Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Tuesday, 24th June, 2014, hosted a British business delegation led by the British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, Mr. David Heath, advocating more collaboration and revival of old business relationships that have been of mutual benefits to Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
The delegation comprising investors and business men and women across many sectors in the United Kingdom, including energy, education, security, health, information and communications technology among others, were also accompanied by the British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. Peter Carter.
In his remarks at the Lagos House, Marina, venue of the meeting, Fashola noted that some of the business relationships between Nigerian and British governments and citizens, spanning many years needed to be revived and put on the front burner again for the benefit of the two countries.
The Governor, who described the list of such relationships as long and enduring, noted that as two nations with different civilizations, Nigeria and Britain have shared a lot in common over the years in a relationship that has seen some of their hitherto different cultures fused with some citizens of the two countries taking up parts of each others’ country as their first home.
“The list is very long of what we have shared as two nations, two different civilizations; many embedded cultures have been fused for many Nigerians for whom parts of the entire UK, England, Wales, Ireland and so on, have become the first place they now call home and also British citizens for whom Lagos, Kano, Jos, Abuja are the places they now call home”, he said.
Advocating more collaboration between the two countries, Fashola, who noted that much of the influence of the Commonwealth has been lost in the global challenge, expressed the belief that such collaboration was capable of reviving those old relationships that made the Commonwealth influential.
He declared, “Our foods and our cultural beliefs have crossed seamlessly leading to our membership of the Commonwealth. Perhaps these engagements will achieve a purpose which is much more collaborations because opportunities continue to open and close across the Planet and perhaps that window is opening in these parts”.
The Governor paid glowing tribute to the ancestors of both countries whom, he said, forged the relationship centuries ago. He also thanked the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, who, he said was continuously deepening the commitments that the two leaders exchanged when the Prime Minister visited Lagos a few years back.
“He has followed through on those commitments with key contacts sending one representative or the other”, the Governor said adding that his strongest representatives to Lagos since then have been the High Commissioner in Abuja and the Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Mr. Peter Carter, whom he described as “a strong business minded person”. “We have moved in leaps and bounds since then”, he said.
Expressing joy over the visit of the delegation, Fashola, who noted that the members cut across many sectors, from digital to energy to health, education and so on, declared, “Really this a place waiting to explode and some of what you have noticed we are thankful that people allow us to take credit for it.
“It is the people of Lagos really who have decided that the time has come for them to take their own destiny in their hands and so we are riding a crest of change which they themselves have signed onto”, the Governor said adding that such change has reflected in projects that have improved the life of the people”.
According to him, such projects include “affordable housing, food in sufficient quantity and quality as measures and tools for reducing inequality, for combating poverty and for providing necessary nutrition with which human beings can acquire skills to get on to more competitive world that lies ahead”.
The Governor said there was need to focus on the healthcare but added that the most important part of healthcare is prevention which, according to him, “is making sure that people don’t fall ill, making sure that people get the kind of nutrition they require to live a healthy life”.
In Lagos also, the Governor said, “Legal regime is getting better, there is strong judicial system in spite of some constitutional challenges in terms of conflicts about federal and state powers but these are things I am confident will change as we come to deal with them.
“These are things we signed onto to be able to compete as a global city state and as a very proud member of the international community. Yes challenges will be overcome. Problems are created by people and it takes people to overcome them.
“There have been areas the State has collaborated with British companies which has yielded very good dividends for the state.
“Young people are being trained and empowered to become self-sufficient in artisanal work. They thrive in emerging capacities for public power supply. They maintain all the street lights that you see here where many streets are now being lit up. This was not so a few years ago. Today you have over 360 kilometres of street lights with still some distance to travel across the entire state, but to see that young are people doing that shows what is possible”.
Other areas of progress, the Governor said, include education where the examination results of public secondary schools have progressively moved from seven percent to 41 percent in the last seven years with a strong commitment to hit 60 percent this year.
Earlier in his opening remarks, leader of the delegation and Trade Envoy of the Prime Minister, Mr. David Heath, said the British Government is interested in collaborating with Lagos State and the Federal Government in many areas including Infrastructure development, agriculture, health, energy and security among others.
“My job is to make sure we establish a responsible and healthy working relationship with you. I have led a group of businessmen from all over the UK and they have come to pursue business of their own. We are to rekindle some of the old long term business relationships that need to be revived”, he said.
Also present at the occasion on the state government side were the state Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye; and her Energy and Mineral Resources, Finance and Agriculture counterparts, Mr. Taofeek Tijani, Mr. Ayo Gbeleyi and Prince Gbolahan Lawal among other top government functionaries.