIC, Baroness Lynda Chalker thanked the president for attending the conference, saying that the Arch bishop of Cantebury, Justin Welby had offered to make his personal physician available to Jonathan if he was not satisfied with the medical attention he had received in London so far.