The Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council are taking steps to address issues affecting businesses in Nigeria.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, stated this on Friday while speaking with State House correspondents after a meeting of the Council presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Enelamah said Friday’s meeting looked at a number of issues with a view to ensuring uninhibited business operations in the country.
He said: “First, we worked on the whole area of technology and how to deal with issues around MSMEs and financing. We also worked on issues that affect training and providing training particularly in the technology space and the sub-committee working on skills acquisition came up with their proposal which was adopted by the council that we need to provide more training in the technology and related areas to our people to create more jobs.
“There was also a discussion around trading and addressing the issue around smuggling. There was a robust discussion on that on how to make sure we address this problem area. There was also a discussion on what we are doing with the states and state governors.
“Basically, state governors are cooperating with the industrial counsel in those areas of interest. Whether it is in things like land acquisition right of way or multiplicity of taxes and so on so forth.”
Also speaking, Nigerian industrialist, Aliko Dangote, who was at the meeting, said drastic action should be taken against Benin Republic to check smuggling.
“You know we have to attack it from two fronts. One is stopping the Republic of Benin from promoting smuggling into Nigeria and two, to ensure we stop those who are patronizing the goods in the market, that is to stop people from selling smuggled goods.
“This is crippling our economy and not allowing us to create jobs. Is allowing us to create more poverty because some of our business are shutting down. If you are shutting down you are creating more job loss rather than employing more people.
“The drastic action that should be taken is any action that will stop the Republic of Benin encouraging people to come and dump goods into Nigeria.
“There are so many of them; it is to do with textiles, sugar, pasta, vegetable oil, arms, and ammunition. Because the smuggling really has gone out of control and we need to really do something.”
Cement manufacturer and Chairman of the BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu, said the company’s cement factory, inaugurated by Vice President Osinbajo, last week, would create 2000 direct jobs.
Rabiu said production had started in the plant and that it had a capacity to 1.5 million metric tons of cement per annum.
He said: “It is important to note that this is the single largest investment in the whole of Northwestern part of the country and is generating over 2000 direct jobs and so we are very excited and we thank Mr. Vice President for making time to come and commission the plant.
“We are actually very excited because as I keep saying these are the kinds of things we need to do using our local raw materials to develop our economy. So this plant is very unique, the location is very good because of its proximity to the Niger Republic and the Benin Republic which is only about 100 kilometers away from the border and that is going to generate a lot of foreign exchange for the country.
“In terms of the quality, we are able to produce about 55 megapascals of cement and we are going to cater for the catchment area which is Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and all the way to Kano and other areas within the Northwestern part of Nigeria.
He noted that the cement factory is the single largest investment in the Northwestern part of Nigeria.
He said the company was considering exporting between 500,000 to 700,000 tons annually, that is about 30 to 40 percent of the market depending on the season.
“We want to be able to cater for the market locally first before export,” Rabiu said, pointing out that “even though, at about $120 price, it is quite tempting to export most of it.”
He explained that the price of cement in terms of export is higher than in Nigeria but we still believe that it is important for them to cater to the local market first.