By Bolaji Kazeem
It is obvious that the Industrial sector of the economy of Nigeria has experienced turbulent period of erratic power supply, faking and dumping, smuggling and high cost of production as well as lack of patronage by Nigerians.
These perennial problems have been with the sector for quite a number of years now, as previous administrations had not been able to address them in a holistic way.However, the present government has identified the bane of the sector and has subsequently earmarked a large percentage of its expenditure for the provision of power, road rehabilitation and construction, modernization of rail and roads, dredging of River Niger as well as campaign for attitudinal change by Nigerians.
These are the fundamental things that stakeholders agree would alleviate the problem of low capacity utilization of production in the industrial sector.It would appear that we forget things easily; we do not prod into the history of our present predicaments while trying to judge the present scenes. The reality of modernization in the developed world seems to have pushed our people to the point of impatience to the extent that we do not want to come to terms with the efforts of the present administration in tackling our developmental challenges from the root rather than applying cosmetic solution to them or pandering to unrealistic sentiments.
It is a well known aphorism that Rome was not built in a day; it takes time for things that had decayed for more than three decades to be put right. The issue of power supply cannot be immediate; peace has to return to the Niger-Delta for regular and constant supply of gas that will power most of our Independent Private Power initiatives. The issue of distribution of gas which was not taken into consideration by previous administrations is being addressed now.However, public commentators must bear in mind that the problems facing the industrial sector had been aggravated more by the issue of smuggling, faking and dumping and lack of patronage of made in Nigeria products. Recently, some public commentators and the jobbers have fingered the Ministry of Commerce and Industry as the panacea for the plague affecting industrial sector of the economy.
They have not come to terms with the fact, that industrial development of this nation revolves around all sectors of the economy and Nigerians. Agreed that the ministry provides the regulations and guidelines for enabling environment for industries to operate to maximum capacity, however, we must note that most of the facilities such as power and transport that would have provided efficient utilization of production and cost effectiveness are not within the purview of the ministry.
However, this had not stopped the ministry from forging ahead to ameliorate the problems faced by our industrial sector.In the month of April this year, the Ministry conveyed a stakeholdersâ€™ meeting to brainstorm on the need for regular and steady power supply to the manufacturing sector which comprised Ministry of Power, Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (CMAN) to interact and fashion out ways of giving preferential power supply to industries on daily basis. They agreed on the modalities for achieving this for each zone; identified constraints and developed measures to tackle the problems.
Not only that, the ministry in its bid to fast track and stimulate economic activities among the populace, fulfilled its promise to the states that had established enterprise zones in the country through provision of eight 500KVA generators to Kano, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Osun, Kogi, Bauchi, Ebonyi and Imo states.
This was carried out after the assessment visit to all the 36 states of the federation to determine how far they had gone about establishment of enterprise zones in their respective states. This measures has provided a platform for increasing numerous informal sector artisans into Small and Medium thereby pushing Nigeriaâ€™s industrial development and increasing the contributions of manufacturing to GDP and exports on a sustainable basis. It will also encourage the states to buy into the project which is part of the new industrial development strategy hinged on the cluster concept that is expected to work at five levels namely: free trade zones; industrial parks; industrial cluster; enterprise zones and incubators.Recently, the minister commissioned prototype cassava processing factories in Masaka and Kuje both in Nasarawa State and Federal Capital Territory which was designed to provide impetus to numerous cassava processors in the country on best practices and quality assurance.
The ministry has now challenged the states, local governments and the private sector to take a cue from the prototype project with a view to putting in place, standard processing plants to utilize the volume of cassava produced in the country.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry in its efforts to address the issue of employment and food security in line with Mr. President â€˜s Seven-point Agenda, has concluded arrangement to establish 20 cassava processing mills in 22 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory under the public-private-partnership.
Also, the ministry under the Presidential Initiative on cassava, in collaboration with the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike, Abia State and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) Columbia is in the process of introducing the Beta-Carotene and high quality cassava varieties (rich in vitamin A) into the country from Colombia. The Minister in a bid to enhance diversification of the economy, spearheaded the initiative to revive the moribund African Groundnut Council which will facilitate exchange of technical and scientific information pertaining to the production and use of groundnut in the member countries.
He also facilitated the signing of a technical agreement between the Federal Government and Japan International Agency (JICA) on â€œOne Local Government One Productâ€ (OLOP) programme for revitalizing Nigeriaâ€™s rural economy. It is worthy of note to mention here that leather industry and rice processing had been identified for implementation in Kano State by the agency.Chief Achike Udenwa has been meeting with the Nigeria Customs hierarchy on the need to reduce the incidents of smuggling on our borders.
On March 2, 2009, he invited the former Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs, Dr. Bernard Shaw Nwadialo and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) representative, Mr. Asibong Eneobong to a meeting to work out ways and strategies to tackle the problems confronting importers and manufacturers and reduce high incidence of dumping, faking and smuggling in the country. Recently, he invited the new Comptroller-General of Customs to the Ministryâ€™s headquarters in continuation of the previous discussions and he did not mince words when he pointed out that smugglers were not spirits but they are human beings known by Nigerians and urged the (OPS) to help government in curbing the menace of smuggling.
The twin problem of faking is being addressed squarely, he had said it to the face of the Chinese authorities the displeasure of the present administration in respect of faking of Nigerian goods in China and eventual dumping of the same goods in the country. This genuine complaint and astute manner the ministry and its parastatals handled the problems had led to the signing of various agreements with the Chinese authorities on measures to curb the problem. For instance, the Honourable Minister of Commerce and Industry, Achike Udenwa had signed an MoU on behalf of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) with Intertek and SGS on Standard Organisation of Nigeria Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP).
It is on record that the two ministers have been interacting with stakeholders at different fora and this has encouraged the Aba Leather and Garment Association of Nigeria to start labelling their products Made in Nigeria. During a stakeholdersâ€™ meeting ahead of the formal launching of the Campaign for Patronage of Made in Nigeria products, Mr. Jaiyeola Olarewaju, who spoke on the development, said they will join hands with the government to make the campaign a success, adding that they have enough production capacity for the local market but, however, regretted that presently there was no market for their products and therefore called on government to step up the campaign for patronage and political will to protect Nigerian industries from foreign invaders. This interaction between the organised private sector revealed the need and the urgency imperative for the promotion of Made in Nigeria products to stimulate the economic activities of the country.The organized private sector has praised the effort of government in championing the campaign for the patronage of Made in Nigeria products.
The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Bashir Borodo congratulated Hon. Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Achike Udenwa at the launch of the campaign in Abuja thus,â€œthe success of this campaign is a victory for our economy, our country and our people.â€This accolade has shown that stakeholders recognise the effort of the ministry in boosting industrial production, resuscitating our ailing industries as well as contributing effectively towards achieving Mr. Presidentâ€™s Seven-Point Agenda and the vision of making Nigeria one of the largest twenty economies in the world by the year 2020.