Since the beginning of the president Muhammadu Buhari administration there have been concerted efforts geared at patronising our home made commodities not only as way of diversifying the economy but also to improving local capacity and increasing revenues for the country. For example, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is giving concessions to local manufacturers when they source foreign currencies required for importation of raw materials. In line with this same spirit senator Ben Murray Bruce although being in the opposition party (PDP) is championing the promotion of locally made products and he is using all available media to do so especially among the Nigerian elites who still look at Nigerian made goods with disdain. On 16 June 2016 the Nigeria Senate passed an amendment to the Public Procurement Act which now compels all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government to patronize local goods and services in all their procurements. In fact, by the provision of the new law, it is only when there is no local alternative that MDAs can resort to foreign products. This is a step further in promoting made in Nigeria products.
It is no surprise the just concluded Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG 2016) conference held in Abuja in October had its theme as:” Made in Nigeria”. All speakers at the conference including Minister, Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma Udo, disclosed that the Nigerian Economic Summit has become the largest and foremost annual convergence for public and private sector policy makers and industry leaders in Nigeria. Udoma assured that the Nigerian Economic Summit will encourage more production and consumption of made in Nigeria goods and services. “We believe that with more patronage Nigerian producers will be encouraged to improve the quality of their products. As the quality of our goods and services improve, international demand for them will increase. There is no doubt that the fastest route to grow our economy and to create jobs for our teeming population is by pursuing export led growth. Export led growth will add to our foreign reserves and stabilize the Naira” he concluded. All participants agreed that the way forward for us as a country in this period of dwindling petrodollars and economic recession was to look inwards and patronize our home grown industries.
However, the current hype about promoting Made-In-Nigeria goods is the third attempt in our living memory. It invariably occurs when we run out of petrodollars accumulated during years of oil boom in our external reserves, only to abandon it once crude oil prices start rising again. In 1978, the General Olusegun Obasanjo regime introduced a package of economic reforms termed ‘Austerity Measures’. For the first time since the end of the Civil War, we took a $2.8 billion foreign loan, which the technocrats of those days assured Nigerians would be easily repaid. Not much is known of how the loan was spent to improve Nigeria’s economic situation. The scale of our foreign indebtedness eventually rose to over $30 billion, which was liquidated through a debt buy-back. In 1978, the Austerity Measures were anchored on the BUY MADE IN NIGERIA GOODS platform. Obasanjo personally led the campaign. All tiers and Departments of government were compelled to buy their cars from Peugeot Automobile of Nigeria (PAN) or Volkswagen of Nigeria (VoN). The idea was to drastically reduce the flow of dollars abroad. Imported goods which could be sourced in the country were also placed on the Federal Government’s prohibition list. The Head of State got his ministers and advisers to start wearing Nigerian attire to the office – except serving military officers. Also the menu at Dodan Barracks, the seat of power then became heavy with Nigerian dishes – except when banquets were held for foreign visitors. That policy ended with the Obasanjo military regime. With the return to civil rule in 1979 “Shagari Benz” quickly replaced the Peugeot 504 of the military regime. The politicians allowed importation of brocades and designer suits. Champagne became readily available, all because the price of crude oil took a temporary upswing. Nobody in Shehu Shagari’s government wanted any part of the “hardships” of buying Nigerian goods. The leaders sabotaged the effort; the people followed their lead. The campaign was forgotten in less than two years after Obasanjo, and local industries started dying one after the other. Now that we are in another recession, the campaign is up again. Nigeria has all the basic requirements to grow our economy and create millions of jobs if we collectively embrace the Made-In-Nigeria project. The country needs an exemplary leadership with a priority list and patriotic citizenry, not empty rhetoric. Nigeria must go into massive production of certain foods, clothes, selected drugs and other consumable items which we can easily handle, and ban the importation of same. We must emphasise quality in Made-In-Nigeria products. This will make Nigerians prefer their own products to foreign-made goods. Experience from our entertainment industry where Nigerians prefer Nigerian music, movies and comedy speaks volumes about what can happen if we are serious about the Made-In-Nigeria campaign and this is what the Buhari administration is up to this time around.
Just last week the Nigerian army took a lead by placing an order of 50,000 locally made military boots from Aba for men in its rank and file and this feat has received praises from all quarters as this was a good example from a leading and credible institution in the country. The Senate president commenting on this laudable feat exhibited by the army had assured that other arms of the military and Para-military forces like the Air Force, Navy, Police, Civil Defence corps and the National Youth Service Corps will soon follow this laudable move. Once again we are back to the drawing board trying to find a solution to the poor dollar earnings by looking inwards towards our locally manufactured goods and services. Imagine all the Forces patronizing our locally manufactured boots only. One could imagine what will become of our economy if same patronage is extended to other sectors like agriculture, hospitality, automobile, furniture to mention a few.
Now that the government is at the forefront of promoting our locally manufactured products it will be very impactful if the teeming number of consumers available in the country patronize these commodities. The patronage of made in Nigeria goods is still poor even when the quality of such materials measure up to international standards. A case in hand is that of a young Nigerian lawyer who was called to bar in Lagos a while ago. He ordered his suits from the UK for the occasion while his friends bought theirs locally. When the suits arrived, on comparing with those of his friends which were made in Aba, Nigeria. They realized all had the same labels and the sewing and patterns were same. On further investigation they found out much to their astonishment that the suits were all sewn in Aba and was exported to the UK through some agents in Lagos. With our population inching close to 200 million if we can have deep and sincere believe in our locally made goods and sustain their continued production by our patronage we might as well be kissing recession and poverty goodbye as a nation irrespective of the dwindling earnings from the oil sector. It will also be a guaranteed means of job creation for our unemployed youths which is a major concern for all stakeholders in the country at this point in time in our national lives.
By Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah