A productive economy is one that is based on solid manufacturing. A well planned industrial policy enables nations to focus on areas they have a comparative advantage and develop the value chain along that line. Nigeria has not had a comprehensive industrial policy. In fact, in several aspects, the nation in its quest for development has no sectoral policy direction.
In the energy sector, there is no comprehensive energy policy to guide the nation on where investments are needed in line with industrial development. That is why today there is no sufficient power supply even to areas where there is concentration of industries. It is the same reason that a successive government usually dumps the predecessor’s economic policy. This is why there is no continuity in economic policy in the country. In the past, government went into heavy industries for the sake of it without stating its goals, programmes, the needs the industries were to meet and their linkage effects.
The various iron and steel complexes that were built during the military era are now a burden to the country. Nigeria instead of promoting light industries went into import substitution that required importation of basic raw materials. Nigeria’s policymakers without a clear head, imposed the Structural Adjustment Programme on Nigerians with emphasis on trade liberalisation. Nigeria, they knew had a weak production base, yet they embraced trade liberalisation when Nigeria had little to sell. The gate was wide open to all manner of goods. Asians and others found their way in with their cheap and inferior products and the rest is history. With high level of dumping of products into the Nigerian market, the few existing manufacturing companies started folding up and today, Nigeria stands the risk of de-industrialisation.
Nigeria’s once vibrant textile industry was the first victim. Many operators in the sector relocated their manufacturing plants, some to Ghana and others exported their machineries back to India. The process of de-industrialising Nigeria started to take root. It is shameful that after 53 years of independence, Nigeria has no comprehensive industrial, energy or manufacturing policy. It is equally a shame that Nigeria is exporting raw materials and importing same back in finished products at higher price level. Why then are Nigerians complaining of rising poverty and unemployment? Nigeria has no say in the price of the primary commodity it exports to other countries. The prices are determined at the international commodity market but the prices of manufactured products are determined by the manufacturers. Is it not a shame to Nigerian leaders at whatever level, that 53 years after independence, Nigeria is an exporter of crude oil and importer of finished petroleum products? Is it not shameful that Nigeria still exports raw cocoa and imports chocolate?
Is it not shameful that Nigeria sells raw cotton and imports clothing? Worse still, Nigeria imports tooth picks when there is a lot of bamboo in our forests. The hall mark of Nigeria’s economy is personal programme of whoever comes to power. In the last 14 years of civilian rule, we have had one economic policy after another. First it was President Olusegun Obasanjo who introduced the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy. It was well articulated and Nigerians bought into it. As soon as Obasanjo left office and Umaru Yar’Adua came into power, the NEEDS document was dumped and Nigerians were inundated with Seven-point agenda not minding that both presidents are from the same party – PDP. As if that was not bad enough, when Yar’Adua passed on, and President Goodluck Jonathan took over the saddle, though part of the Yar’Adua government, he dumped the Seven-point agenda only to come up with his Transformation agenda. In all of these, no national economic programme that has a legal backing that no single individual can throw off.
Nigeria needs a long-term industrial policy that no government that comes to power will change overnight. It is the personalization of economic policies in Nigeria that has given rise to the high level of poverty in the country as many leaders are directing the economy as their spirit leads.
This is unfortunate but must stop. If Nigeria is to progress, value added production with priority on local content must be encouraged as a matter of policy and strategy. Any industry that is to be set up that has low local content should not be allowed. This is where an industrial policy is urgently needed. The National Assembly must rise to the occasion by putting the economy above political leanings and give the nation national industrial policy that every president can be held by.