MAN backs policy decisions on petroleum industry, foreign exchange, others
Tobi Soniyi and James Emejo in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said his administration is currently working to improve patronage of locally made goods as well as enhance access to finance for Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs) across the country.
He said efforts were also being made to bridge the gap between skills required by industry and those provided by the educational institutions.
He added that his administration would work with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the other Organised Private Sector (OPS) groups who are key stakeholders in achieving these objectives.
Speaking in Abuja at the opening of the 44th Annual General Meeting of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Buhari said agriculture and the manufacturing sectors remained key to his administration’s quest for economic diversification.
He said: “A strong manufacturing sector will create more jobs and wealth for our people. It will usher in sustainable economic prosperity because we will produce what we consume as a nation and generate foreign exchange by exporting any surplus.”
The president praised MAN for choosing, “Diversifying the Nigerian Economy: the Role of Government in Manufacturing” as theme of this year’s conference noting that it couldn’t have come at a better time when the country is confronted with the urgent need to diversify the economy in the light of dwindling price of crude oil in the global market.
He said: “As you know, the dramatic fall in crude oil and other commodity prices has had a serious negative impact on world economies, especially countries like Nigeria which depended on one commodity for its export earnings.”
Nevertheless, he said: “The manufacturing sector is well positioned to be a major driver of Nigeria’s economic growth because of our immense natural resources and the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians. Government is therefore focused on implementing necessary policies and strategies aimed at unleashing the full potentials of manufacturing in Nigeria.
“We will rely heavily on your ideas and inputs at all stages of formulation and implementation of new industrial policies. For our part, we will remove bottlenecks and create a more business friendly environment.”
The president said government’s strategic plan to boost manufacturing activities in the country is supported by the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the National Enterprises Development Programme (NEDEP)-all of which provide a clear road map towards an industrialised Nigerian economy.
He urged participants “to consider our national interest, so that the outcome of your deliberations will be to the benefit of Nigerians workers and promoters alike. I look forward to receiving a communiqué of the deliberations from this meeting.”
He, further urged MAN to collaborate with government in the implementation of his administration’s economic agenda by “availing us your wealth of experience so that together we can uplift our nation’s economy and social well-being.”
Meanwhile, in his remarks, MAN President, Mr. Frank Udemba commended Buhari’s “bold” policy initiatives since assuming office.
Specifically, he praised the recent policy announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), allocating 60 per cent of all available foreign exchange to the manufacturing sector for the importation of raw materials and machinery; partial deregulatiion of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry which has eased the difficulty experienced in sourcing petrol and other industrial fuels; and adoption of flexible foreign exchange policy which has reduced, albeit minimally, the challenge of sourcing foreign exchange for importation of raw materials.
He further commended the currency swap with China which is aimed at enhancing the economic growth of the country although the details have not been made public; the efforts to end the activities of insurgents, especially in the North-eastern part of the country as well as in other states which have started yielding positive results as well as efforts to boost infrastructure.
He said: “The position of the Government not to adopt the EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement on the ground that ‘given due consideration to the mismatch of the two regions (Europe-ECOWAS) in terms of technology and manufacturing experience’, accepting EPA in its present form will spell doom on Nigeria’s industrialisation programme.
More so, that studies carried out by both ECOWAS and European Union revealed negative impact of EPA on Nigeria’s economy especially the industrialisation programme.
“If your excellency had not taken this position, the manufacturing sector and the economy generally, would have been in shambles now that the country is in recession.”
Continuing, he said: “May I, on behalf of the national council and members of MAN, seize this opportunity to express my profound gratitude and appreciation to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) for instituting a quarterly meeting with the association where issues affecting the growth of the sector are discussed and the way forward proffered as well as for his willingness to listen to us always. We appreciate the cordial relationship between the association and development partners such as UNIDO, DFID, ENABLE, AFD, GIZ and others that I may have missed out. Your assistance has been tremendous.
“We appreciate the existing interface between MAN and various organs of government such as the National Assembly, Ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment, Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Nigeria Customs Service, CBN, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) as well as the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA). I also appreciate representatives of research institutes as well as tertiary institutions whom we have been collaborating with over the years for their partnership.”