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Task before Industry, Trade and Investment minister

‘The emphasis should be how to upgrade the non-oil sector of the economy, meaning that you must review the performance and achievements of your immediate predecessor and the economy to see if there is any lacuna and device strategy to fill it so that Nigeria could be free from slavery imposed by other countries on account of over dependence on oil’

By Valentine Amanze

(14-09-2023)

No doubt enemous task awaits Nigeria’s new Minister, Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite. Her successor, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo (2019-23), contributed little or nothing to national growth before leaving office, just like the government he served.

Perhaps, this is a new era for the real sector, giving your pedigree in the financial sector.

As a result, the hourable minister, much is expected from you to turnaround the comatose industry.

Your maiden speech to your staff gives one an insight of your personal agenda.

You assured them that you would boost Foreign Direct Infestment (FDI) inflow and promote business-friendly environment.

Recall that United Nations Conference on Trade and Development once rated Nigeria among the top three FDI destinations in Africa.

While Nigerians await your progammes, it is pertinent to carry stakeholders including journalists (CICAN) along to avoid the failure of your predecessor.

The honourable minister, Uzoka-Anite, Nigerians are having great expectation of you. As CICAN members, we expect you to start with meetings with CICAN members and other private operators to fully understand the decay in the real sector.

To hit the ground running, we expect you reduce the nation’s dependence on oil.

The emphasis should be how to upgrade the non-oil sector of the economy, meaning that you must review the performance and achievements of your immediate predecessor and the economy to see if there is any lacuna and device strategy to fill it so that Nigeria could be free from slavery imposed by other countries on account of over dependence on oil.

We expect you to review the Industrial Revolution project initiated by the past Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Before the launch of the project, there was no comprehensive and coordinated industrial policy for the country except the Industrial Cluster concept of Engr Charles Ugwuh, the former Industry minister, in 2007.

Recall that the manufacturing sector contribution to the Gross Domestic Product remains very low, at less than four per cent, while massive job loss persists.

For some decades, Nigeria had specialised in exporting raw materials instead of finished goods, which account for between 35 and 60 percent of the GDPs of the advanced and some emerging economies. As a result, the country was left with weak industrial structures and it was dependent on imports.

Poor power supply

One of the strongest variables in the poor performance of the Nigerian industrial sector is poor power supply. As a result of the power crisis, local manufacturers cannot compete with their foreign counterparts. If this problem remains unresolved, all the promises made by the government would remain an idle fancy and mere grandiloquence.

 Uzoka-Anite; you must liaise with your counterpart in the Ministry of Power to address this challenge.

Made-in-Nigeria products

Made-in-Nigeria products must be marketed abroad. To achieve this, the minister must reinvigorate the activities of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to enable it project Nigeria’s locally made products to the outside world.

The minister should make this agency more proactive by overhauling its operations to enable it function effectively.

This is where the cooperation of the Organised Private Sector becomes imperative.

The private sector groups organise trade missions abroad and exhibitions every year.

They are also visited by their foreign counterparts. The minister should partner with them because they are also working for the good of the country.

The new minister should take a critical look at the quality of goods produced and exported out of Nigeria very serious.

This is very important because the barometer for measuring the level of economic development and improvement in the quality of lives of the citizenry of a country is the quality and standards of goods and services produced and consumed in that country.

But regrettably, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the agency charged with the responsibility of enforcing standards in the country, has not been sufficiently equipped to carry out its mandate.

On this note, the minister must, as a matter of urgency, help to ensure that a befitting quality infrastructure is in place for the SON to save the country from constant embarrassments by foreign countries that often reject made-in-Nigeria products.

One of the key policy planks of the various administrations in the country has been how to make the country a destination for FDI. This policy initiative is borne out of the belief that huge inflow of foreign capital would help to restore the nation’s ailing economy to the path of sustainable growth and thereby, improve the quality of life of the citizenry.

Also read: CICAN decries hike in fuel price, laments effects on economy

The government must create the right environment to attract foreigners to come to the country. Many manufacturing companies are closing shops in Nigeria because of inclement business environment, while unemployment rate keeps rising.

The honourable minister, all the FDIs that have so far been attracted to the country have been inclined toward the oil and gas sector. Could you please strike a balance to achieve economic diversification for the country.

Again, Nigeria’s membership of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which commenced three years ago, is yet to be fully utilized.

AfCFTA appears to favour productive/ manufacturing economies. Therefore Nigeria must revive the industrial sector to remain relevant in world economy.

The honourable minister, there is the need for you to lobby the National Assembly to pass a law that forces various governments to patronize local automobile manufacturing firms like the Nnewi-based INNOSON Motors.

The government’s penchant in buying Japanese and other foreign brands will not help the economy grow.

In 1975, when Nigeria was down, the Head of State then, General Olusegun Obasanjo, made it compulsory for government officials to use 504 Peugeot cars manufactured in Kaduna to save cost. This is unlike what is happening now.

Finally, you must be open to suggestions and criticisms, especially from the media and the civil society groups who are the mouth-piece of the people.

The minister, you should work with them while shunning sycophancies. You are at the helm of the affairs of three ministries merged into one but expected to excel in all.

Remember that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu considered you competent for the job, given your contribution in a similar position in Imo State.

So, you are the cynosure of all eyes that expect dramatic change in the Nigerian economy.

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