By Niyi Tabiti
I must confess that I was one of those that was so carried away about the Valentine’s day.So,pardon me for not posting this earlier.It is the speech delivered by His Excellency,Mr.Bob Dewar at ‘British’residence in Lagos.The man is so fanscinated about Lagos.The speech is unedited.I would have posted it on 14 February 2008 but the Valentine fever was too much.
SPEECH BY BOB DEWAR, HIGH COMMISSIONER, AT RECEPTION AT BRITISH RESIDENCE IN LAGOS
13 February 2008
I am very pleased to be able to welcome you here tonight at my first official Reception in Lagos.
I was delighted to be able to meet His Excellency the Governor yesterday and to be able to reaffirm the United Kingdom’s wish to work in partnership with Nigeria and with Lagos, on a basis of mutual respect and close, honest friendship, adding value where that is useful and helping transform this country. The 21st century brings new challenges for us all and we need to work together in a globalised world.
My first impressions of Lagos are of a very dynamic city, whether in business, politics, media, arts, music or film. I am very pleased to see so many of the British community here tonight and to thank them- and the hard working staff in the British Deputy High Commission under the leadership of Richard Powell- for all they are doing to contribute to economic growth and development in Lagos and in Nigeria. This is one of the largest cities in the world and so many British companies and institutions and citizens based here have brought significant skills, products and investment- including into a dynamic capital market- to contribute to the new Nigeria. That contribution extends to so many areas including the oil and gas sector, the expanding banking and finance sector, manufacturing and trade as well as services and communications. Lagos is a key hub for international and regional communications including to and from the UK. Indeed our relationship is built very much on history, shared experience and contacts in so many walks of life – but above all the links between people.
Thus our service delivery to Nigerian and UK citizens- our clients and customers- is a key part of what we do in Lagos. Our visa service has been overhauled to give a simple and efficient visa service to legitimate travellers, operating a system open to those who want to bring skills and talent to the UK, including through the Points Based system for highly skilled workers which will roll out in mid year- while ensuring that our laws and immigration rules are complied with.
Issuing visas- and doing it well- is important but there is so much more to our relationship. We have dynamic Trade and Investment and consular offices. We have very close political and economic ties –and so on. I would like to emphasise the great breadth and depth of our bilateral relations- in every domain, at every level, from State to institutions to individuals, from public to private sectors to civil society.
Perhaps a few examples would be of interest. I am very glad that the DFID and the British Council are playing such a useful part in Lagos as well as throughout Nigeria, whether stimulating transformation through development- and helping ensure resources are better used to benefit poorer members of society- or supporting partnerships and better understanding.
Eamon Cassidy Head of DFID Nigeria was telling me yesterday that DFID have been helping Lagos in budget planning, with a fast- track courts system and with the land registry- which can be a good practice model for other States- building on the strong commitment of Lagos State. And Peter Upton Director of the British Council was telling me that last year the Council worked with three quarter of a million Lagosians through conferences and on line services and access to professional development opportunities. Later this week he and Sir Graeme Davies, Vice Chancellor of the University of London, will mark the 150th Anniversary of the University of London here in Lagos – the University of London has long been extending high quality university education around the world including to Nigerians.
What more can we do to help? In very many ways, all of us can contribute. Returning to the subject of business- given that Lagos is the heartbeat of business in Nigeria- I feel sure the UK private sector for example can make a positive contribution by influencing standards of accountability and integrity within the overall management of the Nigerian economy.
On a wider plane, this 21st century offers new opportunities to create a rules-based international system together, founded on integrity and high standards. I admire Nigeria’s objectives of improving the climate for investment and in due course becoming one of the world’s top 20 economies. Firm application of the rule of law and the right policies, including fighting corruption robustly, ensuring compliance with international standards and creating the right infrastructure- including involving the private sector with good standards- could help bring real progress towards those goals.
So perhaps one of the best contributions we can make is indeed helping the upgrading of standards to international quality- with integrity and social and environmental responsibility. Doing so through our links, connections, our values, innovation and technology, our transfer of knowledge and experience.
There is a well known Nigerian saying that ‘minds are like parachutes: they only function when they are open’.
As London is already preparing for the 2012 Olympics and already changing itself into a low-carbon capital, so there are challenges and opportunities for the great cities in the developing world such as Lagos. I would be interested to know is there is yet much debate and awareness in Nigeria of climate change and the need for Nigeria to adapt in order to better cope with desertification or deforestation or sea level rise? Is there discussion of new ways of doing things that does not compromise growth but makes it greener and uses rather than wastes gas?
As I said at the outset my impression is that Lagos is such a vibrant city. From those I have met I know this applies across the board, to the dynamism of the media, the music and the arts world as much as to business and politics. Challenges there certainly are- the traffic included- but so many opportunities too.
There is much going on, much to learn, much to do together. It is a positive pleasure to be in Nigeria and Lagos. Many thanks indeed for being with us tonight.