The country’s real sector is grappling with so many challenges which urgently require the quick attention of the Honourable Minister of Industry, Commerce and Investment to meet the aspirations of his Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his “Renew Hope Agenda,” and at the same time empower the Nigerians youths, and conserve the scarce foreign exchange the country is currently using to import products into the country.
Our (Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN) interactions over the years have shown that the local manufacturers were going through a very harrowing time in their operations.
We hereby highlight some of the pressing issues the minister should quickly attend to as a matter or urgency:
Urgent review of AfCFTA to enable the country benefit from the laudable scheme
Nigeria is yet to fully benefit from the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which commenced about three years ago.
Reason: Nigerian manufacturers are unable to compete with their counterparts from many other African countries.
While Nigeria is benefiting from the scheme on entertainment, legal, banking and some other sectors, such could not be said in manufacturing.
DIRECT FOREIGN INVESTMENT (DFI):
It is our opinion that for President Tinubu’s administration to deliver its “Renew Hope” policy to Nigeria, the minister must up DFI flow into manufacturing firms and new investments to attract more job opportunities to the country’s teeming youths.
In the last few years, FDI into the country has dipped due to so many reasons which all of us are farmlair with.
THE INCREASE IN VAT ON AGO:
Recently the federal government increased Valued Added Tax (VAT) from 5 percent to 7.5 percent, shooting the price of diesel from about N600 per litre to about N800 – N900 per litre.
Local manufacturers who mainly depend on AGO known as diesel have bitterly complained about the negative impact the VAT hike in diesel has had on their operations as the country has been unable to guarantee stable public power supply.
Some of the manufacturers who have interfaced with us (CICAN) have disclosed that the hike in the price of AGO was going to force many local manufacturing firms, especially, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to closing shops if urgent steps are not taken by the government.
The task is now in the hands of the honourable minister to seat with the umbrella of the local manufacturers, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), with a view to find solution the hike in diesel price has had on local manufacturing.
DUMPING OF SPURIOUS PRODUCTS IN THE COUNTRY:
As the world has become a global village, the manufacturers in China, India and many Asian countries have turned Nigeria into a dumping ground – no thanks to the country’s porous borders.
Dumping of all manner of cheap and substandard products led to crippling of the country’s textile, tires, pharmaceutical and many other manufacturing sub-sectors.
We all know the story of the defunct Dunlop, Michealin, Firestone and many other firms.
The influx of second hand or fairly used tyres known as “Tokunbo tyres” killed most of the former tyres manufacturing firms in the country.
The same fate befell the local textile companies, which closure has to also do with the influx of second hands clothes.
REVIVAL OF TEXTILE SECTOR:
Dear minister, the resuscitation of textile sector is an important task that requires your urgent involvement.
It will interest you to know that textile industry used to be the highest employer of labour in the country.
The sub-sector, which formally had over 50 textile companies in Lagos, Aba, Kaduna, Asaba, Ikorodu, Ogba, Kano, Calabar, Isolo, and many other locations now has only five firms still in operation.
The existing five firms are owned by foreigners – India and China.
It will interest you to know that the huge numbers of employees the local textile sector used to have shot the likes of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to limelight.
If you sort out the challenges militating the revival of the sector for the past two decades, the problem of unemployment, insecurity and poverty would have been frontally tackled.
The sector once provided about one million jobs for youths when it was running three shifts and 24 hours per day – all year round.
REAWAKE DEVELOPMENT BANK OF NIGERIA (DBN):
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari six years ago established the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) to provide long term single digit credit facility for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is yet to live up to expectation, either through incompetence of the bank management or overwhelming demands.
Most SMEs players in NASME, NASSI and chambers of commerce have rated the performance of DBN very low.
We suggest that you use your office to find out the challenges the bank is having in its inability to meet the players in the SMEs sector.
EMPOWERING WOMEN IN THE SECTOR:
While it is a fact to say manufacturing sector is male dominated, some rugged women are also doing a great feat in it.
The women who are bracing all odds to continue striving in the sector need the support of the minister who is a woman. Recall that close to two decades after Chief (Dr) Mrs Lola Akande held the same post in the male-dominated ministry.
The women in Commerce and Investment also require the assistance of your good self.
QUALITY OF LOCALLY PRODUCED GOOD:
The world is a global village, as such it is a fact that our local manufacturers need to upgrade the quality of their products coming out of their factories.
While the country’s electrical wire is the best in the world, and some of the other products coming out of our factories are of top quality, same can’t be said of others.
Some of our local manufacturers are still cutting corners, with AfCFTA, such manufacturers will either have to shape up or they will be force to shape out by stiff competition.
VISIT OUR ABANDONED INDUSTRIAL ESTATES:
Between 1960s and 80s. our government established many industrial estates in Apapa, Isolo, Oregun, Oba Akran, Ogba, Oregun, Olusosun, Ojota, Ikorodu, all in Lagos.
They also existed in Eleme, Enugu, Aba, Kano, Kaduna, Ibadan, Warri, Bauchi and a host of other areas, where young men were working 24 hours daily.
Due to the neglect of the manufacturing sector, dumping of imported products, smuggling and many other factors, those factories, the industrial estates had been taken over by weeds or clerics for religious activities.
A visit by the minister and her team to the estates is urgently needed; she is to be taken seriously.
EMPOWERING SON & NAFDAC :
The minister has to quickly empower the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and the National Agency for Food and Drug Agency (NAFDAC) to enable them better regulate the firms in the manufacturing sector with a view to tackle the challenges inhibiting their growth.
Also, the Nigeria Custom Service ( NCS) needs help to enable them better police our very porous borders.
HAVE REGULAR INTERFACE WITH MAN, NASSI, NACCIMA and NECA:
The minister has to be in constant interface with the Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) – the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), the National Association of Small Shale Industrialists (NASSI), the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and NASME to let them frankly tell you their challenges and how to solve them.
It is said that “He that wears the shoes knows where it pinches most”.
They players in your sector are in a better position to know their challenges than the civil servants in your ministry.
Carry these critical players along before policy is formulated and ensure they have their inputs in the policies you plan to formulate for them.
SEE CICAN AS A PARTNER:
Our dear honourable minister, welcome to our sector. If you truly aspire to succeed, where the last two ministers before you in that ministry, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah and Otunba Adeyinka Adebayo, didn’t just fail, but fail spectacularly, you have to embrace the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN).
The National body of CICAN comprises publishers, editors, correspondents and reporters in broadcast, print and online mediums that not just report your sector but equally analyse it .
CICAN members could be critical and frank, your regular interface and consultation with the association’s leadership will help you to make your task much easier.
Some of CICAN members have reported on the sector for more than 30 years, so they know the problems of the sector and their solutions.
Ministers will come and go, the journalists reporting the sector will be there to report them.
The association with headquarters in Lagos, has members in Abuja, Aba and some other places.
The national body, with Secretariat at the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (NACCIMA), has membership of over 60. So if these numbers are for you, then your task is far easier.
Welcome to this critical sector that could help our dear president to realise his “hope renewal.”