Buhari (file photo)
By Valentine Amanze
The Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, has assured Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) that the government would improve access to foreign exchange (forex) for importation of raw materials and machines that were not available locally.
Buhari made the commitment during the visit of the leadership of MAN in Abuja, in response to requests on making the manufacturing sector contribute more to the Nigerian economy.
The president assured the Mansur Ahmed-led executive of MAN on Wednesday that the relevant ministry would revisit their concerns about the increase in excise duties on the identified products and other tariff-related matters.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the president said that Nigeria would fast-track the process of setting up the Designated Competent Authority that would superintend the administration of Rules of Origin and Commission as well as the automation for issuance of electronic Certificate of Origin.
He added that the Federal Government would also ensure that relevant structured platforms were established for monitoring and evaluation of the performance of the Ease of Doing Business and improved government patronage of made in Nigeria products.
‘‘Our strategic plan to boost manufacturing activities in the country is on course.
‘‘We will continue to improve the patronage of locally made goods, bridge the gap between skills required by industry and those provided by our tertiary institutions and ensure seamless access to long term finance for our Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs).
‘‘We recognize that MAN remains a key stakeholder in this journey and we will continue our engagement with you,’’ he said.
Affirming his belief that a private sector-led economy is the way to create jobs in the country, Buhari urged the leadership of MAN to continue to encourage manufacturers that government recognizes the resilience of their members and other private sector organisations in promoting a virile manufacturing sector in Nigeria.
‘‘I beseech you to continue to support the government in our quest to provide the appropriate environment that will attract the necessary investment both domestic and foreign for the upliftment of the nation’s economy,’’ he said.
On the impact of COVID-19 on world economies, the president noted that while the pandemic had an adverse impact on the Nigerian economy with the attendant fluctuations in the price of oil, his administration has effectively contained the spread of the pandemic and other diseases.
He added that the Federal Government would continue to consistently deploy prudent means of judiciously utilising the limited revenue to sustain the economy and stimulate growth.
Buhari also used the occasion to reemphasize that in spite of limited resources, his government has made appreciable progress in road and rail infrastructure development; provision of stimulus packages for the manufacturing sector; improvement in energy management and support for exporters with a view to improving the operating environment for businesses in Nigeria.
‘‘These projects are there for all to see.
‘‘Furthermore, we are vigorously pursuing reforms on ease of doing business and currently putting in place other necessary policy measures and incentives that will guarantee full recovery from the consequences of COVID-19, sustain economic development and further shield the economy from the potential impact of fluctuations in the price of crude oil in the global market.
‘‘I have listened carefully to all the challenges enumerated by the President of MAN and would like to assure you that, like we have done in the recent past, we will give consideration to some of the constraints that are yet to be fully addressed, especially those that align with our policies and programmes for economic recovery and sustainable development.
‘‘Let me assure you that this Administration is fully aware that the survival of Nigeria lies in Agriculture and having a viable domestic Manufacturing sector.
‘‘I must emphasise here that when I say Agriculture, I also refer to Agro-Allied business which is the value-added component in the value chain.
‘‘A strong manufacturing sector creates more jobs and wealth for our people.
‘‘It will usher in sustainable economic prosperity because we will produce what we consume as a nation and generate foreign exchange by exporting surpluses and by import substitution,’’ he said.
In her remarks, the Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Mariam Katagum, pledged that the Ministry would continue to work with MAN in the areas of policy, trade and creating an environment to facilitate the growth of businesses in Nigeria.
‘‘MAN is in business to create a climate of opinion in this country so that manufacturers can operate efficiently and profitably for the benefit of all,’’ she said.
Also, the MAN president said the advocacy visit was largely motivated by two things: namely, to thank the President for all the support extended to the manufacturing sector since his assumption of office in 2015, and seek the urgent support of the Federal Government for the manufacturing sector to overcome the binding constraints to competitive manufacturing in Nigeria.
On the challenges facing the sector, the MAN president said that the association has articulated remedial measures for the challenges in the Blueprint for Accelerated Development of Manufacturing in Nigeria, which will be formally presented to the President within the first quarter of 2022.
The MAN leadership, however, highlighted a few challenges that could be addressed in the immediate term to improve the manufacturing environment.
They include: inadequate supply of foreign exchange, inadequate electricity supply, poor access to long term fund, patronage of Made-in-Nigeria Goods and local content development, looming increases in tax rate, among others.
Ahmed also formally presented the new logo and annual report of the association to President Buhari.