N49tn Import Bill: Nigeria Looks Inwards for Goods and Services

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The federal government Wednesday said Nigeria had spent a whopping N49 trillion on imports in 17 years, adding that it has resolved to chart a new course for the country by saving N3.6 trillion in five years through the take off of a new innovation plan targeted at Nigeria’s industrialisation.

It also said that there was no cause to worry over President Muhammadu Buhari’s health, adding that he was in safe hands in London where he is receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness.

Rising from its weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House, Abuja, the government said the degree of dependence on foreign products for survival was no longer sustainable in view of the fall in oil prices and the availability of natural resources in different parts of the country.

Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu, said FEC approved a memorandum to alter the status quo and re-direct the country’s priority towards the production and consumption of locally made goods and services.

“We will be saving N3.6 trillion to achieve this in five years. It will require that ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) should work together. All they need will be put in the budget.

“We will be asking for 30 per cent of the amount which will be about N1 trillion over five years. If you take about one-fifth of the N1 trillion which will be N200 billion every year by all the MDAs for five years, we can do it,” he said.

According to Onu, in accordance with the approval of the council memo, the next five years will witness the exploration of existing abundant natural resources in the country for the nation’s industrialisation.

Onu, who said the by-product of the move would be the creation of jobs for the teeming population, disclosed that the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, an agency under his ministry, had conducted extensive research in consultation with other countries, research institutes, tertiary institutions, governments and industries.

He said the research was meant to determine the degree of Nigeria’s dependence on foreign products and also decipher how to put paid to the imports.

“For too long, our nation has been dependent on importation of raw materials and products and this has had very adverse effects on our economy, particularly as it concerns job creation and the search for self-reliance.

“Nigeria is a great nation and we have an abundance of natural resources in our country. It doesn’t make sense that we leave what we have and are importing from outside.

“For example, between 2000 and 2016, Nigeria spent as much as N49 trillion importing raw materials and products. At that time, not that it was sustainable, but our economy could manage such level of imports because crude oil sold most of the time at above $100 per barrel.

“But definitely, such level of importation is unsustainable and we are paying the price right now because if we had depended on our own raw materials, we would have been better off.

“With the sharp drop in the price of crude oil, Nigeria would have been able to withstand such a shock and we would not have had the problem that we are passing through now.

“So the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is determined to change the direction that Nigeria has passed through. In the past 56 years, we have been over-dependent on foreign commodities.

“We have relied on massive imports, we have sacrificed jobs. But we now want to move our economy away from that direction into an innovation-driven economy.

“So the Raw Materials Processing and Development Council, one of the agencies under the supervision of the Ministry of Science and Technology, had to undertake a very important study.

“Before the study was done, there were extensive consultations with research institutes, countries and universities, businesses, industries, governments at all levels, to determine our level of dependence on outside products and to find a way we can stop this.

“We looked at what other countries such as Canada, China, India, Japan and South Korea did. It was now very clear to us that if we moved in the direction that approval was given for today, Nigeria will attain its industrialisation plan in the next five years and this will be very helpful because what it means is that the abundance of natural resources can now be utilised for industrial production in the country.

“Then, we will be able to create jobs for Nigerians. The major thrust of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is that we should be producing made-in-Nigeria goods so that those who want to work will be able to do so and this is the way to go.