President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said his administration had invested extensively in critical infrastructure and economic projects, stressing that the possibilities being created through the investments for Nigerians and foreigners are enormous. Buhari also declared that investment in gas was a top priority of his government, as it had huge benefits in terms of financial returns and generation of power.
The president spoke in Paris while playing host to Managing Director of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Dr. Mohammed Al-Jasser, and Chief Executive Officer of Total Energies, Patrick Pouyanne, on the sidelines of the three-day Paris Peace Forum (PPF), which began in the French capital on Thursday.
Speaking at the meeting with the IDB boss, Buhari emphasised his administration’s commitment to infrastructural renaissance for Nigeria, saying, “We are struggling very hard on infrastructure, because there can’t be sustainable development without it.”
He said, “When infrastructure is in place, our people can look after themselves.”
The president emphasised that looking at the vastness of the country, “We need roads, rail, power, airports, housing, and that is what we have engaged ourselves with in the past six years.
“And our people are seeing the new developments. Relative to the resources available to us, we have not done badly.”
He appreciated IDB for its support so far, saying; “What we are so dependent on (crude oil) has lost a lot of energy. It is coming back gradually, and we are breathing a bit more with some confidence. But we expect greater cooperation from you.”
Earlier, Al-Jasser said he was glad to see the level of collaboration between Nigeria and IDB since he assumed office three months ago. He told Buhari that he was impressed by Nigeria’s policies on infrastructure, saying it would give “opportunities to youths, and encourage the private sector.”
He added, “Nigeria is a pivotal country to us, and it deserves all the help it can get.”
The IDB boss said the main role of the bank was to promote development among its stakeholders, saying it would continue to lend a helping hand to Nigeria.
Buhari stated when he received Pouyanne that Nigeria had made huge investments in gas, adding that the country would continue to create opportunities for expansion, while looking at creating alternatives with renewable energy. He said Nigeria was mindful of the target of zero emission by 2060, and had started putting in place structures to ensure balance and safety for citizens and the global community.
In his remarks, the CEO of Total said the French oil giant had been greatly encouraged by the support for investors in Nigeria. He said the company would continue to explore and pursue opportunities of mutual interest.
Pouyanne noted that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), led by Mele Kyari, had provided a strong support base and partnership for growth, assuring that investments in the gas sector would be sustained with consideration for renewable energy.
During the opening of the three-day forum yesterday, Buhari flayed the disparity in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines between developed and developing nations since the pandemic broke out last year. He canvassed an end to the hoarding of vaccines by lifting export restrictions imposed by some countries.
Delivering a keynote address entitled, “Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Importance of Coordination Among All Actors for Vaccine Delivery,” at the forum, which held at Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris, Buhari submitted that the coordination for distribution of the vaccines needed to be total while the objective had to be the same to deliver vaccines to the world.
According to him, the state of vaccine delivery across the world leaves much to be desired.
He stated, “We have a situation where some countries are giving booster third doses for their citizens when millions across the world, especially in the developing world, are yet to receive a single dose.
“Let us compare vaccination rates to give an idea of the dimension of the problem. According to recent data, as of 4th November 2021, 91.3 doses of vaccine had been given for every 100 persons across the world. On the same date, however, only 14.7 doses of vaccine per 100 persons had been administered in Africa – a clear case of lop-sidedness.
“According to Bloomberg, countries with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated ten times faster than those with the lowest income.
“As of 5th November 2021, Africa had fully vaccinated 77 million persons, amounting to just six per cent of the continent’s population. By comparison, 60 per cent of the European Union population had been fully vaccinated by September 2021. This massive gap between vaccine requirements in Africa and vaccine availability is undermining the fight against the coronavirus pandemic on the continent. Even if Africa were to receive the 600 million doses of vaccine expected to be delivered to the continent by the end of 2021 under the COVAX arrangement, there would still be a considerable shortfall when compared to the population of the continent which currently stands at 1.383 billion.”
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO), Buhari stressed that even the planned COVAX deliveries to Africa had been cut by 25 per cent due to supply shortages and export bans.
He said, “This is a major setback for Africa, where it is estimated that COVID-19 vaccine deliveries have to increase from around 20 million doses a month to an average of 150 million doses a month if the target of fully vaccinating 70 per cent of its population by September 2022 is to be achieved.
“So, what needs to be done to plug the gap? How can vaccine availability in Africa be boosted? Who needs to do what?”
The president urged world leaders and global health institutions to follow a regime of enabling access to the COVID-19 vaccines, cautioning that sidelining countries in terms of reach will undermine the entire effort.
He emphasised that export restrictions that encourage needless hoarding of vaccines needed to be lifted, while welcoming pledges by industrialised countries to share vaccines.
Buhari said pledges should be fulfilled in a timely manner, as he appreciated some countries, like France, that had donated vaccines to developing countries.
According to him, “Resolving supply-chain constraints would require better coordination within the manufacturing process; and between manufacturers and end-users.
“There is a clear need for the expansion of vaccine production capacity in Africa. In this regard, African countries already have a roadmap: the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA) developed in 2007 by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) on the basis of an African Union Summit decision taken in 2005.
“Licensing agreements should be reached with pharmaceutical companies for the transfer of intellectual property and technology to support the production of vaccines in Africa. If global vaccination is the only way to end the COVID-19 pandemic, then all stakeholders must act in a coordinated manner to plug the vaccine supply gap in Africa.”