Bioku Abdulrahman is a pharmacist, and chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Kwara/Kogi States branch and CEO Bioraj Pharmaceuticals Limited in Ilorin. In this interview with Sikirat Shehu, he spoke on issues bothering industrialists in both states and the country at large. He also discussed how industrialists are surviving depressed economy while some have folded up. Excerpts:
How have you been managing your association since you assumed office?
It has been very tedious since I took the mantle of power in the last two years ago but thank God we are able to weather the storm. As chairman of MAN, we have lots of issues to resolve, like government unfavorable policies to work against, and ensure that the issue of ease of doing business is entrenched; so far so good, we have been able to cope – managing the two States.
What are the challenges confronting MAN?
We have many challenges but one major problem we have in this country is energy. For any developed nation when you check history the first thing they tackle is energy, electricity is the main thing and for quite a long time, the country is still battling with energy problem, coupled with the fact that now there is deregulation, removing subsidy on petrol, diesel and even gas. So, the companies are now struggling because of high cost of running their businesses.
Many companies are now functioning as a municipal of their own – provide their electricity, provide their own water and provide their own road which is not good for investment so, by the time you factor all these together the cost input is so high that you cannot compete with companies from other countries.
Another challenge is infrastructure, bad roads. Any time our company vehicle travels out of Ilorin to other places, when they come you spend a lot of money on the vehicles. It is a very serious challenge.
Third challenge is taxation. We have been complaining all along about multiple taxation, we have multiple levies and charges from government at different levels and agencies. Most of these agencies are duplicated they have duplicated function yet, they still collect money from companies separately. In developed countries most often when these charges and levies are done they are normally deduct from your Company Income Tax (CIT) but here in Nigeria it is not done that way, you are on your own.
So, local government will come and charge you, for levies – state government will introduce their own level – so many charges that are not known to the constitution even federal. Take for instance, road tax. If you collect road tax from Kwara State here today and your vehicle get to Ogun State they want to collect their own whereas, the has a joint sticker that once you collect from any state covers other states and by the time you know it they will just stop your vehicle, destroy your vehicle, they behave like taut so these are issues we have been engaging government with and no matter how much government make effort, to bring in investors if these problems are not resolved no investors will stay.
How do you want these challenges tackled?
Our sad reality today is that many industrial establishments have gone under, while the few ones still struggling to operate require monumental support from the Government at this difficult time.
As we endure the bitter pains of Subsidy removal, these are our urgent recommendations to the Government: Government should work on electricity. A Gas-Powered Energy Distribution Plant supplying power exclusively to Industries is needed in Kwara State.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should give directives to DMBs (Commercial Banks) to reduce interest rates on Industrial Loans. Also, the CBN should, as a matter of public emergency, widen the window of Foreign Exchange (FX) to Local Industries.
The Interest rates charged on Industrial Loans and other Loans released as COVID-19 palliatives should be significantly reduced further to 1percent.
The Bank of Industry (BOI) should approve and urgently roll out further reductions in the Bank’s lending rates to Industries.
What are the prospects?
Very gloomy. Things are becoming more and more difficult. We have been talking of road, energy and the rest now foreign exchange – FX is another issue. From what we used to, from N150 to 195 to N330 to N430 now N1000 that is so difficult for company to get from official quarters unless government address these issues there will be no serious prospect and for any nation to develop; manufacturing should be the focus because if you consume what you don’t produce you have what we call negative balance of trade but if you produce what you consume and even export more you have a favourable balance of trade.
But the situation we have in ground now is a serious negative balance of trade and it is ruining down this and affecting it. So government should focus more on manufacturing, made manufacturing venture something that will attract people to come and invest, by the time you have a lot of people to invest, Nigeria have a big advantage because of population. There nothing you will do and you will not sell, there is big population but what government needs to go is to take issue of infrastructure serious the company will grow.
Your message to Nigerians on patronising locally produced products?
As manufacturer, I want to assure Nigerians that goods produced locally are of high quality and cheaper. It is easy for you to locate where the products are being produced unlike products from China. It is better to value our things. When we patronise local industries; you will employ more people and government will get more tax but if you patronise foreign goods you are exporting labour, you are paying for their progress.
Nigeria goods are of high quality and standards so, people should please patronise indigenous manufacturers.
This administration under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu created new ministries such as blue, green and digital economy. What is your opinion on this?
It is a good step, but I think the problem is not about creating additional ministries, the problem is working the talk. Governor in and out has not been working the talk, when we come up with beautiful ideas – beautiful policies I want to do this and that but at the end; you have nothing to show for it. So, creating more ministries if it is for administrative purposes fine, but walking the talk is more important. Let him be pragmatic, he should go to the basis, allow the ministers to work and function, any minister that doesn’t function let him show him the way out. If somebody is in charge of electricity generation for instance you give him target for instance, at the end of first year you must do this – second year, at the end of the year you take the measure and if he doesn’t meet up you put another person, so, anybody that comes in will know that you have to sit up.
I see no reason why someone is sitting as a minister for four, five, eight years not achieving anything and you are still keeping him or her; you can’t have any positive result.