Liberian President George Weah on Monday visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja and appealed to Nigeria to come to the rescue of his country’s economy.
He said though Liberians had voted for change by electing him president, mere political change is meaningless without development, growth and prosperity hence the need for Nigeria’s help.
Weah also appealed to Nigerian banks, which he said dominated Liberia, not to shut down businesses because of the country’s (Liberia’s) current economic downtown.
He said it was his my intention, "with all due respect and affection, to frequently seek Buhari’s wise counsel and advice as he (Weah) embarked upon the arduous task of nation building, reconstruction and transformation of Liberia.
Weah, who said Nigeria’s historical benevolence towards Lberia could not be quantified, emphatically sought Buhari’s "urgent and eritieal assistance."
He said the falling prices of Liberia’two basic export commodities, rubber and iron ore, diminished the country’s market, foreign exchange earnings from the export of these and other commodities were used mainly on the importation of food and other commodities, causing massive trade deficits, an all-time high youth unemployment and rising prices of basic commodities.
He said his delegation was on a mission of gratitude and respect for the extraordinary and exceptional role Nigerians had played and continued to play in maintaining peace and stability in the West African sub-region, particularly, in Liberia.
He said though Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, with its most powerful army in the sub-region, it had never used its wealth and military prowess to expand its territory, threaten its neighbors or destabilize any sovereign nation in the region.
"Our people have voted for change, and for hope. And change is finally here. But mere political change is meaningless without development, prosperity, and growth Your Excellency, we need Nigeria’s help to jump-start our economy. You played a major role in bringing peace to Liberia you reformed our Army and today it is performing it duties to the highest professional standards. As we speak, they are serving in a peace-keeping mission in Mali You have also built and expanded the capacities of Liberians in so many ways. For example, during our recent observance of Armed Forces Day in Liberia, we were informed that two of our military personnel will soon be graduating as pilots from one of your esteemed institutions.
"We would like to see a continuation and expansion of that program, women. for both men and My administrations’ Pro-Poor Development Agenda, is intended to tackle the many economic and social problems that my Government has inherited, especially in addressing the large fiscal and infrastructure deficits, the urgent problem of youth unemployment, and reviving the education, agriculture, mining and health sectors. Your sustained technical assistance for capacity building in these sectors is most welcome.
"For example, Nigerian teachers and medical volunteers to Liberia, under the Technical Assistance Corps TAC) Agreement with Liberia, have been very crucial in boosting capacity development in Liberia, and it is my hope that this assistance can be considerably increased to address with urgency our most pressing socio-economic needs at this time.
"More specifically, under the Bilateral Teacher Exchange program, we are seeking 6,000 plus teachers to make up for the shortage of good teachers in our educational system. n agriculture, we are seeking experts and extension workers to build capacity in the sector, particularly with crops, (such as cassava, for example,) which lend themselves readily to value- added propositions and export earning potential," he said.
Weah declared that Liberia was now open for business to the Nigerian private sector, saying there was a need to address the current volume of trade between Nigeria and Liberia "which is very low and does not exceed million, by some estimates.
"Yet, the Liberian banking sector is dominated by Nigerian banks, and I am made to understand that their head offices in Nigeria may be considering reducing their support or even shutting them down because of the recent downturn in our economy. If this is true, l urge them not to do so, as l am optimistic that trade and commerce will increase in the near future, There are also major shortcomings in the electricity and power sectors, in road construction, in housing, in mining, and in fisheries, to name a few, that could be of serious interest to Nigerian investors, either as individuals or companies, or through joint-ventures or public-private partnerships.
"We invite all of you to come to Liberia and explore the many new opportunities for investment that are bound to increase under this new politieal dispensation I promise you that you will find a government that is not enly business friendly, but ready to do business.