• Signs two new laws to ease access to affordable loans by SMEs

Omololu Ogunmade and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo Tuesday inaugurated the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council, which will spearhead the industrial agenda that will boost the contribution of manufacturing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 250 per cent over a five-year period.

The ambitious agenda will make Nigeria a manufacturing hub for West Africa and diversify the economy from its over-dependence on oil.
The council is made up of leaders in the private and public sectors and will be chaired by Osinbajo, while the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, and President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, will serve as vice-chairmen, representing the public and private sectors, respectively.

The alternate vice-chairmen of the council are the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ms. Aisha Abubakar and Chairman of ANAP Business Jets Limited, Mr. Atedo Peterside.
Other members of the council from the private sector include Mr. Kola Jamodu, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, Mr. Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, Mr. Rahuk Savara, Mr. John Coumantarous, Mrs. Stella Okoli, Mr. Makul Mathur, Mr. Obi Ezeude, Mr. Fidelis Ayebea, Mr. Lazarus Angbazo and Mrs. Juliet Anamah.

Others are Mrs. Kofo Akinkugbe, Alhaji Ado Mustapha, Alhaji Kamaldeen Yusuf, Alhaji Adamu Atta, Mr. Charles Abudu, Alhaju Ibrahim Salisu Buhari, Mr. Isiaku Tofa, Mr. Ade Ogundeyin and Dr. Frank Udemba Jacobs.
Public sector members of the council are the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Agriculture and Rural Development, Power, Works and Housing, Transportation, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ministers of Mines and Steel and Science Technology, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor.

The council will also have a technical committee whose members are Dr. Yemi Dipeolu, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, Mr. Waheed Olagunju, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, Ms. Yewande Sadiku, Dr. Yemi Kale and Dr. Ayo Teriba.
The council’s secretariat shall be headed by a project coordinator from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, with support from a leading firm to drive implementation.
The secretariat will propose and develop the agenda items for the council’s deliberations and identify the necessary resources required to support its deliberations.

It will also synthesise the output from deliberations and conduct research, where necessary, to affirm proposals and produce reports and statements, as well as coordinate the council’s interaction with public and private sector entities.
The broad terms of reference of the council is to provide input to the formulation of sectoral and industrial policy, and government interventions aimed at enhancing the performance of the Nigerian industrial sector.

In addition, the council will provide feedback on government policies and programmes that affect the industrial sector; make recommendations, propose initiatives and bring perspectives that promote competitiveness and growth of the Nigerian industrial sector.
It will also make inputs to Nigeria’s trade negotiations and agreements with a view to ensuring that the view of industry and industrialisation targets are taken into cognisance.
It is to also periodically review performance, trends and issues within the industrial sector, with a view to proposing interventions to enable investments and competitiveness.

Other terms of reference include proposing targets for national industrial output and investments across major industrial sectors; tracking the progress made on specific public and private sector initiatives aimed at transforming the industrial sector and meeting its industrialisation targets; and serving as ambassadors of the industrial sector and as a platform to facilitate communication on current and emerging issues affecting industry, and ensuring regular interaction between government and stakeholders in the industrial sector.

In his remarks, Enelamah said the advisory council would expand the private sector as the leading driver of the economy, while Dangote said that the terms of reference set by government demonstrated the importance it has placed on interaction with the private sector.
The acting president said that he was excited with the opportunity to turn Nigeria’s industrial fortunes around, adding that Nigeria would not emerge as an industrial force without setting out a clear and deliberate industrial policy.

He said with the assemblage of the team on the council, it was unlikely that Nigeria would ever get it right if the council failed to fly.
He was of the view that business should be left in the hands of the private sector, because government lacks the motivation and ability to run businesses and deliver on industrial objectives.

Osinbajo said that though Nigeria is blessed with an incredible amount of talent, it was yet to achieve its goals.
He said if the perennial issue of electricity is tackled, 40 per cent of the problem of industrialisation would be solved.
Also, Osinbajo Tuesday signed into law two bills passed by the National Assembly that will ultimately facilitate access to affordable credit for Nigerians.

The new laws are the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act (otherwise known as the Collateral Registry Act) and the Credit Reporting Act.
The Collateral Registry Act would ensure that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria can register their movable assets such as motor vehicles, equipment and accounts receivable in the National Collateral Registry, and use same as collateral for accessing loans.

This in turn will improve their chances of accessing loans and tackle one of the major obstacles faced by small businesses in the country.
The Credit Reporting Act provides for credit information sharing between credit bureaus and lenders, as well as other institutions that provide services on credit such as telecommunication companies and retailers.

A Credit Bureau is a company that collects information relating to the credit ratings of individuals and makes it available to financial institutions that need such information to determine an individual’s credit-worthiness and whether or not to grant loan applications to such individuals.

Access to credit is critical to economic growth and is considered to be the motor for driving private sector development.
However, in Nigeria, more than 70 per cent of companies, typically MSMEs, have limited or no access to credit.
Credit applications usually get rejected due to insufficient credit history, and information for the lender to use to make a reasonable judgment, as well as unacceptable collateral.
The passage of the Acts would facilitate the achievement of the goals of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) set up by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2016 and chaired by Osinbajo to progressively make Nigeria an easier place for businesses to start and thrive.