Chuks Okocha thinks the federal government should ponder Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s advice to look inwards in the onerous task of fixing the nation’s deteriorating economy
British historian, Arnold Toynbee in his adversity theory said nations advance by rising to the challenges before them. He further stated that the constant wars against the city of Sumer over 2000 years ago helped it to develop the military technologies and techniques that made it possible to protect the Sumerians against outside invaders.
It was for this reason that the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has consistently championed and supported the cause of Made in Nigeria Projects. As part of the idea of walking the talk, the Senate President recently visited the Made in Aba Trade Fair and later played host to the various indigenous manufacturers, where he championed the cause of the need to use the opportunity of the present economic crisis to look inward.
He used the occasion to reiterate that it is the duty of all arms of government to support indigenous manufacturers as a way of rebuilding the economy and putting Nigerian youth to work. He equally noted that what is required for the local manufacturers to excel was government’s good will as was the case where the Sumerians used the constant attacks from foreign invaders to develop the military technologies and techniques that helped them to ward off foreign invasion.
Saraki observed that Nigeria shall not remain a consumer of foreign goods as the present economic crisis would add as the necessary impetus for Nigeria to develop the industries that would cater for her need.
Speaking when a delegation of the Innoson Motor Manufacturing Company, Nnewi, led by the Chairman and founder of the company, Innocent Chukwuma in his office, Saraki said government would use legislative actions and policy initiatives to protect the local industries as a deliberate way of reviving the economy. By the way, Innoson Motors is the only Nigerian company manufacturing automobile of different ranges and it is based in Nnewi, Anambra State.
According to the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, one of the actions government should quickly introduce is to ensure that local industries are patronised by government agencies so that Nigerian manufacturers can enjoy the advantages accruing from the big market that her population offers.
Buttressing his views on why the local manufacturers should be encouraged, the Senate President said, “That is why this eighth Senate is determined to amend the Procurement Law to ensure that government agencies patronize Made in Nigeria products. I am sure the House of Representatives is in support of this. It is our joint responsibility to ensure that you succeed. If you are successful, a lot more small and medium scale enterprises will draw inspiration from you and they will become successful.
“That will help to create jobs which are one of the mandates presented to us by the youths of this country during the last elections. We in the legislature will look at all laws and help to create an enabling environment for local businesses to thrive in Nigeria,” he said.
The Senate President, who gave assurances that the National Assembly would work to protect the local manufacturers said the lawmakers would by use of legislation protect locally made goods, explaining that this action is not peculiar to the Nigeria as it has been done in the United States under President Herbert Hoover in 1933 while India and China have also enacted similar laws in the past.
Saraki lamented that a situation, where a company like Innoson Motors could sell about 3,000 vehicles in 2015, when Nigerians buy about a million vehicles annually, added that if Nigerians patronise Made in Nigeria cars, it will force foreign manufacturers to set up their plants in the country.
In another forum, when he met the South East Amalgamated Market Traders Association (SEAMATA), Saraki urged indigenous manufacturers to look inwards with the view of turning the present economic challenges facing the country to economic boom. He specifically charged members of the executive of the association, who visited him in Abuja that it is time for them to find ways of producing locally most of the goods they have been importing into the country.
Responding to the comments by the Senate President, the spokesman of Innoson Motors, Alfred Nwosu, said the Innoson Group started from manufacturing of motor cycles and graduated to tricycle before it is now producing different range of utility and luxury vehicles.
According to him, the group has 7,000 Nigerians on its pay roll while there are 300 youths from the Niger Delta area undergoing training that were hitherto held abroad.
Nwosu commended Saraki and the Senate leadership for their prompt response to the request for an audience with the company, an opportunity he claimed had eluded the company in the past. According to him, “In less than 48 hours of contacting the Senate President we were told to come over. We are encouraged by your views on Made in Nigeria goods. What we need is the support, encouragement and inspiration from decision.”
In a related development, the President-General of SEAMATA, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo, called for urgent measures by the federal government to ease their access to foreign exchange that is used to import the goods they sell. Ezenwankwo said 70 per cent of traders in the South East would be thrown into the labour market if nothing urgent is done to enable the traders to access forex.
He lamented a situation where goods imported by the traders since December 2015 are still lying at the ports accumulating demurrage simply because the clearing authorities are yet to receive confirmation from the countries of origin of the consignments.
He called on the federal government to fix an exchange rate for the naira rather than leave it at the mercy of market forces. The $10,000.00 limit of what one can take across our borders is another major constraint to our members, he said.
-Okocha is Special Assistant to the President of Senate on Print Media