A flourishing and sustainable industrial sector certainly remains a key factor for the accomplishment of economic growth in any potentially great economy as Nigeria’s. Yet, the reverse seems to be the case in the country as of now.
Unfortunately, following the increasing depreciation in basic social infrastructure, effects of long years of military misadventure in civil governance with its attendant anti-development and adverse economic policies, near absolute neglect of Agriculture and allied businesses, limited access to credit to create and manage both existing and new cottage industries, and the era of oil boom that brought huge receipts, have all heralded the untold neglect of the industrial sector of the nation’s economy.
Other critical factors responsible this obvious neglect include lack of capacity-building cum requisite know-how in major industrial concerns and infant industries to sustain operations, negative effects of open market under the guise of globalisation, and the high cost of production across the country. This vital sector of the country’s economy, thus, has remained unattractive to many in respect of investments over time. Hence, it has almost grounded completely, at least going by the rate at which manufacturing firms and businesses close shop across the length and breadth of Nigeria today.
To worsen the apparently discouraging development in the sector, some who had attempted to brave odds and tried to do something eventually collapsed under the yoke of especially irregular power supply to maintain operations. Such firms had been forced to lay off their staff unceremoniously. Others have hurriedly relocated to neighbouring African countries, particularly Ghana, The Gambia, Cote d’Voire and Kenya, upon realising that they could not continue in business in this business clime.
It’s no wonder then, that Nigeria is derisively described as a “perpetual consumer nation”. Why? This is simply because of the fact that the successive administrations have failed to provide the right leadership by building the needed, supportive infrastructure that could enhance the growth and fortune of the industrial sector.
It’s, indeed, shameful and disturbing to realise that in the country today, all manner of goods and products -fake, counterfeit, expired, or original- are being imported into the country mindlessly. These range from heavy-duty equipment, household, clothing food items, beverages to even toothpicks! The “buy-and-sell” economic model is quite bothersome.
Consequently, the inability of many Nigerians to start and run thriving businesses as desired, has resulted in increased poverty, fallen incomes and devalued standard of living among millions of Nigerians, while incapacitating such ones from creating rewarding job opportunities for the teeming, unemployed graduates being churned out from the nation’s institutions of higher learning every year.
Another major disturbing consequence of a lack of concrete efforts at industrialising the economy is the deliberate stifling of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Recent research has revealed that scores of former fashion designers, electricians, business centre operators, photographers, masons, panel-beaters, iron door and window construction engineers and other artisans have abandoned their trades to look elsewhere for survival, just because of perpetual power failure in their business locations.
All this, again, has caused the country a great setback in respect of capacity-building and development in critical facets of the national economy, as many skilled people that are ready to create opportunities for wealth creation cannot even ply their trades any longer.
Just as the Lagos State Government is aggressively intensifying efforts at rehabilitating key social infrastructure across the metropolis to enhance more conducive business climate for Lagosians to create wealth and contribute meaningfully to the nation’s economy, the Federal Government must take a cue from this by making huge investments in building new and functional infrastructure, including steady power supply, motorable roads and functional railway transport system, at least for its reported N50billion recently dedicated to “job creation” not to go down the drain.
In promoting indigenous technologies as the backbone of any real industrialisation, Government must re-activate the prostrate and highly beleaguered Ajaokuta Steel Company, in Kogi State, and other foundries to cast simple equipment and tools to promote industrialisation through SMEs.
Since most of the managers of the troubled Microfinance Banking (MFB) system, a concept originally conceived to augment the fortune of the SME sector players, have failed woefully due to mismanagement and undue profligacy, the Government right away, ought to step in by providing many of these overstressed SMEs financial lifeline and other incentives for them thrive and create abundant wealth-creating opportunities in the private sector.
As Prof. Ango Abdullahi, ex-Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, rightly pointed out in Kaduna recently, unless the Nigerian leaders redouble their efforts at industrialising the country, given the nation’s vast potential to advance, the much-desired development will continue to elude it.
The Nigerian industries supposedly, utilise foreign technologies 100 percent; the leadership then, should re-evaluate the central role of the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), said to have been in existence for over 30 years now. It’s arguable if there is any marked improvement being recorded in promoting industrialisation and indigenous technologies through this body.
All the stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise must realise that industrial development in any country offers the brightest hope for continual growth, employment generation, enhanced savings, investments and economic development.
It should be stressed that industrialisation determines the separating line between economically developed nations, popularly called “G8” and other countries of the world. Merely expending the Crude Oil money, oftentimes recklessly, and engaging in these chiefly “buy-and-sell” economic activities will not take Nigeria anywhere in today’s globalised economy.