Nigeria’s harsh business environment

Each time I hear government saying “buy made in Nigeria goods, buy made in Nigeria goods” I ask, which made in Nigeria goods?

The government should know that under its harsh backward economic policies, there is no way industries can thrive in the country. Nigerians produce nothing at profit except plastics and satchet water. The government is against industry, against manufacturing and against SMEs.
To further buttress my point, let me put things in proper perspective.

The first is to look at the power sector. With electricity generations below 5000MW, Nigeria can never develop. World Bank said Lagos alone needs 19,000MW of electricity to sustain growth. According to South Africa’s Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, the country generates 58,095 megawatts of electricity. And this is a country with smaller economy than ours. If South Africa uses 58,000MW of electricity, we should ideally use 90,000MW. But that is not the only problem. In Nigeria, companies are being billed by power sharks to a point that they operate at a loss. Most of them are closing shops because they cannot afford the electricity bills. So because of electricity problem, Nigeria is an impossible place to manufacture goods.

The next is the seaports. No country has Nigeria’s chaotic seaports administration in the world. The huge size of its imports makes matters even worse. But it is not the volume of goods to be cleared that makes the ports such monumental disasters but the kind of corruption that exists among officials. A normal seaport will have only customs officials in charge of clearing goods. But Nigeria has Customs, Immigration, police, NSCDC, DSS, quarantine, NAPTIP, fire brigade and NPA. All are there to collect bribes and in the process delay clearing process for as long as possible. No country develops without effective ports administration.

Again, movement of capital. After going through nightmare to clear their goods, taking them to their destination is another journey through hell. The armed robbers and kidnappers are doing their own. The police and Customs have road blocks everywhere looking for trailers carrying goods. The local governments and VIOs are also doing their own. All are out to collect bribes and can hold trucks for days. This is not how to grow industries. The federal government is fully aware of these corrupt officials but pretends all is well, advocating buy Nigerian made.

Talking about multiple taxation. Nigerian SMEs and heavy industries pay all manner of taxes levied by FG,state governments and locals governments. A company can pay more than 10 different types of taxes with defaults leading to outright closures. Ideally, the federal government should tax industries and share the proceeds with states.

Another area that will keep Nigeria down is the insecurity that envelopes the whole country. This is the biggest problem. Any industry sited in the country is fair game to bandits and kidnappers. Like farmers, most factories are abandoned due to insecurity. Unless government restores security of lives and property, Nigeria will never develop its industries.

Finally, instability of Naira. No investor will invest in an economy with unstable currency exchange. Today Naira is this value and tomorrow it dips down to another value. It distorts planning and makes business forecast impossible.

These are few areas the government can look into if it wants to see goods made in Nigeria. It is when we start seeing Nigerian goods that we will start talking about quality and how to meet international standard for export and domestic market. Nigerians are enterprising, they only need the government to create the environment for them to key into production.

Hafsat Aliyu Nuhu,