In the midst of the present economic gloom and virtual recession, I see hope and opportunities for economic growth, development and optimising the potential of our dear country, Nigeria. I dream of a new Nigerian bound by a concentric circle of wealth creation and retention and utilising the abundant energies and resources of our people as one of the greatest factors of production of goods, services and value addition. A big country, vast land and water resources and a huge growing population are an opportunity for boundless growth and innovation. But, we must get the policies and their implementation right.
The first grounds for growth and development to start is a mental revolution and change in our thought process and the prisms with which we view the world. We need a new prism of seeing ourselves as a country ready and willing to make contributions to the pool of human civilisation and in the process, reap the benefits of scientific progress and fruits of our labour. We no longer need see ourselves as victims of the new knowledge age and continue the self-pity that depresses the national polity. We need a new boldness to take advantage of the low hanging fruits as we climb to pluck the far off fruits; we need not be consumers alone, but we must also produce for others to buy.
Let us analyse how we can use the benefits of local content and patronising Made-in-Nigeria goods. By a Circular of October 5, 2011, an additional requirement was introduced for projects seeking the Federal Executive Council’s approval. Ministries, Departments and Agencies were required to show in their procurement plans the details for employment generation in the provision of goods, works and services. Already, we have a local content legislation applicable in the oil industry which can be replicated to virtually all sectors of the economy. There are also provisions for domestic preferences in the Public Procurement Act of 2007 although this can be expanded to apply beyond international competitive bidding. The whole idea is to increase the value added in goods and services, manufacturing, etc by Nigerians and Nigerian companies and to increase the retention capacity of Nigeria over herself generated resources and other resources available to her.
The central question to ask and seek answers to is; how much of our public and private expenditures do we retain in Nigeria? What is the retention capacity and how can we improve it? Does it make sense to continue with the demand for $4.6bn every month for imports when all we earn is about $1bn? This is not just a theoretical construct but something that can be shown with very practical examples. The 2016 Federal budget proposes so many procurements including vehicles and this is replicated in the states and local governments across the federation. The vehicles needed by the executive, legislature and judiciary can be bought from companies manufacturing and assembling cars in Nigeria. This will mean spending over N50bn in the goods produced by local auto plants. At a time we have started an auto policy which has seen investments from so many companies, this will be a huge boost to the auto policy.
The implication is that the companies will make more profits from which they would pay corporate income tax to government; create jobs that will employ more Nigerians who would in turn pay personal income tax. And the companies are also likely to demand ancillary services from other Nigerian providers of goods and services. This will also save scarce foreign exchange which we are struggling very hard to conserve and reduce the pressure on the naira which is fast losing its value. The debate about what the Central Bank of Nigeria should do to preserve the value of the currency is a fruitless one if it is not tied to key activities that can shore up the value and volume of value added in the Nigerian economy. The Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN is not made up of magicians who can change the tide of currency decline without the convergence of other key variables.
By the time the President and the key officials in the executive and judiciary are driving Made-in-Nigeria cars and vehicles; they are sending a very strong message to other Nigerians. The message is the simple and authentic message of leadership by example. They will not need to launch a new campaign of buy made in Nigeria; they have simply voted with their action. Thus, young and impressionable minds will start aspiring to drive the Nigerian car if the person he looks up to like the President, a senator or a judge proudly drives a Made-in-Nigeria car. When the leadership preaches a sermon it does not practise or believe in, the average person sees the appeals as cruel jokes. The earlier mentioned circular would have been violated because importing vehicles would in no way create jobs in Nigeria, it will rather ship available jobs overseas.
Where do we get the dresses, uniforms, boots, belts, etc worn by our security personnel? I hope they are not imported because I see huge opportunities for the development of local service providers and it is not beyond the capacity of Nigerians in the country to produce these materials. Learning the other day from the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, that we import pencils was so humbling. The previous week, I had been in the market to purchase a few household repair materials. At the plumbing section, all I saw were simple designed plastics and ceramics and virtually all were imported. At the electrical section, nothing complex is found in sockets, switches and gears all of which are imported. I saw nothing that was beyond the capacity of graduates of trade centres and polytechnics fill the shops and made in different countries.
It is time for our leaders in elected governance to lead with an aggressive economic, philosophical and jurisprudential postulate. The central theme of the postulate should be to develop and implement our own brand of economic revival based on harnessing our talents and capacities. It is a postulate of possibilities answering the questions of why, what, when, how, etc? As we seek to conserve our foreign exchange and shore up the value of our currency, let us have committees and groups working on issues of local content in every sector of the economy with targets, timeframes and full official support. Let public research be tied to industry and our centres of education and learning become centres for problem solving, not lame academic theorisation. If a particular product is prohibited from importation, officials should search for and seize the prohibited items not only at border posts but anywhere they are seen across Nigeria. But to get this done, the polity must be united and less divided for the urgent task of economic renewal.
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