Are we really serious about looking inwards to get Nigeria out of the economic recession? How serious are we in achieving the much-touted diversification of the economy? What policies do we have binding all arms and departments of government to ensure that goods that can be manufactured in Nigeria are no longer imported from foreign economies?
Are government departments really adhering to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) 41 prohibited items for the foreign exchange support of their importation? These questions arise in the face of the continued patronage of foreign manufactured goods even by governmental organs when such goods can be cheaply and efficiently procured from our local artisans and manufacturers.
Worthy of particular mention is the reported importation by the military authorities of military gears, including footwear, berets, cardigans, belts, head warmers, and branded stockings from foreign markets worth 4.9 billion Naira or $14.1m (at the exchange rate of N305 per Dollar). These are items that, if sourced from our local markets and factories, would not only boost the economy but also strengthen internal manufacturing capacities while sustaining employment in the clothing and shoe manufacturing sub-sectors.
There are enough manufacturing outfits in Aba, Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and other cities in Nigeria where these items are produced. Why then were these items purchased from markets abroad? It is shocking that those who ordered the importation did not borrow a leaf from the noble example demonstrated by the Nigerian Air Force when on March 30, this year, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company (IVM) for the local production of certain spare parts for the Alpha Jets, which had been grounded due to scarcity of foreign exchange.
That exemplary development made headlines around the world, with CNN describing it as a situation where crisis presented an opportunity in Nigeria. It is obvious that there is no binding policy tying government departments and agencies to patronise locally manufactured goods, the only credible way to diversify the economy and exit the recession. That is why a few agencies are toeing the path of patriotism while the others are still frittering away our scarce foreign exchange importing foreign goods with better local substitutes.
We have, on several occasions, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to launch and lead by example, a major inward-looking campaign with a clearly articulated policy. This will compel compliance across the board. Such a policy should increase the capacity of banks, particularly the Bank of Industry, to help increase the capacity of local manufacturers and give them easy access to financing. With a ready market supported by government policy, the sky will be the limit for indigenous manufacturers. We have not yet shown any serious commitment to diversify this sagging economy beyond mere lip service.