By Franklin Ocheneyi
I believe in the next five to ten years, our industrial landscape will change as many manufacturers will no longer import raw materials but get their raw materials locally.
What is the level of compliance to Executive Order on the patronage of locally made goods?
We have submitted implementation plans to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, and the Presidency. The implementation plans detail how we want the government to be sure that the MDA comply with this order. We believe the compliance by the government can be achieved if they adhere to our recommendations.
Why are locally made products expensive?
Well, every citizen of this country understands the difficult operating conditions under which manufacturers operate; the power is erratic, unstable and equally very expensive when compared to obtainable in other climes. We don’t have good roads and no rail system to move our goods, and raw materials; the cost of funds is highly prohibitive when compared to what is happening in other climes; so ordinarily, our products will be uncompetitive globally.
So, when we say you should buy made in Nigeria products, we know you have to make sacrifices and we want you to see that as a patriotic duty to help grow the economy of your country even when the pricing of locally made products for oblivious reasons might be high than their imported counterpart, especially from Asia, where these goods are produced at the lowest standards. There are a lot of goods that are produced in the country that are of much quality better than the quality of some products from Asia.
A typical example is a cable you use in your house- electric cables. On several occasions, it has been discovered that the qualities of cables from China are inferior. There are so many products like that.
I believe that the attitude of Nigerians towards made in Nigeria products as opposed to foreign products is something that I believe the press has the power to change because a typical Nigerian would say foreign products are of superior quality, and so look down on locally manufactured products. I believe the Nigerian press can change this attitude, but how do we change that attitude? If you zero in on the matter alongside national issues with your pen and microphone, you can change this attitude and make Nigerians favor buying locally produced products. I know you can do it and I count on you.
What’s your take on products counterfeiting?
It is a major issue and the good thing is that the Federal Government recently set up an Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council (IPCAC) headed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. The members are drawn from the manufacturing sector.
One of the recommendations that the Advisory Council made to the government is to set up an Anti-Smuggling & Counterfeiting Task Force.
This Task Force will be composed of members drawn from the public and private sector. The moment this is driven by the Federal Executive Council, the problem of smuggling and counterfeiting will be curbed. One of the provisions in our recommendations is that if a person is caught selling, dealing in fake products, he /she will be equally culpable with the person importing it.
The Task Force will arrest the person who is selling it, importing it and tell them how they got into the business; the person who is buying it will also be prosecuted.
I believe the enforcement will change the face of products counterfeiting in the country. So I encourage Nigerians to patronize locally made products even though the prices may be high and see it as a patriotic duty to your country.
Patronizing imported products are creating jobs in those countries, but in our country, we are creating unemployment. If you want your brothers and sisters to get a job patronize made-in Nigeria products. If one produces pen in the country and it is selling in the market, unscrupulous Nigeria will pick up the pen, take it to China, reproduce at a lower grade and bring it back to Nigeria and sell it at half a price of the original one. They will write your name if it is a NAFDAC control product, they will put your NAFDAC number on it and the consumer that buys it will say “Oh, Nigerian products are of poor quality”.
What’s your take on Nigeria’s industrial policy and when would we see an end to the importation of raw materials?
We started our industrialisation policy on a faulty note. There is something faulty about our industrialisation policy in this country, and we can trace it back to the colonial days when the colonial masters thought that everything in Nigeria, Africa was inferior. They made us believe that whatever comes from their place is the best. For instance, in Nigeria, our people were producing black soap but what did the white ma do? He came here, took our palm oil, our palm kernel oil and took it over there and produced tablet soap that is white and said ‘this is a better soap. What did we do? We threw away our own black-soap which is medicinal soap because we agreed with the white man said.
Similarly, the bark of a tree is what we used for malaria medicine. They came here, took it, and got the active ingredients into a tablet. So in the Whiteman’s era, our manufacturing industries were importing most of their raw materials. We started up our industrialisation policy by importing semi-finished goods and package them here.
Most of the industries 30 years ago were all packaging industries; everything they produced was packaged; it’s only now we are beginning to see a paradigm shift.
Today, we are talking about resourced –based industrialisation where you produce all the products you need from the abundant raw materials you have in this country.
And many of our members are into this programme. Many of them are beginning to look inward for their raw materials, develop their raw materials and even though they are not of the same quality, we want but they have to be encouraged to look inward.
I believe in the next five to ten years, our industrial landscape will change as many manufacturers will no longer import raw materials but get their raw materials locally. Now, we are working with ourselves by patronizing such that when a big industry sees a small-scale industry that cannot meet its raw materials needs, what our members do today is to help one another out and support themselves to grow so that they can produce their own raw materials locally. This is the way we are trying to ensure the issue of importation of raw materials will be reduced.
At present, statistics show that it is coming down with the restriction on 41 items by Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. When the policy was introduced two years ago, we opposed it as MAN only to an extent. Our position was that for those items that cannot be obtained locally, we said that CBN should take them out of the list of 41 items; otherwise, the rest of the items should be there because we want our people to look inward. When you break down the 41 items into Harmonised System Code (HSC) it will give you 680 HSCs items. Of this, only 95 of the items are not locally available and those are the ones we want them to remove from the list.
Thanks, CBN; they recently heeded to our request and removed 36; still left with 59. At least, we are happy that they have removed some off the list and put them into the official foreign exchange market. So, we are doing something really to encourage our members to look inward to get their raw materials.
What does it take to be a MAN member?
For you to be registered as a MAN member, one of our cardinal rules is that your products must conform to the required standards and these products are usually regulated by Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON; and National Food for Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC. The product must be dully registered with one or two of the organizations as the case may be; so, for you to be a member of MAN; your product must meet both local and international quality requirements.