Sovereign wealth fund raises hope for second Niger Bridge, aviation, others

WITH the inauguration Thursday of the Council and Board of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the provision of such critical infrastructure as the second Niger Bridge, Gurara Dam Phase 2, seaports and aircraft leasing company, would only be a matter of time.

At their inauguration in Abuja, President Goodluck Jonathan challenged Nigerians to imbibe the culture of saving for the diversification of the nation’s economy. The occasion also witnessed the presentation of share certificates of contributions to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) to the 36 state governors, most of who were represented by their deputies. Also, certificates were issued to federal and local council officials.

President Jonathan, who was represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, noted that the NSIA has made significant progress in stabilizing the future generation funds and was currently working hard to evaluate a number of infrastructure projects across the country.

Members of the council include the President, represented by the VP, as chairman, while 36 governors, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), ministers of Finance and National Planning, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Chief Economic Adviser to the President, and Chairman of the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission.

Others are the 12 non-statutory members, whose nominations are subject to confirmation by the Senate as stipulated by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority Establishment Act of 2011, and will join the council at a later date.

Jonathan noted that the world over, SWF has been instrumental to the fiscal development of countries running them, so he called on government officials at all levels to ensure that the objectives of Nigeria’s fund were achieved through their commitment and contributions.

He listed the objectives of NSIA to include: building a savings base for future generations, enhancing the development of infrastructure and promoting fiscal stability in times of economic stress.

He disclosed that a number of other sovereign wealth funds and international investment institutions have expressed readiness to partner the NSIA in the execution of infrastructure projects in Nigeria. However, he reiterated that while the initial $1 billion investment is not inconsequential, the fund’s sustainability depends on continuous contributions.

The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority was set up to manage the Nigerian SWF, where all the surplus income from excess oil reserves is to be deposited. It kicked off with an initial deposit of $1 billion in seed capital contributed from the excess crude account.

The fund commenced operations in October 2012 with the objective of investing the savings gained on the difference between the budgeted and actual market prices for oil to earn returns that would benefit future generations.

According to Jonathan, the governing council, which represents the board’s ownership of the fund across all three tiers of government, will also provide guidance and direction to the board of NSIA. And he stated: “I assure you all of my support and cooperation as you begin to discharge this responsibility for the good of our people.”

The certificates were issued to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who received them on behalf of the Federal Government, while the governors and Federal Capital Territory minister received on behalf of their domains and local councils.

Responding, the NSIA Chairman, Board of Directors, Mr. Mahey Rasheed, said the body, which kicked off in February, was now fully operational and has commenced investment activities, adding: “We are evaluating a number of investment opportunities in the nation’s infrastructure relating to transportation, power, healthcare and agriculture.”

By Mohammed Abubakar, September 20, 2013