By Barnabas Esiet.
Industrial growth is essential for the economic advancement of any country, consequently, advanced countries invest a lot of resources in promoting policies that help diversify the resource base of their economies and facilitate rapid industrialization.
In Nigeria, The Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment is saddled with the responsibility of formulating and implementing policies to stimulate the growth of industry, trade and investment, with special emphasis on increased production and export of goods and services.
Over the years, however, Nigerians have witnessed the systemic collapse of the industrial sector as many companies have closed shop and the supervisory Ministry seems overwhelmed.
Experts say the Ministry should be leading the promotion of government’s policies of; Ease of Doing Business, job creation, poverty eradication and industrialization.
The non-implementation of these strategic policies and programs, including – Standardization of bilateral trade agreements, stimulating growth of domestic Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and lack of roadmap for Nigeria’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs), are some of the challenges of the ministry under the new minister.
Despite efforts by some institutions, such as the central bank of Nigeria, to salvage MSMEs in the country through specialized lending, the situation has prevailed.
Ikpong Umoh is the former Chairman of the Cosmetics and Toiletries Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer of Stellarchem Nigeria Limited’
He is disturbed that smaller businesses that have had to improvise under the harsh environment are not supported by the Ministry except for the multinationals that are benefiting from the situation and are being protected by government.
“The Ministry is not making any effort to ensure that even the loans proportionally made available to small businesses by the apex bank go right down to the targeted beneficiaries” Umoh said.
Nerus Ekezie is a former development Banker and Director, Association of SME, currently the Principal Partner at BusinessGrowth Champions and also doubles as the Ag. Executive Director IoD center for Corporate Governance, Nigeria, he believes the Ministry should be more proactive in matters affecting the growth of MSMEs.
Ag. Executive Director IoD center for Corporate Governance,Nerus Ekezie
“The ministry is supposed to be the public sector engine room of SMEs, we have seen past ministers in that ministry initiated some policies aimed at boosting the performance of SMEs in Nigeria” Ekezie noted.
The ministry under the leadership of, Adeniyi Adebayo, in the past one year appears to have lost focus as its functions seem to have been taken over by other Ministries and agencies of government.
Responding to Newsshelve inquiries about programs implemented so far by the Ministry, the Media Assistant to the Minister, Julius Toba-Jegede, quoted the Minister of Special Duties, George Akume, who is coordinating presidential initiatives and projects.
“The ministry in collaboration with the ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, is supporting Nigerians to turn waste to wealth through plastic bottle initiative.” Toba-Jegede quoted Akume.
“There is no line of demarcation between the functions of the Senior Minister and that of the Minister of State.’ He said.
According to Umoh, the Minister has allowed the Ministry to be overshadowed in the scheme of things relating to the industry.
Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer of Stellarchem Nigeria Limited, Ikpong Umoh.
In his words “The ministry of trade is in an elevated position to properly advise the FG on issues bothering the industry but that has not been so.”
“We haven’t really felt the effect of the ministry being there, nothing appears to be working, the economy is in shambles, the industry is comatose.” He added.
When in 2007, the then Commerce and Industry Minister, Charles Ugwuh, introduced the Cluster Concept to drive industrialization in Nigeria; many believe he came close to actualizing the dreams of many stakeholders in the sector.
Ugwuh then collaborated with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in commissioning the Common Facility Centre (CFC) for shoe manufacturers in Aba, Abia State, on May 9, 2008.
Former Minister of Industry, Charles Ugwuh.
The CFC, with a projected production output of about N1.6 billion-worth of leather products by January 2009, was expected to boost Nigeria-made shoes to meet international standards and provide common facility with requisite modern machines needed for the production of shoes and leather products.
Industry analysts believe this was the first bold step by the ministry to actualize the Federal Government’s industrial strategy anchored on the cluster concept.
Successive ministers after Ugwuh have however, failed to continue with the laudable project expected to have industrialized the country and reduce unemployment.
Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo
Going forward, experts suggest the Ministry should assume a leadership position on issues relating to MSMEs and growth of the industrial sector.
According to Ekezie, the Minister of Industry trade and Investment should lead other institutions saddled with SMEs development in Nigeria- SMEDAN , CBN, Ministry of Finance, Organized Private Sector etc.- to a stakeholders meeting where past policies that had not been implemented over the years can be reviewed.
“The stakeholders should fine-tune all past policies, draws up a strategy on how to implement the most urgent ones that can re-invigorate the SME sector and have immediate positive impact on the economy and wellbeing of the populace.“ He noted.