WHAT DOES NIGERIAN government really wants with its manufacturing sector? One of the things for which African governments and their citizens are vilified for is their failure to correct the errors that, being colonised for many decades, brought upon their people, their countries, their economies and their cultures. It is almost as if they are caught in perpetual amnesia, from which they deliberately don’t want to come out of. Why do we say this?
Well, since many of them gained independence, they have failed to seize their moments to define a clear path for themselves and take their destiny in their hands, confront their history and shake off the shackles that held them down during colonial rule and the continuing mental siege of colonialism. Colonial governments used Nigeria and many other enclaves as outposts for the singular purpose of securing raw materials for their factories, after exploiting and discarding Africans whom they used as slaves working on their plantations and their home countries for the purpose of enhancing their supposed economic superiority over Nigerians and other Africans, that were captured or bought and sold as slaves.
For a long time, governments all over Africa and Nigeria, with its largest concentration of the black race in the world, had realised that they were coveted by colonial masters for the raw materials that they provided. And for a long time too, we have come to realise that cocoa, however it is taken out of West Africa, comes back different, with value added, and we are forced to buy these new products at three times, if not more, the price that we sold the raw materials. We think that this long realisation, ought to make governments sit right and be more organised; above all, be more focused and more direct about what they want.
And one of the things that we think the Nigerian government should sit right, be more focused, more direct, more organised about ensuring that its manufacturing sector is set on the path of active and efficient production; one that allows it to utilize the abundant raw materials present in this country. It must accord manufacturers full corporate citizens status and treat them with dignity and respect, creating the enabling environment that allows them to carry on their normal business and to contribute to national growth and development.
We think that government does not really know what to do with manufacturing. We think that government believes that manufacturing, like every other business operating in the economy, is an orphan, existing only to pay taxes and levies that are sometimes arbitrarily imposed, and as such should be left on its own. But we think that this is a bad way to look at and treat corporate citizens that manufacturers are.
Manufacturers have borne the brunt of the mismanagement of the economy over the years. Many who are still alive are alive in spite of the government. They have suffered neglect, they have suffered from the failure of government to properly understand and articulate or champion a clear path that is beneficial to all, that allows for further development of the economy for efficient manufacturing in the country.
Apart from the mismanagement of the economy, for which everyone suffers, except, perhaps, those who lobby their ways to get concessions and discretionary waivers, manufacturers in Nigeria face the challenges of policy inconsistency that is destabilising, of sourcing finance, huge infrastructural deficiencies, including lack of power, bad roads and poor storage facilities. Government does not make it easy and does not carry through with seeing the need to create the enabling environment for manufacturers to thrive.
Manufacturers are also held to ransom in their effort to keep going on in business by lack of sufficient working capital, not being able to raise money on the Stock Exchange where such money is cheaper; they are faced daily with distortions in the tariff regime, where tariffs for finished goods produced without stress outside the country are lower than those for equipment and raw materials local manufacturers import for the purpose of production.
They face an economy and a government that is happy to see an interest rate regime of between 25 – 32 percent. As a result of an inactive economy, where purchasing power has been decimated, manufacturers, where they have managed to produce, are stock with unsold inventories.
Having highlighted this much, we are of the opinion that government must come out of its shell and take on the responsibility to save our manufacturing. To do this, we believe that it must choose to be overtly patriotic and act on behalf of our manufacturers; it must be patriotic and be focused on this goal; and as it seems to now devote so much time to agriculture, it must think manufacturing, industries with a view to establishing a synergy for the use of agricultural produce for manufacturing; its standard groups must check to ensure that what we produce meet international standards; government must work to protect genuine manufacturers in the country – as it cannot just stand by and be careless allowing foreign goods come in at the expense of the survival of our manufacturers.
Above all, we think we need to start from somewhere and when we have started we need to continue to the glorious land of becoming a manufacturing giant in the world.
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October 27, 2020