Samuel T. Adakole writes that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s passionate advocacy for made in Nigeria goods is laudable and deserving of public support
Dr. Bukola Saraki’s hands-on leadership style has brought a refreshingly populist beat to the upper chamber of the National Assembly. He is deliberately shaping the senate’s agenda to reflect the tough economic challenges. He is also according priority to passage of laws which have the capacity to support government’s efforts to fix the biting economic recession. Perhaps most importantly, he is using the power of his office to lead a nationalist economic advocacy.
His development based focus is recasting the image of the National Assembly as a distant and insensitive institution into that of a patriotic, involved and active partner in the country’s search for practical answers to pressing economic problems.
This focus is evident in the Made in Nigeria Campaign which the Senate President has been pushing so passionately using the power of his office. This initiative which started early this year is unique and relevant at two key levels.
In the first place, it is helping to raise national consciousness about the danger that is inherent in our unrestrained appetite and taste for all things that are foreign. A lot of Nigerians still do not realise that the everyday decisions that are made concerning the type of clothes, shoes, toiletries, foodstuffs, tyres and just about anything that we buy in the end collectively contributes either positively or negatively to the growth or deterioration of the local economy. it is strengthening the knowledge that when we buy things that are made abroad instead of those made locally, we are indeed killing making other economies stronger, creating jobs for foreigners while on the other hand weakening our economy, denying the millions of unemployed youths job opportunities that would otherwise have been created by local companies.
The story of the textile industry is a good example of the danger that uncontrolled imports poses to our economy. According to the Director General, Textile Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (TMAN), Mr. Hamma Kwajaffa, Nigeria currently spends over $4billion annually on imported textiles and ready-made clothing. This is a huge paradox because our textile sector has the potential to produce textiles for the local market as well as for export to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Textiles from Nigeria can also be exported to the United States of America (USA), under the AGOA platform and to the European Union (EU), under its GSP scheme. While smaller African countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar are already taking advantage of these opportunities to strengthen their local economies, create jobs for their youths, Nigeria is still stuck on this crazy imports of textiles. Again the danger is pressure on foreign exchange which is driving the value of the naira down, loss of jobs and the death of the local textile industry.
The advocacy campaign is therefore very important to reverse this negative trend and foster economic growth because when a critical mass of Nigerians fully recognise that everyone is a stakeholder and that every purchase decision that we make as individuals matters, imports will drastically reduce and local companies will witness increased demand for their goods.
And of course, the increase in demand for local goods will lead to all kinds of positive developments. Existing businesses that produce local substitutes for imported goods will see the need for a dramatic expansion of the size of their operations in order to meet the new demand. Already a lot of companies are taking advantage of this high level focus on promoting local industry to invest in the local textile industry – some for satisfying the local demand and others for exports of Nigerian textiles and designs to western countries like the United States.
The evidence that the Senate President has become a leading champion of the Made in Nigeria initiative is increasing by the day. For instance, in February this year, he was at the Annual Made in Aba Trade Fair, which held in Abuja to promote and project the industry of manufacturers in Aba.
His presence was both symbolic and encouraging as it showed that the Senate is deeply committed to supporting local manufacturers. While at the event, he assured the local business community that he will lobby the army, the police, the navy, customs and other security agencies to stop importation of foot wears and kits that can be produced locally in order to boost their businesses and instead patronise them.
In addition, he has also turned his twitter handle @BukolaSaraki, which has close to 600,000 followers into a free platform to advocate, advertise and promote locally manufactured products. He is successfully using this platform to engage and motive youth enterpreneurs.
The latest plan of the Senate President is the Made in Nigeria Challenge scheduled which was launched early this year. The plan requires entrepreneurs to send videos of their products and services which are good substitutes for imported goods to an online portal. Those shortlisted after a rigorous assessment process are to be invited to a roundtable with investors and government agencies such as Bank of Industry (BoI), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
The key objective of the challenge is to identify local manufacturers that produce alternatives to imported products and help them get financing to expand their operations. This deserves the commendation and support of all well-meaning Nigerians.
The Made in Nigeria advocacy initiative is therefore a practical, timely, and patriotic intervention that will not only help to drive the birth of a stronger local economy but also help to restore national pride. At a time that Nigerians are suffering the consequences of their huge appetite for all things imported and a strong dislike for goods produced locally, the campaign will hopefully help to turn things around for good.
Furthermore, to support and provide a legislative stimulus to this campaign, Saraki has led the Senate to the historic amendment of the Public Procurement Act. The new legislation makes it mandatory for all government agencies, ministries and parastatals to give top priority to goods manufactured locally in all their procurement processes.
This law tilts the balance in government procurement patronage which has always been in the favor of imported goods to those produced locally. When implemented it will also boost existing businesses and encourage more youths to get into local production.
The Procurement bill is only one of the 11 economic bills that are receiving accelerated consideration by the Senate. It is estimated that when passed into law and implemented, these bills will help to create 7.5million jobs and reduce poverty by 16.4 percent.
Some of these bills include the National Development Bank of Nigeria Bill which is intended to provide short, medium and long term financing to participating financial institutions for loans to small scale, medium and industrial enterprises in agro allied businesses, manufacturing, mining and the National Road Fund Act to fund the rehabilitation and maintenance of the national road system.
Another very important economic bill to be fast tracked is the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). This long awaited legislation will establish a framework for the creation of commercially oriented and profit driven petroleum entities that ensures value addition and the internationalisation of the petroleum industry.
Also significant is the Federal Roads Authority Act which is to manage the federal roads network so that it is safe and efficient, with a view toward meeting the socio-economic demands of the country. In addition, the Customs and Excise Reform Act is also on the list as it seeks to reform the administration and management of the Customs Service for greater accountability and revenue generation.
Saraki’s solution-based approach to the process of law making, his focus on concrete results and urgency that he brings to bear on the process of law making is very inspiring. Before now, not many people could see clearly the link between laws and the economy. His approach is bringing home a clearer picture of how important laws are to the growth of businesses, encouraging local and international investments. Nigerians should support the efforts of the Saraki-led Senate to make laws to catalyse overall economic development in order to reduce who desire economic renaissance should support the efforts of the Senate President and the Senate to pass legislations that will catalyse economic development in the country.
– Adakole is a public analyst based in Lagos.