The United States on Friday warned that the Nigerian economy remains under major threat, following surge in criminal activities in the Niger Delta and the threats by militants to resume bombing of oil facilities in the region.
The rise in lawless activities around the Gulf of Guinea was also identified as another threat to Nigeria’s economy.
The warning from the Commander of the United States Naval Forces in charge of Europe and Africa, Admiral Michelle Howard, comes on the heel of the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS report that Nigeria was now out of economic recession with a growth rate of 0.55 per cent.
Howard, who was speaking while presenting the US Presidential Medal of Honour to Nigeria’s Deputy Military Attachee to the US, Navy Captain Kolawole Oguntuda, at the Naval Headquarters in Abuja said: “Oil extraction and production accounts for 75% of Nigeria’s revenue with the vast majority of oil infrastructure existing off shore or really close inshore. So terrorism, criminal networks, illegal bunkering with damages of oil pipeline directly threatens Nigeria economy.
“That is where navies come in. I, as the commander, regards the Nigerian Navy as a key regional partner in securing the Gulf of Guinea and I seek to strengthen our relationship by assisting in economic security and enhancing regional stability.”
Speaking, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas assured that the Nigerian Navy was ready and capable of containing threats posed by the Niger Delta militants.
“We actually don’t need people from outside to tell us how strategic Nigerian Navy is in securing our environment, maritime space and the Gulf of Guinea.
“The maritime environment has seen a spate of piracy attacks, robbery, especially last year. We also saw some elements of resource theft, including illegal fishing in our waters, human trafficking, arms trafficking as well as drug trafficking, not to mention waste dumbing and environmental concerns.
“The strategic role Nigeria plays is what has brought in America. For the threats you mentioned in the Niger Delta, one thing I want to assure you is that so long as human beings exist, there will always be conflicts, and once there are conflicts, there would always be ways of resolving those conflicts.
“For Nigerian Navy, we will continue to build our capacity and capabilities to enable us contain such threats,” Ibas stated.
On securing Nigeria’s maritime territory, the CNS added: “If Nigeria is the main concern to look at in the sub-region, Nigeria therefore becomes an important country for those who have interest in this region, to come and have conversation to see how they can enhance the maritime law enforcement agencies, in this case, the Nigerian Navy in particular, to see how we can make the maritime environment secured and promote trade and prosperity in the region.
“US government has always been offering us support. The sea do not belong to any particular individual, they are global commons, and transnational crimes that occur, means that from one country to the other, your security can be compromised if the sea space is not properly governed.
“So, for US, wherever they have interest, they are ready to provide the needed support. And I think it stands for Nigeria also, where we have to ensure that the Gulf of Guinea is secured, including the security of neighbouring states.”
Udoma: Steps Taken to Reflate Economy Got Nigeria Out of Recession
In a related development, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma has declared that the steps taken by the federal government to reflate the economy through the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) culminated in the country exiting recession in the second quarter of 2017.
Udoma, who was a guest of Arise TV, the broadcast arm of the THISDAY Media Group, recalled that earlier in the year, the Buhari administration unveiled its flagship programme – Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) – “that sets out strategy for the next four years on what we intend to do to get the economy firstly out of recession and on to a sustained diversified inclusive growth.”
According to the minister, the target was to achieve a 7 per cent growth by 2020, adding that focusing on the five execution priorities of the ERGP helped in seeing the economy out of contraction.
Udoma added: “The steps that we have been taking to reflate the economy, to make it easier to do business, focused on the five execution priorities – stabilising the macroeconomic framework, agriculture, transportation, power and energy and manufacturing. These are things that have helped to get us out of the recession and those are things that are going to get us into the path of sustaining it.”
The Budget and National Planning Minister said the administration was taking some measures to ensure that the economy takes a firm footing.
He said: “What we are trying to do basically is to diversify the economy. It is true I do agree that at the moment we are dependent on one commodity – crude oil. That is something that we inherited and our plan is to move out of that dependency, but to move out of that dependency, we need the resources from crude oil and that is why we have a lot of initiatives in the Niger Delta to try and get oil production back.
“Yes, we are dependent but our plan is to move out of that dependency and therefore we are putting a lot of resources on agriculture and agriculture has been moving up, production has moved up. We are putting a lot of resources as well as to get manufacturing going, and in the 2017 Budget, we allocated funds for special economic zones in each of the geo-political zones of Nigeria.