Wanted – Lifeline for Local Industries

Frequent tyre buyers would have noticed the return to the Nigerian market of a popular brand whose manufacturers, pleading harsh environment, wound up their operations in the country and moved to another West African country some years ago. Although that tyre manufacturing company has not resuscitated its operations in Nigeria, it is nevertheless aggressively marketing its tyre in the country where a huge, thriving market exists for the brand. The company is keeping up its share of the Nigerian tyre sub-sector with regular supply of the product from its new base.

Indeed, the ultra-patriotic might want Nigeria to ban the importation of that particular tyre from the Nigerian market because its manufacturers jumped ship as our country’s operating environment took a turn for the worse. That, however, will only amount to mere patriotic fervour unanchored on the hard facts and operational realities upon which the corporate world hinges its decisions. To entrepreneurs and business people, however, there is no column for emotion on the balance sheet.

Aware of the increasingly stifling climate under which businesses, big and small, operate in the country, we plead reprieve for them from the authorities. Very few goods, if any, manufactured in Nigeria under the current crippling industrial climate can compete favourably with others anywhere else in the world because of our sky-high cost of production. In addition to this onerous burden, the three tiers of government have lately been turning the screw on all businesses, except their own, through multiple taxations.

It is time to give all businesses in the country a break. This step is urgently needed by local manufacturers, lest they either go the way of the tyre makers cited above or collapse in distress. We need not look further than Nigeria’s lifeless textile industry to realise the dangers the country currently courts with its poor support for local industries. It is the endgame now and the country can no longer afford such colossal loss of any sub-unit of the industrial sector on the same scale as the dead textile industry.

The “transformation agenda” of the current federal government will come to nought without concerted efforts to support local industries on a scale yet unseen in Nigeria. The country needs a “Marshall Plan” in this regard. The first beneficiary should be the textile sector, which had demonstrated its capacity to engage hundreds of thousands in its heyday. By the way, what happened to the N100billion “Textile Intervention Fund” set up by the Goodluck Jonathan government? Gone down the drain as usual? The textile industry remains as dead as dodo.

The “Marshal Plan” we canvass for the country’s industrial sector should be considered immediately. A word of caution though: it must not be seen as a leeway to build up slush funds for the 2015 elections.