In what appeared to be a challenge to the federal government to encourage wealth creation as well as entrepreneurial initiatives, former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday [Oct. 29] said his government was able to produce 25 billionaires.
The former president said this at a ceremony for the second edition of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Forum in Lagos. He however did not name the 25 billionaires. “My delight is to be able to create Nigerian billionaires. I always say it proudly that my aim when I was in government was to create 50 billionaires from Nigeria. Unfortunately I failed, because I created only 25,” he explained.
Responding to an earlier remark by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was also at the event, that the federal government had taken steps to improve the business environment, Obasanjo said Nigerians and investors “want to see the results.”
The former president urged the federal government to ensure that they create conducive environment for entrepreneurs to succeed in Nigeria.
The former president added: You have to create a conducive environment for people who want to do business here. We have to make them wanting to come to Nigeria and if we cannot do that, we have failed. If you say you are doing that (referring to the minister of information), let us see the results.”
He noted the difficulties faced by prospective investors coming to Nigeria and the challenges they face when setting up their businesses in the country.
Obasanjo said: “A situation where somebody wants to come to Nigeria to invest and it takes almost six days to get visa is not proper. In other countries, they would get visa at the airport. We need to be able to register a company at just one point. We have not taken advantage of all the opportunities we have to support our SMEs to be able to produce and sell outside our shores. And if we don’t do a lot of that, those of you (the TEF Entrepreneurs) may be frustrated.
“Let me tell you what I know. Agric and agri-processed products from Nigeria cannot enter into the United States. Even yam from Nigeria have to go through Ghana before going to America. You know why? There is a certification that is required for our agric produce to enter, which we don’t have. Simple thing, we don’t have, but Ghana has it. And it doesn’t take much to put that in place. Unless we have it, we can’t export these items to America.”
He however urged the young entrepreneurs to be resilient, saying it would not be a bed a roses.