Updates on Ministry of Trade and Investments

on   /   in Sobowale On Business 12:09 am   /   Comments

By Dele Sobowale

“Ideas are capital; the rest is money”.

In a few weeks time, the Jonathan administration would have completed its second year in office after the 2011 elections – although it will also mean that President Jonathan would have completed his third year as President. It is time to take stock; to ask what has been achieved and what remains to be done.

It is time to recall the promises that were made and what had become of those pledges. Historically, it has almost always been associated with changes in the cabinet and that invariably brings with it anxieties among top government officials. For every President, two years represent sufficient time for the assessment of appointed officials and to determine whether or not they continue to fit into the overall plans of the administration.

Until recently, that process of staff appraisal by presidents had been conducted without overt attempts by people inside and outside of government to damage Ministers and other top appointees through malicious publications. Unfortunately, times have changed. Rumoured cabinet change had unleashed the worst in us. Now, keeping a top level job has become another form of warfare.

Ordinarily, I don’t get involved in defending those under attack, especially Ministers, because they have staff engaged to respond. I only get involved if one of the parties to the dispute draws me into the conflict. This article is in response to an article written recently by one Alfred Anibaba Oni , titled “ The Many lies of Olusegun Aganga “.

The author, if there is really such a person called by that name, had made reference to a column written by me in which I have raised questions about some projections made by the Minister of Trade and Investment – Dr Olusegun Aganga.

The Honourable Minister had projected that some of the initiatives by his Ministry will “generate 3.5 million jobs and an estimated five million direct and indirect jobs…within the next two years”. In my response to that announcement, I had asked the Ministry to clarify three things – which were not very explicit in that announcement.

First, I wanted to know if two years meant “by March 2015”. Second, how many jobs which should expect to have been created by 2015. Third, the job expectations pointed in two directions – 3.5 million and 8.5 million jobs. The first would mean creating 146,000 jobs per month; while second raise the job expectations to 354,000 per month.

Since all these are still projections for the future, there was no way I could have accused the Honourable Minister of lying. I don’t prejudge the outcome of promises made for the future.  Furthermore, the Nigerian Ministry of Trade and Investment, MTI, is the country’s answer to the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Investment, MITI –perhaps the most powerful ministry in that Asian giant.

Japan by general agreement among development economists owed its rapid recovery from the destructions of the second World War to the activities of MITI, which not only promoted Japanese exports but helped to generate the Foreign Direct Investment which eventually propelled Japan to the third position among the nations of the world. MITI receives the brightest and the best individuals the nation can find at any time.

The deployment of Olusegun Aganga from the Ministry of Finance to MTI, was in my opinion one of the best measures President Jonathan took in the last three years in office. By its very nature, the Ministry produces nothing. But, paradoxically, the Ministry produces the most important variable in the world – ideas. Ideas, very good ideas, remain the factor in the shortest supply in the world in general and in Nigeria in particular.

I have listened to Dr Aganga on two occasions and he seems to be full of ideas –undoubtedly arising from his previous experience and exposure as an investment banker with global institutions. Each of these ideas eventually gets reduced to investments in productive activities which generate the jobs.

The job estimates, I have since found out are provided by agencies and other departments after the initiatives have shown promises of becoming fruitful – irrespective of whether they are in oil and gas, refineries, banking or transportation. The Ministry of Trade and Investment simply collates those figures and publishes them.

While one may question the tendency to accept the data provided by colleagues, the truth remains that MTI has no resources of its own to conduct studies to establish the number of jobs likely to be created by, say, establishing a refinery with a particular capacity in any part of Nigeria. That estimate can only be provided by either NNPC or other experts.

This response had become necessary only because I was involved. Mr Alfred Anibaba Oni, has the right to carpet any public official he wants; but, I will be happy if he does not take out of context an article written by me. Until 2015, nobody can decide whether the Minister lied or not.

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