At the request of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Citizens International will send a survey team to Nigeria to create a strategic action plan to implement the West African nation’s development priorities.
The Citizens International team arrives in Lagos on Nov. 1 and will spend three weeks discussing development projects with government officials, international aid agencies, company representatives, non-governmental organization, and grassroots citizens groups. The survey team will prepare a plan for urgent action in the areas of food security, job creation, education, and environmental protection.
Citizens International, a new enterprise of Citizens Energy Corporation launched by Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II, will also work with private sector companies with investments in Nigeria to create a special development fund to help implement the plan.
J. Brian Atwood, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1993 to 1999 and current Director of Citizens International, will lead the survey team. President Obasanjo requested CI’s assistance during a meeting with Atwood in Nigeria last month. Atwood’s survey team will include:
Michael Fairbanks, Director of the Country Competitiveness Group of the Boston-based Monitor Company.
David Shear, President-Emeritus of the International Management and Development Groups, Ltd., of Washington, D.C.
Roy Stacy, former Executive Director of the Club du Sabel, an international organization created to aid the Sahelian nations of West Africa.
Fairbanks is the co-author of Plowing the Sea, a widely acclaimed new book that urges nations like Nigeria to wean themselves from economic over-dependence on raw materials, and instead create the human and institutional foundation for an economy capable of competing on a global scale.
Shear is a former official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, who has subsequently made major contributions to international development through private sector training and employment creation.
Stacy has 30 years of African experience, including periods at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, and the Global Coalition for Africa. He is also part of the Advisory Committee for Transparency International, the international NGO dedicated to the elimination of corruption.
President Obasanjo was elected to office in February, after years of highly corrupt military rule in Nigeria. He was imprisoned for the last three years of that regime. Obasanjo took office in May, promising and end to corruption and human rights abuse. He also said he would begin immediately to improve the agricultural sector and provide food security, revitalize the educational infrastructure, attack serious environmental problems, and build a more diversified economy, creating new jobs and opportunity.
“Expectations are running very high in Nigeria that his new democratic government is going to improve the quality of life and fix the economy overnight,” said Atwood. “Everyone wants to help, but unfortunately it takes time to gear up a new aid program. We are proposing to create a special fund to help President Obasanjo begin work in his priority areas in the near term. His government is struggling against difficult odds, and it cannot afford to wait for the official aid programs to start.”
President Obasanjo wrote to Atwood in September, welcoming the effort to provide urgent assistance. He expressed confidence that the major companies operating in Nigeria would “cooperate with you in your drive to obtain substantial funds.”
“I trust that this noble initiative by the Citizens Energy Corporation will receive enthusiastic support from all concerned, particularly as it has become evident that what is good for Nigeria is also good for the oil companies and other multinationals operating in Nigeria,” said President Obasanjo.
Citizens Energy Corporation has a 20-year record of working in Nigeria. During President Obasanjo’s first term as president, Citizens established an agricultural research facility in Nigeria.
“I can think of no better time to launch this new Citizens International enterprise than to help my old friend President Obasanjo. His democratic credentials and dynamic leadership style make him not just the hope of his own people, but the hope of the entire African continent,” said Kennedy.
“The team we are sending to Nigeria is made up of outstanding development professionals, with long experience in Africa, within both the public and private sectors. We are encouraged by the response we have thus far received from the business community and from the multilateral and bilateral foreign assistance agencies. President Obasanjo’s initiative to request such a different approach to private development activities, recognizing the contribution they can make in education, food security, environment, and poverty alleviation, should be applauded and supported with vigor. That is what Citizens International intends to do.”