By Emmanuel Elebeke
Employers in the nation’s Food,Beverage and Tobacco sector, have decried the declining fortune of the manufacturing sector in the country and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to revive and empower the sector towards achieving the Vision of Nigeria becoming one of the twenty leading economies by 2020. Under the aegis of the Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers, AFBTE, the group argued that when empowered, the sector would be better placed to create more job opportunities for the teaming unemployed youths in the country.
At its 32nd Annual General Meeting, AGM, held in Lagos, newly elected President, Otumba Daramola, said for Nigeria to take its rightful position in the manufacturing, it needed to identifying the major areas of challenge to the sector and tackle them.
He listed some of the challenges as road networks, unstable power supply, multiple taxation and insecurity, lamenting that absence of these made manufacturing difficult in Nigeria, increased cost of goods and hampered efforts to create more job opportunities in the country.
The new President of the association, who is also the Managing Director of International Breweries PLC , pledged the commitment of his administration to implementing the group’s agenda of the association through a collective approach geared towards improving the standard of the manufacturing sector in the country.
He commended the recent step taken by federal government to crash the price of cement in the country, describing it as a positive move towards improving the lots of the people.
According to him, price of building materials like cement must be affordable and cheap, if government is serious about implementing its housing policies.
Speaking, Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, assured of his preparedness to implement the outcome of the fact finding Presidential meeting of last week on cost of cement in the country, saying that his company will not hesitate to bring the price of cement down, in so far as other stakeholders in the agreement fulfill their own obligations as agreed in the meeting.
Alhaji Dangote who on “Manufacturing Operations in Nigeria: Prospects and challenges” blamed the high cost of cement in the country on scarcity of manufacturing fuel and diesel for haulage, saying that the combination of these factors and some others led to the rise in cement price.
Represented by his special assistant on cement manufacturing, Engr. Joseph Makojo, Dangote said though, there was no shortage of supply of cement in the country, if those fundamental factors didn’t happen, the cement prices wouldn’t have risen, thus leading to steady price and cheaper pricing of the commodity .
Apart from scarcity of raw materials, he also blamed the high cost of cement on importation and absence of market forces such as competition, saying that Nigerians prefer importation rather than investing in manufacturing.
Justifying his claim, he said “Between 2009-2010, we enjoyed a very stable cement price and the price of cement didn’t go up until early this year when these essential commodities suddenly became scarce.
There was excess supply as of that period and so prices were very low and stable. That is why at that meeting, we tabled these challenges before the President and already, action is being taken to address them. I think that if everybody carries out their own part of the obligation, I see the presidential directives being carried out withing the given 30 days.”
He also join his voice in calling on federal government to issue license to more manufacturers, to allow for increase in supply and to allow market forces come as it happened in GSM.
On vision 20 2020, he said the manufacturing sector is the sector that can drive the economy and create jobs and that unless the manufacturing sector of this country increases dramatically on capacity utilization, vision 20 2020 will be mirage.
“We want manufacturer friendly government ready to champion manufacturers’ interest, because the economy had suffered due to the inability of the government to accord the sector its priority place, which led to high inflation rate. For them to do it, they have to put manufacturing in the rightful position.
What is happening in cement industry now is a good development because in 2002, we had just 2 million metric tons but this year, it has exceeded 12 million metric tons,” he stated and urged Nigerians to focus more on creating wealth rather than focussing on how to share the oil wealth.