• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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BusinessDay

Shall we tell the President?

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I have watched, over and over again, and with a bleeding heart, a short video excerpt from Seun Okinbaloye (of Channels Television), which has been making waves on social media. The acclaimed broadcaster delivered, in a very succinct manner, some very hard words, which I found very constructive. This is the sort of constructive engagement that I expect the Fourth Estate of the Realm to contribute to nation-building in this era when it appears that despite all the efforts of our dear, indefatigable President, all that can go wrong is doing just that.

Naysayers are having a field day chronicling and amplifying the falling exchange rate of our nation’s currency in defiance of all the interventions of the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria, the throes upon the populace as a result of the withdrawal of petroleum subsidies, the skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs and other basic essentials, the seemingly unstoppable relocation of manufacturing companies from Nigeria, unemployment statistics that defile all reasoning, the renewed and daring offensive unleashed by bandits, kidnappers, and religious fanatics on helpless and hapless citizens, etc.

Every right-thinking Nigerian should actually be pitying our President, who has now, out of fatigue (my own assumption), had to take a few days off to revitalise in France. In the face of these realities, one would certainly expect the appointees of the president to stand up to be counted.

From my modest experience and interactions with industry stakeholders, just a few little tweaks might just be all that are needed to get things working and set the economy back on the path of sustainable recovery. This article will touch on a few of these short-term solutions.

“The President should call and give target-defined marching orders to the men and women heading the nation’s economic institutions and even ask them to sign a performance bond.”

The author, an advocate of a non-oil export-driven economy, believes that Nigeria’s trade support institutions need to improve. Three months after the appointment of new helmsmen to agencies like the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Investment Promotion Commission, and Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, players in the sector are still waiting to see what these appointees have up their sleeves. Despite the aspiration for a diversified economy, there seems to be little movement forward for non-oil exports.

The author believes that Nigeria’s current situation is desperate and should not condone learning on the job. They suggest that the President should call and give target-defined marching orders to the men and women heading the nation’s economic institutions and even ask them to sign a performance bond.

Read also: Insecurity: Tinubu wants military to evolve new strategy

Nigeria’s current situation is concerning due to the appointment of only one Minister to the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment. These sectors are crucial for the country’s economy, and a full Minister would be ideal. Under previous administrations, there had always been a Minister of State to ensure work was never stopped, and one Minister was always on the ground to address business environment issues.

However, stakeholders report that once the Minister is not on the seat, work stops and files pile up. It takes over six weeks to obtain a simple support letter from the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment, a process that should be routine for the Industry arm of the Ministry. Manufacturers who require this document to process policy incentives like the Import Duty Exemption Certificate (IDEC) have lost hundreds of millions of Naira due to demurrage and hefty duties.

The bureaucratic bottlenecks contradict Nigeria’s progress in the Ease of Doing Business index and hinder the inflow of new investments. The President needs to know this and take necessary action immediately.

Recent impact assessment studies have shown a direct correlation between the Export Expansion Grant and Nigeria’s export performance. The Export Expansion Grant is the only functional one among Nigeria’s eighteen export support incentives under the Export Incentives and Miscellaneous Act. The strategy, developed by Godwin Emefiele, incentivizes exporters to repatriate more export proceeds.

Cote d’Ivoire administers its own variant of the RT 200FX, providing grants every three months as long as exporters repatriate export proceeds. However, Nigerian exporters are still owed grants dating back to 2017 under the EEG scheme. The President should direct the immediate settlement of the backlog, which has been approved by the Federal Executive Council and is forwarded to the National Assembly for appropriation and settlement through Promissory Notes.

It is a well-known fact that Nigeria is not bereft of ideals and policy recommendations, and, with careful and patient dedication, anyone heading a Ministry, Department or Agency in today’s Nigeria can retrieve the very rich “blueprints” that career civil servants have continuously developed over the years, which, if promptly adopted and implemented, can realistically deliver desired results in the very short term. Perhaps it is time we, like Seun, told the President the foregoing truth, reminding him that Nigeria should be in a hurry to revive.

Boyede, is CEO, FemiBoyede Consulting Limited & Convener, Talking Trade and Investment Global, Canada Inc