An US diplomat who is an outgoing Public Affairs Officer at the United State Embassy in Nigeria, Dehad Ghebreab, shared her views over the tough economic situation in Nigeria.
She said, “It must be stated that things do not happen overnight. Thus, we have to give it (anti-corruption crusade and security) time.”
Mrs. Ghebreab believes that Nigeria can survive the situation if the people can unite and figure out what they want and find every possible means to provide a significant change that will benefit the whole country.
The US diplomat, who has stayed in Nigeria since 2001, started first in Abuja, and now about to end her Foreign Service assignment in Lagos, explained that Nigerians are solely responsible for how well things could become.
“You know the challenges are great in the face of plunging oil prices and other market forces. It is a tough time now, but change is possible if people come together (and work) with the government and move the country in the right direction.”
Speaking on the US focus on youth empowerment in Nigeria, Africa and the United State, Ghebreab explained that young people are the backbone of any society. She said the youth can develop a country as well as cause some problems if they are not engaged constructively.
“It is important to focus on capacity building of young people and develop their leadership, and this is what the United States government is doing through the Humphrey fellowship, Fulbright programme, the International Visitor Leadership programme.”
She spoke about the newest young people’s leadership initiative programmed, the Mandela Fellowship Programme initiated by Barack Obama.
The US diplomat informed that Obama was a community organiser when he was young hence the zeal to motivate the youths of all society around the globe.
“Therefore, the Mandela Fellowship Washington Programme has three parts; one is for entrepreneurs and then civil society and public service. And if you look at that, it is very deliberate because we need all those areas; people with the right knowledge and skills to really help the country move forward. You know, public service is governance. You need policy makers, leadership in civil society – without the people ensuring that they hold their government accountable, it is not going to work out and then you have entrepreneurs for economic growth; they intertwine . That is the reason we have the three thrusts.”
On Corruption and Ineffective Judicial System in Nigeria; It’s effects on Business
As regards corruption and ineffective judicial system and how it affects businesses in Nigeria, Mrs Ghebreab said,
“When international investors look at the country to invest in, they want to look at all the elements that support successful businesses and as you mentioned, power is critical; rule of law is also very important. Without these, it is difficult to succeed in business. In my three years here (at the US Consulate General in Lagos), I have seen business leaders come into Nigeria to consider which sector they should invest in.
“They are considering health, information and communication technology, oil and gas sectors. Most of the investment in Nigeria now, including the $8.1 billion US private investment, is in the oil and gas sector. The government and the people have to look at what is preventing foreign investment from coming into the country.”
Ghebreab believes Nigeria has an advantage because of its population and because it is the largest market on the African continent.
“There are a lot of opportunities here and we hear from businesses that those investors are already here. They know things are going to get better. And there are other businesses which are waiting to see whether they should come in now or wait a bit longer.”
“Thus, it will depend on many factors; the most important is security, then corruption.”
The US diplomat gave assurance that US government is supporting the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari administration to fight corruption and enhance security in Nigeria through various mechanisms, consultancy and expertise on providing security and law enforcement.