President George Weah of Liberia says his country needs Nigeria’s help to jump-start its economy as mere political change is meaningless without development, prosperity and growth.
Weah stated this on Monday after a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He noted that Nigeria had been playing major roles in sustaining peace and stability in Liberia as well as providing it with quality manpower training and technical assistances.
The Liberian leader maintained that Nigeria deserved special commendation for ensuring peace and stability in the West African sub-region as the country had never used its wealth and military prowess to de-stabilize any sovereign nation in the region.
He said: “We have come on a mission of gratitude and respect for the extraordinary and exceptional role that you, our Nigerian brothers and sisters, have played and continue to play in maintaining peace and stability in the West African sub-region, and more particularly, in Liberia.
“Although, yours is the largest economy in Africa, with the most powerful army in our sub-region, you have never used your wealth and military prowess to expand your territory, threaten your neighbours or de-stabilize any sovereign nation in the region.
“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.’’
Weah said that his administration’s Pro-Poor Development Agenda was geared towards addressing the socio-economic problems inherited by the government.
According to him, the problems include the large fiscal and infrastructure deficits, the urgent problem of youth unemployment, and the need to revive the nation’s education, agriculture, mining and health sectors.
He said: “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 Agreement with Liberia, have been very crucial in boosting capacity development in Liberia.
He said: “It is my hope that this assistance can be considerably increased to address with urgency our most pressing socio-economic needs at this time.”
Weah, therefore, sought the assistance of Nigeria to address the deficit of over 6,000 teachers.
He said this deficit could be tackled under the Bilateral Teacher Exchange programme so as to make up for the shortage of good teachers in Liberian educational system.
He said his country was also seeking experts and extension workers to build capacity in its agricultural sector, particularly with crops such as cassava and rubber.
The Liberian leader, who stressed the need to address the current volume of trade between Nigeria and Liberia, declared that “Liberia is now open for business to the Nigerian private sector’’.
He urged Nigerian businessmen to explore the many new business opportunities for investment that were bound to increase under the new political dispensation in Liberia.
He appealed to the management of Nigerian banking institutions operating in Liberia, who had been contemplating closing down their branches, to have a rethink as the economy would soon pull out of its current difficulties.
He said: “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.’’
Weah also enjoined Nigerian investors to help his country in addressing its major shortcomings in the electricity and power sector; road construction; housing; mining and fisheries.
He said these challenges could be of interest to Nigerian investors, either as individuals or companies, or through joint-ventures or public-private partnerships.
Weah, former football star and a one-time World Footballer of the Year, was sworn in as Liberia’s new president on January 22.
He won the Liberia’s presidential election under the Coalition for Democratic Change when he scored 61.5 per cent of the total of 720,023 votes cast, defeating the incumbent vice president of the country, Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party.