Ayoola Efunkoya, Lagos

Dotting the landscape of major Nigerian cities are buildings which once housed factories and plants. These industries produced goods for the country’s teeming population at that time.

They were regarded as the source of hope for the country’s quest to becoming Africa’s agricultural, manufacturing and industrial hub.

From the textile mills and aluminium smelting plants in northern State of Kaduna to the technology imitation centres of Aba in the east; from the agricultural research centres in the West to the industrial estates scattered across the commercial hub of Lagos, flowed out diverse products.

Products such as garments, shoes, household appliances and automobiles were assembled locally to meet the needs and taste of the huge Nigerian population.

In recent time however, the narrative is completely different. Owing to neglect, the factories and industrial plants have been forced to close down over the years, taking away with them jobs and means of livelihood of people once gainfully employed.

This development also eroded the potentials for regional development and economic stability.

Nigeria’s hope of becoming Africa’s major industrial hub simply faded as the country abandoned the harder-but-rewarding task of manufacturing in favour of importation of essential goods.

This is to the extent that Nigeria now spends about two billion Dollars yearly importing rice, wheat, tomato paste, textiles, live animals, sugar and other agricultural products.

Billions of Dollars is also spent yearly on imported beauty items, household appliances and other essential goods that the country has the capacity to produce domestically.

This led to Nigerians’ preference for foreign goods, a craze that has stifled local manufacturing. Coupled with this is the stiff competition from cheap, albeit low quality foreign alternatives, imported or smuggled into the country.

Nigeria neglected the manufacturing, agriculture and other viable sectors in favour of the petroleum industry which is a huge revenue earner.

It was comfortably funding the imports from the huge revenue from oil but without a commensurate earning from exports.

This development led to a steep rise in the cost of domestic production, in the face of a harsh business environment.

The present economic reality of declining earnings from crude oil has awakened the spirit of the Nigerian government to re-focus attention on the previously neglected sectors.

Government is now, more than ever determined to breathe life back into its factories, industries and plants.

For President Muhammadu Buhari, the reversal of the rapid slide in the Nigerian economy calls for its diversification from over reliance on oil.

Accordingly, the government is taking bold steps to encourage domestic production of goods which the country has comparative ability to produce.

It has introduced favourable trade policies, incentives and measures to encourage local manufacturing.

Operators in the real sector are beginning to take advantage of the tax holidays and favourable trade incentives and business environment.

Before, long, the trend of the dominance of imported goods is expected to turn in favour of local production.

In the same vein, the Nigerian government is encouraging its citizens to patronize locally produced goods.

It has launched the “Buy Made in Nigeria’’ campaign to sensitize the citizens, with a view to changing their consumption pattern and orientation from imported items.

The government has intervened to ensure that the goods meet consumers’ expectation for quality and they are worth the value placed on them.

Boosting the citizens’ confidence in the quality of goods and items produced locally, would lead to increase in demands and the factories and industries in Nigeria can again have life breathed into them.

For Nigeria’s plan to enhance local production through increased patronage to be successful, the government needs to improve on the business environment under which manufacturers currently operate.

This calls for improvement in electricity supply and transportation, as well as provision of other infrastructure critical to the emergence and survival of factories, plants and industries.

The business community, especially the small and medium industry operators, need to have greater access to finance, at rates that are reasonably low.

Tax waivers and other business enhancing measures would equally help local producers to thrive and meet local demands and boost export.

The government also needs to move swiftly to protect farmers, manufacturers and other entrepreneurs through deliberate policies, designed to prevent dumping and foster strict adherence to set standards.

Such policies must also focus on assisting local agricultural produce farmers to add value to their output, such that it meets export quality.

Domestic producers must be prevailed upon to produce in line with global standards and best practices. This would boost local patronage and export to other countries.

When the feat is attained, the unemployment rate, which now hovers between eight and twenty three percent, would drastically fall. More Nigerians would be empowered through employment in factories, plants and industries.

Undoubtedly, government’s sustained initiatives for revival and survival of local industries would provide complementary revenue sources, lower unemployment rate and poverty figures and renew the citizens’ national pride in locally produced products.