Former President of the Republic of Georgia, Mr Mikhail Saakashvil, on Tuesday said his government sacked all police and customs personnel while repositioning the country.
He spoke at the opening of the seventh Lagos Economic Summit tagged: `Ehingbeti’ in Lagos.
Saakashvil said if Georgia could metamorphose from nearly a failed state a few years ago to an economically stable country, Nigeria could also overcome its challenges “with deep commitments.’’
He added that the problems bedeviling Nigeria were surmountable.
The former president said most of Georgia’s past experiences were worse than Nigeria’s present situation before its new found economic successes and political stability.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Saakashvil was President of Georgia, a breakaway state of the former Soviet Union, from 2008 to Nov. 2013.
“Some of Nigeria’s problems, like corruption, poor power supply, terrorism and so on were not different from our experiences years ago but with great political commitment, we were able to overcome them.
“At a time in Georgia, more than 52 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line and about 80 per cent had no access to electricity because of our electricity deficit.
“Corruption was high as we were one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. The crime rate was also high; I think one of the highest in Europe then.
“But when we took over government, we thought there was need for a change. We embarked on reforms and implemented some unpopular but purposeful policies.
“In fact at a time in Georgia when I was president, we had no police force for three months because we sacked all our personnel.
“And surprisingly crime rate did not go up after the action and that clearly showed us the police were part of the security problems.
“We also sacked the entire customs service because they were corrupt and there were agencies we scrapped because the people there were not doing anything.
“We later got new people who saw Georgia as their own in the police, the custom and diversified our economy.
“Today, Georgia is almost without corruption, people below the poverty line are less than 18 per cent of the population.
“The economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and, we now export excess electricity to Russia’’, he said.
He described Nigeria as a country of great prospects, saying with the right leadership, the country would be one of the best economies in no time.
Saakashvil urged Nigerians to believe in their country and be committed to its progress, saying patriotism was a catalyst for development.
Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos said there could be no development and reduction of poverty without a stable power supply.
He said the State Government had embarked on a number of initiatives to improve power supply in the state.
Part of the initiatives, according to Fashola was the establishment of Island, Adiyan and Alausa Independent Power Plants.
He said the projects had not only made lives better in the state but had also helped businesses to thrive.
The governor said his administration had also made great strides in agriculture, housing and transportation and that the successes had impacted positively on residents.
In a goodwill message, Gov Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun commended Lagos for its various interventions at making lives better for residents.
He said his administration would understudy the various development efforts of Lagos state government with a view to replicating it Ogun state.
Mr Ben Akabueze, Lagos State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, said the conference was to generate ideas for the state’s development.
He said past resolutions of the summit had been implemented to improve living standards of residents.
“Some of these resolutions include the establishment of a security trust fund which has so far mobilised about N4billion to support police operations.
“Another is what has translated to the establishment of IPPs in the state to improve power supply.
“The summit is helping to change lives and the government is fulfilled by that’’, he said.
The theme of the three-day summit which ends on Thursday is “Powering the Lagos Economy: Real Opportunities, Endless Possibilities.’’