Minister speaks on need to diversify economy
The Federal Government said it would develop and implement a comprehensive backward integration policy, BIP, to revive and sustain the growth of the iron and steel sub-sectors of the Nigerian economy.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, said at the one-day stakeholders’ forum on Transformation of Minerals, Iron and Steel Sub-Sector for Industrial Revolution in Nigeria in Lagos, on Thursday that the initiative was in line with the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan, NIRP.
The stakeholders’ forum, which was organised by the ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment, and Mines and Steel Development provided the platform for all players in the iron and steel sub-sector to fashion out workable and sustainable plans of action to leverage the BIP to support the development of critical industries across the country.
What government did on Thursday, Mr. Aganga said, was to bring together all the stakeholders in the metal sector considered critical to industrialisation, to enable them look at how Nigeria could develop and attract more investors into the sector through the right policies and strategies.
“We cannot just sit down in Abuja and develop a policy for the sector without the full engagement, input and involvement of key players in the sector,” the minister said. “When you look at the current situation in the iron and steel sector, Nigeria spends about $3.3billion annually in the importation of steel, even the country has iron ore deposits.”
He said at the moment, Nigeria has some cold rolling mills in the country, saying government decided to implement the Backward Integration Programme in iron ore so that Nigeria can become a net exporter of iron ore just as it did with cement.
The success the country has achieved with the BIP in the cement industry, he pointed out, has proved that Nigeria can replicate that in at least 15 sectors of the economy.
He said that is what the country can do to be able to diversify Nigeria’s economy, create more jobs and then move from a poor to a rich economy.
He noted that just as the country has done in the cement, sugar and automotive sectors, government’s objective was to co-develop a holistic backward programme that would make Nigeria No. 1 in Africa and top 10 globally over time.
He said that the NIRP had been strategically developed and linked with sectors of the economy where the country currently had competitive and comparative advantage, such as mines and steel and agri-business, among others.
He said there was no doubt that industrialisation was central to national development, pointing out that as a country, Nigeria had undertaken several initiatives in the past to accelerate its industrial development.
However, the minister said what made NIRP different from previous initiatives was that it was the first industrialisation road map to be strategic, holistic and integrated.
In the past, he said, the country made the mistake of relying on exporting raw materials and in the process exported jobs, noting that this was what the industrial revolution plan was trying to change.
He promised to work together with all the stakeholders, including state governments, manufacturers and ministries, departments and agencies of the government to drive the implementation.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Musa Sada, said there was the need for increased collaboration between the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and that of Industry, Trade and Investment to utilise the nation’s abundant industrial minerals to boost industrialisation.
“Steel is expected to remain the world’s most engineering material for some time to come due to its versatility,” Mr. Sada said. “The annual steel production in Nigeria is estimated at about 3.5million tonnes, while about 17 million tonnes of steel and allied products are imported annually.
He said local steel production is only through 100 per cent melting of scrap steel, while the government wanted to see the iron and steel sector play a major role in the industrial development of our country.
In order to achieve this objective, he said government needed to partner the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment by keying into the NIRP to create the critical value chains that will drive sustainable industrial development.