By Bolaji Kazeem
Given the down turn in the world economy, global attention is increasingly being focused on the manufacturing sector as the panacea for the development of the nation. This is more so for a country like Nigeria that depends solely on oil as a major source of foreign exchange. The fact still remains that it is impossible for us to develop as a nation without a strong manufacturing base.
Recently critics of commerce and industry sector have been making uninformed write ups against those who are overseeing the affairs of the sector based on their myopic and un-researched analysis to the innocent public. They have even gone to the extent of rating Ministers without letting Nigerians know the criteria and indexes they used in measuring the performance of these Ministers.
These armchair critics have based their assessment on wrong premise, blaming Ministers for what happens in those sectors that are not directly under their purview. A classical example was the blame put on the Hon. Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Achike Udenwa on the power problem facing the industrial sector which did not fall under his purview.
These conclusions are against well known dictum that a discourse in the public domain should be factual; enhance understanding of the public on the subject matter as well as providing an alternative course of action. These basic ethics were lacking in their analysis and conclusions of their assessment of the Commerce and Industry sector.
It is pertinent here to remind Nigerians that the mandate of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is to play a supervisory and coordinating role in industrial development and maintaining liaison with multilateral and bilateral agencies and industries as the hub of the Nationâ€™s economy. It must be noted that Government has relinquished the establishment and managing of industries to the private sectors to operate.
The Ministryâ€™s mandate of facilitating policies and creating enabling environment for industries to thrive have started manifesting in the cement sub sector whereby big players in the industry were motivated and they had started expanding their production lines as well as building new plants.
Under this dispensation headed by Chief Achike Udenwa and Humprey Abah, the Ministry has initiated a lot of activities to change the fortune of its establishment and Nigeria economy. Firstly, a 13 man technical committee was inaugurated early this year in the Ministry which had submitted its report to fashion out a simple road map to revamp the economy in line with the present global crunch.
In its efforts to encourage manufacturers the Ministry convened stakeholders meeting comprising Ministry of Power, Power holding company of Nigeria, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and investors in IPP project to discuss the possibility of securing dedicated power supply for manufacturers pending the time the 6000 megawatts will be achieved.
It is worthy to mention that under the present administration, Chief Achike Udenwa has engaged the Chinese authority on the issues of allegation of counterfeiting, faking and smuggling of Nigeria textile brands. According to him, counterfeiting and faking of Nigeria textile brand is gradually killing textile industry in Nigeria resulting in unemployment and economic drain.
In a bid to forestall the entry of substandard goods from China and other counties, the Honourable Minister of Commerce and |Industry, chief Achike Udenwa signed an MOU on behalf of Standards Organization of |Nigeria (SON) with Intertek and SGS on Standards Organization of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP).
The programme is a set of conformity assessment and verification procedures applicable to certain regulated products imported into Nigeria. This programme is designed to protect Nigeria consumers from unsafe and substandard finished product most of which are imported and sold directly to them.
Just a few months in the saddle of the Ministry, the Minister had sought and got approval from the Federal Executive Council to flag off a national campaign on patronage of Made in Nigeria products. This is tandem with policy to increase the productivity level of local manufacturers. In his words, when we encourage our local industries by patronizing them the quality will improve. It is believed that the implementation of this policy initiative by our government will change Nigerians penchant for foreign products to locally made goods resulting in reduction of import of consumable items.
On the crisis between Nigeria businessmen and Ghanaian authorities, the Minister of state, Mr. Humprey Abah had met with his counterpart from Ghana Ms. Hannal Tetteh several times in Nigeria and Ghana to resolve the issue.
In February 2009, the Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Industrial development Organisation (UNIDO) to implement a new programme knows as the country programme. The programme is focused on 3 thematic priorities of poverty reduction through production activities, trade capacity building; and energy and environment. It will entail building capacity in developing, managing and disseminating vital statistics and information on trade and manufacturing; developing value addition strategy and agro-machinery system; trade capacity development; investment and technology promotion; introducing industrial energy efficiency, biomass, solar and development of small hydro power technology; implementing municipal solid waste management systems and cleaner production methods as well as consolidating on the cluster concept.
The total cost of the programme is about $21 million out of which Nigerian government is expected to contribute the sum of $10.38 million representing 50 per cent while UNIDO will provide and mobilize the balance. The MOU was signed in Vienna, Austria Headquarters of UNIDO on Thursday, February 19, 2009 between Chief Achike Udenwa on behalf of Federal government and Director â€“ General of UNIDO, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella.
Also, World Bank and DFID affirmed their belief in the management team of the Ministry and they are anxious to work and cooperate with the Ministry on the GEMS project with the sum of $350,000 million saying that $2 million was available to the Ministry to kick start the cluster project.
Similarly, the Ministry in collaboration with the Federal ministry of Agriculture has intensified efforts to identify serious and patriotic Nigerians in the rice producing areas of the country for the N10 billion rice processing plant facilities in the country. Arrangements are in top gear to recapitalize Bank of Industry to the tune of N250 billion to enable Small and Medium Scale and Industries to have access to loan to retool their equipment at a single digit interest rate. The Ministry has even gone further to facilitate the actualization of the N100 billion textile intervention funds for the revival of ailing textile industry.
In its avowed determination to realize the 7 Point Agenda of Mr. President and the actualization of Vision 20:2020, the Federal Government has awarded contract for national survey to promote industrial clusters as well as design models for clusters and enterprises zones.
The Minister at the 2nd Meeting of National Council on Commerce and Industry update Council Members on the progress made so far in the implementation of the â€œNew Industrial Development strategy â€“ the cluster conceptâ€ He explained that the Industrial cluster Strategy was a development mechanism designed to provide common facilities for industrial concerns. He said that the award of the contract was in keeping with his Ministryâ€™s plan to promote industrial clusters as well as design models for clusters and Enterprise zones.
The survey and designs when concluded would provide the baseline data for the effective implementation of the cluster programme. The Ministry was working on a framework to establish model clusters using the available land and facilities in the four zonal Industrial Development Centres (IDCS) in Bauchi, Oshogbo, Owerri, and Zaria. The aim was to enable Government concentrate efforts and resources in creating conducive atmosphere for the private sector to thrive. It is envisaged that the proposed model clusters would serve as a successful examples for states, local Government Areas and Private sector Organization.
The Ministry, this year, has concluded action on the review of the Trade and Industrial policy of Nigeria. The reviewed document was a product of extensive consultations with all relevant stakeholders including the States and deliberate attempts were made to reflect all the salient inputs and contributions. The document was aimed at promoting trade liberalization and competitiveness and appropriate measures to safeguard the interest of domestic producer against the influx of imports and unfair trade practices.
It is significant to appreciate effort of the management team of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry toward increasing productive capacity of the country, increase in non oil export and decrease in imports of consumables into the country. This can be achieved through the support of stakeholders, Nigerians and critics of the sector by engaging in constructive criticism that will energize and engender focal point and policy implementation of the Ministry.
*Bolaji Kazeem, is Resident Information Officer, Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry