Since the ascension of President Buhari to power, oil prices have taken hits-it currently hovers around $30 per barrel- which have sent mono-economic oil revenue-dependent nations into recessions. Nigeria unfortunately, happens to be one of these nations. The Nation will be borrowing $5 billion dollars per day to fund the 2016 budget deficit. The line items section of the capital expenditure of the budget leaves much to be desired about the budget, but that is a story best told by Sataah Nubari.
Nigeria’s foreign earnings will likely come from oil exports, commodities export and finished goods in the foreseeable future. So it is either we wait for oil prices to rebound or for the about to be acquired 800 million Naira IT equipment upgrade at Fayemi’s Ministry of solid minerals to work real good, or we walk the talk of Industrialisation in order to rake in more money, “charge up” and start ”balling once more.”
The last is our best choice to make. The commodities’ market is as volatile as the crude oil market though without possibilities of acute gradients like the oil market. Mere export of raw materials has often left the exporters more impoverished; the exported raw materials are often refined abroad and re-imported at exorbitant rates, leading to loss of foreign exchange and jobs for the commodities exporters.
The industrial age began in earnest in the 18th century culminating in the information age we are in, however Nigeria has been left behind due to a death of visionary leaders. Since independence, we have repeatedly failed woefully at solving simple problems like manufacturing steel, stable electricity supply, transportation and many more. The governments of Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida, and Olusegun Obasanjo will take the most knocks for those since they stayed longest in power and so had ample time to formulate sustainable policies for those sectors.
An Industrialisation policy should be developed by the government and enacted into law through urgent legislative reforms by the National Assembly to focus on: steel development, stable electrical power supply, railways, seaports, technical education and lack of access to capital by smart manufacturing entrepreneurs. Let’s take a look at the sectors the policy should focus on.
STEEL: The European renaissance was predicated on the easy availability of steel purveyed by cost effective methods of producing steel like the Bessemer process and the later Open Hearth process, which we are still grappling with at Ajao Kuta. Fellow countrymen, no matter the challenges, completing the Ajao Kuta Steel Company, is our first milestone on the road to Industrialisation, our sole pass into the league of Industrial nations. Industrialisation begins when a nation produces more steel than domestically consumed.
ELECTRICITY: While the steam engine heralded the first industrial revolution, Steel making and the discovery of Electricity by Michael Faraday were the purveyor of the second industrial revolution. No meaningful economic activity can occur without sustainable, fairly priced, and readily available electrical power; hence, fixing our power sector no matter the odd, is another must and another first on our journey to industrialisation. The flared gas in the Niger Delta, Coal in Enugu and our water resources has enough potential to solve this quagmire.
RAILWAYS: Another pre-requisite of industrialisation is cheap freight movement across long distances; hence our railways have to be fixed. The administration of railways is under the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) -an inefficient monolith like former NITEL. The NRC should be reformed, unbundled and broken down into two; a railways corporation for construction and management; and railways administration for inspection, safety and regulation. The railways corporation should then be further broken down into smaller bodies through legislative reforms to make it private sector investment friendly.
SEAPORTS: For rapid industrialisation, our seaports must be tailored to easily import raw materials and export the finished goods to different parts of the world. Currently, only Lagos ports are functional, either by chance or design. This is unacceptable. The capacity and operational efficiency of Lagos ports must be optimized by digitizing clearance of goods. Eastern ports must be upgraded from mere jetties to western standard to serve the eastern neck of the country. The Nigerian shippers’ council must fully implement Cargo Tracking Number (CTN) to curb revenue losses due to under declaration of goods.
TECHNICAL EDUCATION: The NYSC sends about 400,000 graduates each year into the labor market, most of who fail to secure jobs. A deeper probe reveals a lack of marketable skills among the graduates, our graduates lack technical abilities, preferring non-coming file pushing white collar jobs to technical jobs. The government should establish properly equipped and manned (perhaps by Asians) technical colleges, at least, one per LGA to develop skilled manpower required triggering industrialization. Also entrepreneurial education should be given eminence in our higher institutions; to buoy the economy we need more job creators than job seekers. The Tertiary tier of education should be reformed to be Industry allied and oriented. Young engineering undergraduates and graduates have designed replicated noble inventions recently, those should be applied in the industry than sit idly in the school workshops. The Corn Sheller I designed and fabricated in MOUA, Umudike has a real life need to meet at the SEEDS programs of the National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike; yet its sitting idly in the Mechanical Workshop like the others designed and fabricated by my peers.
MANUFACTURING GRANTS: A framework should be established where small and medium scale entrepreneurs with inclinations toward metallurgical manufacturing will be given grants and loans as is obtainable in Agriculture or the Youwin scheme of the Goodluck administration. Contracts awarded by the different tiers of Nigerian government to foreign firms MUST have technology transfer clauses like the Indians recently did with the Rafale fighter jets contract with France; which will be built in India with the long term aim of the Indians acquiring and replicating the technology.
This might actually be the year the 2016 AD but failure to address the above issues has effectively ensured Nigeria is actually existing in the 17th-century pre-industrial era; made all the more painful by the fact that the solutions if provided at all, will be provided by expatriates.
Rome wasn’t built in a day so the planning must be long termed and without tendencies to be disrupted by changes in governments; hence, an Industrialization policy must be holistically developed, legislated into law, and embraced as a national doctrine for escaping the valleys of underdevelopment. I don’t believe like Walter Rodney that Europe underdeveloped Africa, we are our own problem. One certainly hopes Udo Udoma is paying attention to these sectors too.