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Uzoka-Anite: Officiating the rquiem mass for Nigeria’s industrial sector

From January 2023 till date, no fewer than seven multinationals including Unilever, GSK Plc, P&G, have either left or announced their decision to exit the country

By Valentine Amanze

(29-01-2024)

Dr. Doris Nkiruka Uz1oka-Anite

Dr. Doris Nkiruka Uz1oka-Anite, no doubt, is Nigeria’s current Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment of Nigeria; and not Foreign Affairs minister.

The medical doctor cum banker was confirmed as the Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by President Bola Tinubu on Monday August 21, 2023.

 Uzoka-Anite was immediatelycharged with the responsibility of supporting businesses to grow economically –especially in investment, increased capacity for local industries, export expansion through policies and programmes that culminate in job creation, opportunities and trade investments across all sectors of small, medium and large enterprises.

Eight months after her inauguration, the real sector practitioners are worse off just like the government she is serving.

From January 2023 till date, no fewer than seven multinationals including Unilever, GSK Plc, P&G, have either left or announced their decision to exit the country.

Many of these companies have spent decades doing business in Nigeria while others are folding up operations barely three years after announcing their arrivals.

Before 2023, some of the challenges faced by local and multinational manufacturers in Nigeria had been power crisis, constant devaluation of Naira, Forex availability coupled with other stringent policies of the government.

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The minister has not shown any sign of proper understanding of the sector she is supervising.

She is yet to call stakeholders’ meeting to discus the plight of manufacturers and solving them.

Rather, Uzoka-Anite is more seen globe-trotting with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu looking for “Unknown” foreign investors at the expense of tax payers in Nigeria. She stays more outside Nigeria at the detriment of her primary assignment.

No wonder her stay at Imo State as the Commissioner for Finance and Coordinating Economy yielded no people-oriented dividend.

Imagine the reasons that forced the multinationals out of Nigeria:

Unilever

In March, Unilever announced the exit of its home care and skin cleansing from Nigeria.

According to the manufacturer of brands such as Omo, Sunlight and Lux; the changes in its business led to the decision to fold up operations in the country.

GSK Plc

Barely four months after, ie, July 2023, Nigeria’s second-biggest drug producer and British pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc, announced an end to manufacturing operations in Nigeria.

While no reason was given for the company’s exit from Nigeria, GSK Plc — with headquarters in the UK — said that its prescription medicines and vaccines would be sold in the country through third-party distributors.

Sanofi-Aventi Nigeria

Like GSK Plc, the French pharmaceutical multinational, Sanofi, announced its decision to quit Nigerian soil.

The company, in November announcement, disclosed its resolve to appoint a third-party distributor for its commercial portfolio of medicines from February 2024.

Procter & Gamble (P&G)

The U.S. consumer goods powerhouse, Procter & Gamble (P&G), also announced its decision to shut down manufacturing in Nigeria.

The maker of iconic brands including Pampers, Gillette, Ariel, Always and Oral-B, which had been operating in the country for 30 years and ran two manufacturing plants in Ibadan, Oyo State and Agbara, Ogun State, disclosed readiness to pivot to import-only activity, describing Nigerian market as problematic for the corporation.

“So when you think about places like Nigeria, when you think about places like Argentina, it’s very difficult for us as a U.S. dollar-denominated company to create value,” Andre Schulten, the chief financial officer, said at Morgan Stanley Global Consumer & Retail Conference in New York, recently.

With all the departures, Uzoka-Anite, who is yet to visit the not less than 27 parastatals under her ministry, just sneaked into Lagos recently to discuss manufacturing of needles and syringes under an unfriendly business weather.

  The meeting was not bad; but did not have the potential of stopping the exodus of the multinational firms, and the total collapse of local manufacturing.

Since 2007, Engr. Charles Ugwuh, is the only Industry minister with a total understanding of the ministry.

He formulated policies that drove the real sector forward. He had a masterplan to revolutionise industrialization via his Cluster Concept.

The concept, which was endorsed by the former President Musa Yar’Adua, was equally embraced and adpted by the stakeholders at a meeting in MUSON Centre Lagos. It contained plans to site industries at special locations where water, electricity and other social amenities would be provided by the government to make it attractive to investors.

But that was then. It is unfortunate that no minister after him continued with the concept, which was documented.

It is also ironical that even with the permanent sectaries in the Ministry there is no proper policy to revitalize the real sector by the current minister.

To stop the exodus of the multinationals and the collapse of the indigenous manufacturing companies, Doris Uzoka- Anite must convince President Bola Tinubu to:

1. Re-value the naira.

2. Invest in revitalizing the textile industry and other government-owned companies.

3. Ensure steady provision of electricity, water and good road network.

4. Eradicate multiple tax regime.

5. Ensure security of lives and propertie in the country.

6. Stabilise interest/ lending rates.

7.Make Nigerian ports friendly for importers of spare parts.

Aside these, the minister must clear her self of the allegation of presenting to the Senate N1 billion budget for foreign trip to Geneva in 2024.

Also, the culture of just picking any person to head the ministry must stop. Ugwuh’s success in the ministry was because he was a two-time chairman of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and also carried the stakeholders along including journalists, whom he had regular meetings with.

Doris Nkiruka Uzoka-Anite must sit down with stakeholders and journalists reporting the sector to avoid derailing.

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