A careful consideration of the profile of the new Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment-Chief Niyi Adebayo- is necessary for those who may not be able to categorically affirm his suitability for the coveted post.
Apart from his experience as a Former Governor (Ekiti State), the sixty- one- year old Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress has a highly impressive track record in business facilitation-which is a plus in attracting foreign and local investments. Indeed, records also have it that he has far greater achievements in project finance and contract procurement-as well as in oil and gas than in his legal practice-where he is also a member of the International Bar Association.
The quiet, but strategic politician- from whom Former Governor Ayo Fayose took over-has remained focused on his business while maintaining contact with political associates.
What the top Chieftain of the All progressives Congress therefore needs right away is necessary support on the way forward in his new national call to duty.
Significantly, industry stakeholders-including the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN)-have proffered what could be appropriately described as a working guide for the new helmsman.
Indeed, to some-like the Director General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir, the new Minister-has no excuse for poor performance because, with his profile, he should be seen as “threading on a familiar path, and should therefore hit the ground running”. Stressing the imperative of partnership as a winning tool in Adebayo’s new assignment, Kadir stated: “We look forward to a close and collaborative relationship with the Honourable Minister. This is necessary to guarantee partnership for the industrial development of the country”. He added: “Now that Nigeria has signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), it behoves his leadership to take necessary steps to accelerate the development and competitiveness of the manufacturing sector”.
The MAN DG stressed: “He has the necessary platform to deliver on this score, including the subsisting Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan-as well as the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council. They provide veritable platforms for the much anticipated upswing in the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the Gross Domestic Product of the country”.
Also proffering the way forward to the new Minister, the former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (NTMA) -Mr J.P Olanrewaju-identified five imperatives deserving serious attention by the new minister. According to him, there is a need for the Ministry to STIMULATE EXPORTS. And one significant way of doing this is to ensure the successful implementation of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) initiative. In Olanrewaju’s words “It is good that the government has resuscitated the EEG policy. But, actual implementation started about two months ago. Even at that, the budgetary provision for it is grossly insufficient- compared to what ought to be paid to exporters as grants. And if you care to find out, you will also discover that far less than what is even in the budget is paid out as EEG. This year, only N5 billion was budgeted for it. Yet, N13.2 billion was budgeted for it last year out of which only N4 billion was said to have been paid. Efficient and effective implementation of the EEG is an important thing that should enjoy the Minister’s attention”.
Olanrewaju added that Adebayo must not allow the recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) by Nigeria to turn the country to a dumping ground. According to him: “Government must find ways of improving the manufacturing sector so that production costs can be low so as to be able to withstand competitors. We must appreciate that under ACFTA, there is free movement of goods, and therefore avoid a situation where what sells for twenty dollars in Ghana -for instance-will sell for an equivalent of 40 dollars in Nigeria. This will be an open door to dumping”.
The former NTMA boss also canvassed the promotion of Made-in-Nigeria goods. Citing an example, he stated: “The presidential directive that the nation’s armed forces must patronize local operators must be enforced. This will help the textile industry and boost the economy a whole”, he stressed.
Olanrewaju also urged the new minister to give more impetus to the present administration’s quest for an improved operating environment through the “Ease Of doing Business” policy, even as he emphasized the need for a revitalization of the nation’s petrochemical industry- which he said would, among other benefits- halt the huge revenue outflow form the country owing to the importation of many products which would have been locally sourced if the industry was thriving.
Also contributing, the Director, Economics and Statistics of MAN- Mr Segun Osidipe- advised Adebayo to look beyond his ministry for the desired success, by setting up an Inter-ministerial Committee. The Committee, he added, should include representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
According to him, the committee will not only ensure necessary cooperation and team work, even as they would compare notes, but will also serve as a platform for problem solving. “This will ensure-for instance- that while the CBN is churning out fiscal policies, the interest of Manufacturers and others in the sector and beyond are well considered-to avoid unintended or avoidable negative effects”, he said.
Close to the above, Osidipe continued, is the need for a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team. “This should comprise stakeholders in the Industrial sector and representatives of the Ministry. Their role will include impact analysis of government policies, checking on appropriate utilization of government incentives and serving as a check to the government and stakeholders to ensure that promises are kept and the needful are generally done by both parties”, he stated. “Both the Ministry and its agencies, and indeed stakeholders, will be up and doing if the M&E team discharge their duties as appropriate” Osidipe emphasized.
Fundamental to the above however is the imperative of an Industrial Policy, according to the Economist. In his words: “An industrial Policy is the basis of industrialization. Much more than the National Industrial Development Plan (NIRP), the country needs an Industrial Policy-drafted not by the government, but by stakeholders. It will be a working guide and a marketing document that will ensure the direction and focus of all stakeholders. It will answer questions like: what should be our export target, how many industries do we need, and what should be our investment focus, and the basis for our bilateral, multilateral and other agreements among others?”. He added: “There must also be a Trade Policy to achieve similar purposes above”.
Significantly too, Osidipe continued, the Minister must be ready to address the prevailing challenge of Double Regulation, which the nation has continued to witness. He disclosed that there were complaints of such by stakeholders from the activities of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC)-for instance.
The MAN Director also canvassed a focus on the lingering issue of multiplicity of charges which arises from the various activities of the regulatory agencies, and advised on harmonization. In his words “Why can’t agencies under the same ministry work together, and even visit factories together-for instance”?
Osidipe emphasized: “The summary of it all is, the Minister must ensure an enabling environment for stakeholders. We must reduce our processes, streamline our procedures, and ensure that the end product is significant reduction in the cost of doing business so as to ensure improved performance and economic and national development. All the agencies to ensure this: the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), SON and a host of others are under his Ministry”.
Remarkably, the Minister was also given very useful suggestions from CICAN. In a statement signed by the association’s Chairman-Mr Charles Okonji-and the Secretary- Mrs Lucy Ekpeyong-the association urged the Minister to learn from a former Director General in his ministry-Dr Joseph Odumodu-whose notable achievements were largely attributed to one of his six-point agenda: Media Engagement. According to CICAN: “ It is one thing to mean well, it is another thing to be well informed. It is one thing to be performing excellently, it is another to be positively reported and enjoy deserved publicity. It is yet one thing to be doing well and enjoy deserved coverage and visibility, but it is also another thing to have guaranteed Media support when those bent on mischief, false accusation and sabotage would want to raise a storm in a tea cup. That is the wisdom in Media engagement and close and sustained collaboration with the Media”.
The association urged the new minister to focus on what has been identified as the single greatest challenge of the manufacturing sector- epileptic power supply-even if that would be the only legacy for which he would be remembered.
According to CICAN: “It is not a mission impossible. All that is required is focus, collaboration and strategic partnerships. Just like the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) turned Nigeria around in different ways, regular power supply can do a lot more”.
“ The minister should use his business facilitating asset to attract investors into the power sector. This would require team work- comprising the Minister of power and other stakeholders-like MAN-which at one time initiated an independent power project which was aborted eventually.
“ Lafarge Plc executed a successful power supply initiative at its Ewekoro plant-with excess capacity. Professor Barth Nnaji and others have wonderful initiatives on power supply, just like Lagos state attempted some years back. All these efforts can be revisited and galvanized under an INTERNATIONAL ROUNDTABLE ON POWER SECTOR DEVELOPMENT where the difference this time around will be WALKING THE TALK AND NOT JUST A JAW JAW.
“ If the Minister has the focus and the political will to achieve this and implement it efficiently, he will certainly end up as the best industry minister Nigeria ever had”
CICAN added: “Having perceived you as a man on a mission to excel, we want to pledge our support to you, even as we advise that you appreciate the significant role CICAN has been playing in the Ministry you are now privileged to lead”.
“We represent, not just the interests of stakeholders, but also the interests of the government-as watch dogs, and as professionals and patriots”, CICAN added.
The statement also stated: “Beyond the tip of the ice berg above, after you must have settled down, we look forward to a courtesy visit where we will join others in presenting to you a robust agenda for a successful tenure”.