By Funmi Komolafe
NECAâ€™s 53rd annual general meeting was another opportunity for private sector employers to make public their views on a number of issues ranging from the challenges of doing business in Nigeria to the exist of multinationals from Nigeria. The relationship of the Organised Private Sector with Government, workers and of course, politics.
THEN out-going president of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa while addressing the meeting sounded a note of warning when he said, â€œ The competitive edge of any economy in this century and into the future lies in the quality of its man power.Â Nigeria has not fared well in the supply of middle level technical manpower urgently required to support its developmental plansâ€.
For a president of the an organisation which made input into the Vision 2010 and later Vision 2020,Â Â Ohuabunwa thinks we may as a nation be day dreaming. He said, â€œ All the lofty talks and objectives of vision 20:20:20 will become day dreams if we fail to contend with this crucial issueâ€..
Ohuabunwa said NECA is not resting on its oars. â€œ We have entered into a public- private partnership agreement with the Industrial Training Fund to deepen the technical skills in our economyâ€.
How is this being done?Â He disclosed, â€œ We are currently using the technical training schools of some of our member companies for this purpose.Â Â The entire fund for this project is provided by the ITF from the contribution of one per cent of payroll made by private sector companiesâ€.
With this project, he said NECA has helped to reposition ITF for â€œ tangible contribution to the development of our nationâ€.
Members are however keeping close to their chests for now other projects with similar objectives.
Why we comment on politics â€” Ohuabunwa
â€œConcentrate on your business and stay out of politicsâ€.Â Â This is what many Nigerians say to people in business but can one truly be divorced from the other.
NECA members do not think so.Â Mazi Sam OhuabunwaÂ Â in his valedictory address said â€œ I have heard people caution us as an organisationÂ Â to steer clear of comments on political developments because our role in the society as business is to create wealth for the good of all .Â We do not agree with this school of thoughts.Â People often forget that business, like any other citizen of a nation has human rights, which include freedom of association and expressionâ€.
Having justified why business cannot be shut out of politics, he said, â€œ The truth is that until we get our politics right, we will probably not fix our economy. As an employersâ€™ federation with the mandate to promote and protect the interest of members, we must be bold and courageous from an informed and objective perspective, to contribute to political debate and discussions that have implications for businessâ€.
He identified what he considers our biggest obstacle as a nation â€œ Our biggest obstacle, however, is the scarcity of committed, selfless, passionate, visionary and pervasive political leadership.Â I have deliberately added the word pervasive because I have come to realise the enormous impact and influence , which the values and ethos of leadership at the political party and legislative levels could have on the performance of those at the helms of executive arm of governmentâ€.
2009: Performance of the economy not impressive
One does not need to be an expert to appreciate that our economic growth has hardly been felt by citizens .Â This time around, those who should know; captains of industries , members of NECA who are also members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria ( MAN) have not only confirmed our fears but also adduced reasons why the economy has not got a pass mark.
With a target GDP growth rate of 8.9% and the realised growth of 6.9%, inflation objective of 8% and actual inflation rate of 12% in 2009, target exchange rate of N120.00 to $1 and the reality of N138 to $1 and of course power generation objective of 6000 megawatts and our attainment of less than 2000 megawatts, NECA through its then president, Sam Ohuabunwa said â€œ It is quite evident that the economy has not performed wellâ€.
The association observed that â€œ the real sector has continued to diminish as more and more businesses are closing shops by the day.Â The inability of the government to provide answers to the perennial and seemingly intractable problem of electricity supply has continued to take huge toll on the economyâ€.
NECA made it clear â€œ the moderate growth in the economy did not translate into any significant improvement in the welfare of the people.Â The queues of job seekers are becoming longerâ€.Â Members are however hopeful that government will take the necessary steps to boost the economy.
Minimum Wage wonâ€™t disrupt economy – Employers
A meeting of NECA would not be a meeting of employers if no mention is made of wages especially the national minimum wage.
The three social partners seem to have struck a chord to keep silent on the new national minimum wage expected to be passed by the national assembly.
Although we learnt that the three social partners have agreed on N18,000 ( about $120) national minimum wage, NECA simply said â€œ the discussion has spanned a period of over six months and we had ensured that the outcome is not disruptive of the economy but rather promotional of economic growth and developmentâ€.
Weâ€™ll continue to dialogueâ€” NECA president
Chief Richard Uche, managing director/ chief executive of Richby Investments Co. Ltd. took over from Ohuabunwa as the newly elected president of NECA.
He recalled the role of NECA in articulating the various visions of Nigerian leaders especially the vision 2020 and said the problem is that we have failed to implement good ideas.
Chief Uche who represents NECA on the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund said, â€œ the roadmap which we made for Vision 2010, 2020 is still lying on the self somewhere.Â The idea in that document is enough to make us realise the goals of 2020″.
Notwithstanding, he said, â€œ Letâ€™s continue to engage government by group representation to the appropriate authorities and demonstrate to them that we have a national interest, the development of our economy.Â This task may appear daunting but we have been told by the minister that we have a listening government so we have to continue to press up.Â We must take steps to ensure that our grievances are taken up to the appropriate authorities in governmentâ€.
NECA he disclosed is willing to offer advice in the area of capacity building, development of small and medium scale enterprises etc. Besides he said, â€œ we want to consolidate on some of our worthy initiatives we have recently takenâ€. He promised to continue to work with other arms of the organised private sector such as MAN and NACCIMA.
Chief Uche also urged members to work â€œ with the Nigeria Labour Congress to promote industrial harmonyâ€.