The United States has said that high profile corruption in government and business circles are major impediments to inflows of American investments into Nigeria.
The US is the largest source of Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria, with a total stock valued at $8.2bn as at 2012, said the American Department of Commerce, adding that cases of corruption could discourage further investments.
US Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, stated that the Federal Government should take “tough steps” to “root out corruption” with a view to supporting American companies’ ability to do good business.
Pritzker who led a team of 20 American companies on an energy business development trade mission to Nigeria, spoke in Lagos State, on Wednesday.
According to her, the US government and American investors are willing and eager to forge stronger partnerships in Nigeria as business opportunities are abundant in the country.
Pritzker said there was a need for the Federal Government to ensure that anti-corruption laws are “enforced predictably and reliably” with a view to spurring more US FDI for the benefit of Nigerians and the American people.
She noted that many American businesses are willing to invest in agriculture, health care, transportation, tourism, information and communications technology and manufacturing.
She, however, added that they many of them seek conditions that will enable them to operate free from unnecessary regulation, government interference and corruption.
The US Commerce Secretary said, “For US businesses to come here, stay here, and help you achieve your full potential, Nigeria needs to take the tough steps that allow businesses to truly thrive.
“Our companies want to do business in countries that follow the rule of law, maintain ethical standards, abide by workplace safety, encourage workforce training, and protect intellectual property.
“Nigeria has made impressive and important progress in recent years. It has joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and adopted new anti-corruption laws.
“We welcome these steps. At the same time, laws only operate on behalf business and the people when they are enforced predictably and reliably.”
The US cabinet member urged the Nigerian government to enlist the active participation of business and civil society organisations to effectively stamp out the menace of corruption.
Advising the Federal Government against stifling whistleblowers, Pritzker said necessary measures needed to be put in place to encourage honest citizens to alert authorities to incidence of corruption.
She argued that there was a need for Nigeria to join the World Trade Organisation’s Government Procurement Agreement, adding that local public procurement laws should be implemented according to global best practices.
“Nigeria needs the active participation of business and civil society to successfully root out corruption. Nigeria should adopt the international best practice of providing whistleblower protections. Honest citizens who are willing to alert authorities to corruption as it is taking place are your best resources in this fight.
“Such conditions that promote ease of doing businesses will open Nigeria to more investment and innovation. As more companies succeed in Nigeria, they will act as ‘change agents.’ I am confident that the Nigerian government, business and civil society leaders can develop home grown solutions to these challenges and act as agents of change,” she added.
Chairman of pan-African proprietary investment company, Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu, who represented the Organised Private Sector, asked the visiting American businessmen and women to invest in the manufacturing sector.
He explained that the manufacturing sector which contributes “just five per cent” to the national economy has a lot of room to grow.
“We need investors, partners and technical expertise to develop our supply chains, infrastructure and workforce skills. American firms and entrepreneurs can help us accomplish this and gain significant value themselves. And together we can grow Nigeria’s economy while helping the US economic recovery,” Elumelu added. Punch