The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, anchored his service upon assumption of office on three pillars: implementation of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP); support for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and support for the digitalisation of the Nigerian economy.
To achieve these pillars, Dr. Enelamah outlined five foundational enablers: Enabling Business Environment (EBE), Special Economic Zones (SEZs), 21st Century Free Trade Agreement; attraction of domestic and foreign investments and institutionalisation of the Structural Reform Agenda (SRA).
About four years down the line, most of his pillars and enablers remain in the realm of dream except for some progress recorded in ease of doing business.
A major project of the ministry, tagged: “Made in Nigeria for Export (MINE)” project, has suffered a huge setback following a controversy around the entity that should implement it.
The Federal Government disclosed that N250bn would be spent for the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) across the country to drive the MINE project and that this would be captured in the budget over some years.
However, a long drawn controversy between the minister and the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) on the actual entity expected to implement the project has caused a major delay as despite budgetary provisions, the project is yet to commence.
The ministry, under Dr. Enelamah, could not push through the obstacles that prevented Nigeria from signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Nigeria spearheaded the negotiations, including heading both the ministerial and technical committees that produced the free trade area pact, but suspended the signing at the eleventh hour.
Under Dr. Enelamah, Nigeria’s trade imbalance with major trading countries has persisted, and in some cases, even widened.
For instance, an analysis of trade statistics has shown that trade relations between China and Nigeria is heavily to the disadvantage of Nigeria.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals that Nigeria recorded N6.83tn worth of trade deficit with China in the last four years.
Between 2015 and 2018, Nigeria imported goods worth N7.65tn from China and exported N818.46bn worth of goods to China, translating into a trade imbalance of N818.46bn.
The trade ministry also failed to rejuvenate the Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) sector of the economy in the last four years.
For instance, four years after the Federal Government approved a national policy on CTG, it is yet to meet any of the targets set in the policy.
In 2015, the Federal Government, through the trade ministry, launched the National Cotton, Textile and Garment Enterprise Policy to stimulate the textile industry.
Despite not meeting any of the targets, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently announced Foreign Exchange (FOREX) ban for textile importers to develop the local textile industry.
The policy, initially aimed at developing the local textile industry, was launched under Olusegun Aganga as the then trade minister four years ago to create an environment to encourage textile production in the country and limit importation.
The policy document, abandoned by Dr. Enelamah, projected savings of $2bn in FOREX through import substitution, increase in the level of direct employment in the sector from the then 24,000 workers to 50,000 workers by the end of 2015 and to 100,000 workers by 2017. These targets have not been achieved even by 2019.
In September, 2018, the ministry’s workers staged a protest to call for the immediate sack of Dr. Enelamah over corruption, poor staff welfare and duplication of the functions of the workers.
The workers, under the aegis of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), alleged that the minister created the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN) based on a false memo to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which is a duplication of the work being done in the ministry, meant to waste resources.
Speaking to journalists during the protest, Chairman of the association in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Comrade Okonkwo Onwuyah, said the action of the minister had “killed” the trade department and rendered commercial and trade officers redundant.
However, the minister has recorded progress in ease of doing business reforms also spearheaded by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).
These reforms led to a reduction of challenges encountered by SMEs and other businesses in areas such as starting a business; access to credit; paying of taxes; enforcing contracts or trading within and across borders; and investor-interest in Nigeria has increased.
Speaking about the strides made by the ministry in transforming the business environment recently, Dr. Enelamah said, through PEBEC, the ministry had made achievements which include the jump in the World Bank’s ranking on the ease of doing business and the removal of several bottlenecks in government processes.
Explaining the reforms carried out in intellectual property registration, Dr. Enelamah said, “The Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan of 2014 promised improved manufacturing capacity and alternative sources of revenue and knowledge-based economy was rightly identified as an area Nigerians can explore.”
This, he said raised the need for the development of the National Intellectual Property Policy for Nigeria which was critical and the need to improve the administration of Industrial Property Rights in Nigeria.
For the first time in 51 years, since the Trademark Act came into force, the acting Registrar of Trademarks issued the annual report on the implementation of the Trademarks Act as stipulated in the act, as well as the publication of the compendium of all opposition rulings in the Registry of Trademarks.
On industrialisation, he said the ministry had aggressively been implementing the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan and that the establishment of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council was yielding results.
The council has made many high-level interventions to address industrial sector issues such as electricity supply, broadband penetration and access roads.
A recent example is the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme (RIDRITCS) under which the private sector has committed to sponsoring the construction and rehabilitation of road projects across the country.
Noting that MSMEs are key to industrialisation and economic growth, he said the ministry had made noticeable improvement in the access to finance for this category of investors.
“In the last four years, there have been sustained efforts to build capacity, increase access to finance and eliminate bottlenecks to conducting business in Nigeria,” he said.
Dr. Enelamah said the ministry had been partnering actively with the private sector for capital to deliver on the country’s vision for a sustainable all-inclusive socio-economic development and that investment promotion capabilities of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) had been strengthened with a focus on proactively targeting and attracting domestic and international investors and investments.
NIPC is also actively providing after-care support for businesses in Nigeria.
On Nigeria’s trade relations, he said the establishment of the Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations had provided for a coordinated and integrated approach to trade policy and enabled the country to correct imbalances in Nigeria’s trade relationships and reverse negotiating failures.
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