By Ehiedu Iweriebor, Ph.d
In most countries of the world especially developing ones, soon after independence state institutions such as Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) or variations of them are established by governments to contribute to the countries societal management and over-all advancement. In this regard, in terms of catalytic impact, some agencies are more important because their mandates fall or belong squarely within the areas of national technical activities for technology self-capacitation and self-reliant development.
The effective pursuit and realization of the objectives of these technical agencies will equip these societies with the capacity for self-propulsion and thereby elevate the technical status and self-development capacity of these countries. They would thereby have acquired the hardware and software domesticated in endogenous human resources, institutions, centres, industries and companies for development. Once so domesticated, national development, becomes a self-propelling process and no longer captive to the dogmas and strategies of permanent dependency and non-development like “technology transfer” and “Foreign Direct Investment,” (FDI). These disempowering perspectives are commonly propagated byforeign agencies, experts and governments that are assumed to be superior and indispensable for the development of post-independence countries. But the primary vocation of these foreign agencies and experts is in fact to prevent the self-development of new countries and entrap them in states of dependency.
Within the context argued above, the performance of Nigeria’s technical
MDA’s ranges from minorand marginalto non-existent. In short, inmore than fifty years of existence most of these MDA’s have notcontributed to Nigeria’s technological self-equipment and development capacitation for self-propulsion.
Within its administrative structure, Nigeria has several technical MDA’s whose mandates can be considered to have technical elements or technologydevelopment focus. These include for example, the Ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment; Science and Technology; Information and Communication Technology; Petroleum Resources; Power; Steel and Mines even Agriculture, etc. They also commonly have specialized Departments and Agencies to actually implement their mandates. None of these Ministries, Departments or Agencies have advanced Nigeria technologically. All of them have failed to domesticate foreign technology or autonomously develop endogenous technology capacity. To that extent they have failed and are useless.
A quick review of some agencies attached to three technical Ministries that had the potential to advance Nigeria technologically but have failed to do so will be used to illustrate the point. They are the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, (MITI); the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) – the primary parastatal of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) a parastatal of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments (MITI)
The Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI) is a good place to start. In most developing countries over the past 60 years this Ministry has often began as the primary agency for the promotion of deliberate technology development and industrialization sometimes primarily and largely through massive state public sector investments in catalytic heavy industry sector or where feasible through the joint public-private sector approach. It should always be remembered and emphatically stated here, especially at the present time when state-led development and direct state involvement in the promotion of industrial development have been attacked, demonized and diminished by foreign multilateral imperialist agencies like the World Bank; that at independence none of these countries including Nigeria and most post-independence African and Asiancountries had developed national endogenous private sectorstolead the movement for national technological capacitation, industrialization and over-all economic development. Therefore the choice of state-led development and the mixed public-private sector strategy by these post-independence countries were pragmatic and logical decisions.
And for most of these countries especially the Asian ones, the outcome of state-led development have been very successful and resulted in their technological self-equipment and the achievement of advanced development, mass industrializationand the generation of in-country prosperity. The failure of this development strategy in much of Africa is a functionof the African leaderships’lack of absolute psychological faith in their choices and the absence of ideological commitment to the state-led development as a good strategyin its own right. Not surprisingly when these African leadersand states began to be bombarded by Western propaganda that “central planning and state-led development investments were anti-democratic, communist or socialist choices and therefore wrong”, the psycho-ideological underdevelopment of African leaderships and elite and their basic infidelity totheir people and countries showed itself glaringly.This was expressed in their inability to defend their choice and their easy acceptance of external dogmas and strategies that have kept them in their current state of development incapacitation, poverty generation, disempowerment and beggarly dependence on multilateral and bilateral forces that are committed against their development.
Thus during the early post-independence phase of their evolution, a common characteristic ofthese countries development strategy was that they created Ministries of Industry or Industrial Development or Industrialization and also quite commonly was the creation of powerfulprimaryindustrial development agencies variously designated as the National Industrial Development Corporations, Companies or Agency or Authority, or Commission. These became the primary executive agencies forthedevelopment of domestic capacities for planning, knowledge accumulation, resource mobilization, identification and establishment of the catalytic technology and heavy industries that are indispensable for the nation’s equipment for self-actuated industrial development.It is noteworthy that Nigeria has never established such a broad-based vanguard national industrial development agency since independence.
The Ministry of Industry has itself undergone various restructuringsand re-designationssince independence for example from Ministry of Industry and Commerce (Trade); Ministry of Industry; Ministry of Industry and Technology; Ministry of Industry and Commerce and to Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI) at present.
The Ministry also beganits career in the 1960s when the technical ministries were supposed to contribute expertize to promote the country’s expansive development. From the 1960s through the 1970s, it attempted to promote some key potentially catalytic intermediate goods industries such steel plants, cement plants, chemical plants, petrochemical plants, electrical meter plants, etc. While these were critical and potentially catalytic industries, their development faced major direct and indirect challenges internally and hostility externally from Western governments’ and multilateral agencies to which Nigerian leaders and elite have a programmed propensity to obey.
Consequently, apart from a few projects, the comprehensive development of the heavy industry sector as a whole comprising capital goods and intermediate goods industries like machine and engineering tools, machinery and equipment manufacturing industries and intermediate goods industries such as steel and metal plants, heavy chemicals, petrochemicals, paper and rubber did not take off. Since they were the basic expressions of a country technological base and its development capacitation for self-actuated development,their conception was flawed and incapable of equipping the country technologically.
In practice, the Ministry’s planned technology development projects were perceived and planned as single or individual projects without a broad domestic technological anchor. They were stand-alone projects that were unconnected or even disconnected from each other. For example the steel and metal plants normally produce the intermediate goods that are used by machine and engineering tool plants to make equipment for machinery and equipment production industries. These then manufacture light and heavy industrial machinery and equipment for chemical plants, refineries, fertilizer plants, petrochemicalplants, cement plants, agricultural equipment, electrical equipment, transport equipment, mining equipment and consumer goods industries plants in general.
The ideological subservience of Nigerian political leaders, bureaucrats and technocrats of the period to attractively packaged but misleading, dangerous and disempowering Western dogmas of transfer of technology and foreign investorsas the prime movers of national development,effectively and profoundly stymied Nigeria’s industrial development during that period from the 1960s tothe endofthe 1970s.
From the mid-1980s to the present in the contextofthe creeping and successful recolonisation of Nigeria’s policy-making processesthrough the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) by the multilateral imperialist agencies, – the World Bank and the IMF- the Ministry of Industry was progressively ideologically captured and institutionallyconvertedinto an anti-industrial development agencythat is primarily and essentially a tool of its new funder and policy maker – the World Bank to ensure that Nigeria never industrializes. Today it can be said without equivocation that much of the MITI’s primary policies, programmes and projects are conceived and funded by the World Bank and other foreign agencies.
For example, even seeming national industrial plans and policies like the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) was produced by foreign agencies and consultants. Not surprisingly the NIRP is a rehash and resurrection of failed industrial development policies and strategies of the 1960s-1970s. Furthermore, the NIRP strictly speaking is not a serious “Industrial Revolution Plan” because the document has no provision for the creation of the historically-established prime mover of genuine industrialization globally – that is domestic/endogenous engineering industries or the machinery and equipment manufacturing industry sector. Without this industry, self-actuated industrial development or even industrialization is simply an impossible pipe-dream.
It is well-established in the history ofdevelopment and the creation of a
productive, diversified and prosperous economy that it is the utilization of intermediate products or goods that enables economies to produce a vast range of value-added products for domestic consumption by other industries and for international export. They alsoprovide materials for other industries and thereby generatemultiplier effects and create a multiplicity of small, medium and large scalemanufacturing enterprises. These in turn would generate mass production, mass employment opportunities as well as sustainable and reproducible in-country prosperity.
Today as a reflection of MITI’s disconnect and disinterest in national
industrialization it is not paying attention to the promotion of small, medium and
large-scale industrial enterprises to utilize the intermediate products from
emergent heavy industry projects like the emergent Dangote Refinery,
Petrochemical and Fertilizer projects in Lekki, Lagos. A proactive and patriotic
industrialization Ministry or agency would see clearly that the intermediate goods
emanating from the Dangote petrochemical complex provides Nigeria a unique
opportunityto advance itself into a producer and exporter of manufacture goods.
Such apatriotic agency should by now have held numerous sensitizations sessions
with potential Nigeria investors; it should have identified industrial goods that could beproduced by the raw materials; it should have produced project profiles for variousindustries; it should have identified a physical space near the complex for the construction of an industrial park for small and medium scale processors of the intermediate goods and raw materials from the Dangote petrochemical complex and should have lined-up potential ready to go Nigeria investors.
In three years 2015-2018, there is no evidence of MITI’s active contribution to the emergence of any new public and private catalytic industries; the technological equipment of the currently technically passive Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan;the design, promotion and implementation of a new comprehensive Backward Integration Policy and Strategy for all industrial sectors; the revival of moribund industrial sectors (the textile industry for example) or direct contribution to the industrial development of the country.
Instead, MITI has been preoccupied with activities that do not directly promote industrialization, but with the promotion of what it considers facilitative initiatives for industry and business activities. These include for example the formation of a business facilitation, regulation and promotion institution – the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to remove alleged obstacles to doing business in Nigeria;the promotion of trade through a new department known as the Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN); and the alleged of the implementation of NIRP through the establishmentof the National Industrial Policy and Competitive Advisory Council to provide industrial policies and strategies; assess the impact of policies and mobilise resources to achieve the goals of the NIRP.
The Ministry has been fully converted to an agency which sees its primary mission as campaigning and appealing for largely foreign investors and foreign direct investments (FDI) to come and carry out Nigeria’s “industrial” development.
Of course there is nothing wrong withpromoting better business conditions. But in the context of a country thatis severely under-industrialized, burdened by poverty and the deprivations of underdevelopment,but endowed with vast resources crying for conversion and utilization for mass industrialproduction for prosperity generation, the national PRIORITY should be a nationalprogramme of technological self-equipment and mass industrialization rather than creating better businessconditions for non-existent industrial businesses and pathetically begging for foreign investors.
It is clear that MITI is no longer committed to or involved in promoting national industrial development and creating an industrialized Nigeria. It is therefore a failed anduseless technical MDA.
Ehiedu Iweriebor, Ph.d
(Ph.D, Columbia) is a Professor, Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, Hunter College, City
University of New York, New York, USA.