Trade ministry embarked on 13 major reforms during Buhari’s first tenure- Minister

Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah
Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah

The outgoing minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, has said the 13 major reforms initiated by his ministry were to facilitate the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and ”speed up governance.”

In a statement on Tuesday in Abuja, the minister said the NIRP was initiated to help develop world-class Special Economic Zones to position Nigeria as the pre-eminent manufacturing hub in sub-Saharan Africa as well as a major exporter of made in Nigeria goods and services regionally and globally.

The minister said Project MINE, (Made in Nigeria for Exports) was initiated to aid the structural transformation of the Nigerian economy by increasing the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP to 20 per cent by 2025.

Also, the minister said the project was aimed at contributing to sustainable, inclusive growth by creating 1.5 million new direct manufacturing jobs in the initial phase and to increase and diversify non-oil foreign exchange earnings to at least $30 billion annually by 2025, by increasing manufacturing sector exports.

In February, the ministry said the Federal Government signed investment agreements with three Development Finance Institutions, namely Afreximbank, Bank of Industry and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), for the development of the project.

The three DFIs, it said, are among a consortium of five who will partner with Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited (NSEZCO) and the Ministry of Finance Incorporated to implement the project.

The other investment partners are Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The minister said to realise the project, NSEZCO had a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the strategic investment partners in Abuja last week.

During the meeting, the VP reportedly reaffirmed FG’s endorsement of the strategies and plans put in place for the actualisation of the SEZs.

Mr Osinbajo also assured the investors of the readiness of the Buhari administration to offer all the support required to complete their investments in the company.

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“It is the vision and plan of the Buhari Administration for the country to be the pre-eminent manufacturing hub in Sub-Saharan Africa and a major exporter of manufactured products,” he said.

On government’s commitment to Project MINE, he said as a Presidential Priority Intervention project, ”it will be used as Special Economic Zones to boost manufacturing’s share of their gross domestic product (GDP) to 20 per cent.”

“About $30 billion is to be generated in annual export earnings, creating about 1.5 million new jobs in the export-oriented manufacturing value chain,” the minister also said.

Also, Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who was at the meeting, explained the recent investigation into the affairs of the company.

This, the ministry said, was to establish the integrity of the Federal Government and the propriety of its actions in the light of the negative perceptions created in the media.

Other reforms

The statement identified other reforms embarked on by the Ministry, including those in Trade and Intellectual Property Registration.

”To ensure trade policy agreements are effectively aligned with domestic regulations, laws and policy priorities that would lead to diversification of the economy, growth, modernisation and job creation, the Federal Government established the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN) in May 2017.

”NOTN coordinates and manages Nigeria’s trade policy, formulate Nigeria’s trade negotiating priorities, negotiate Nigeria’s trade agreements as well as ensure domestic trade-related policy coherence.

”NOTN is in the process of updating Nigeria’s Trade Policy, which was last updated in 2002. In September 2018, it launched the process of preparing a 21st Century Trade Policy for Nigeria, tagged “A Welfare and Prosperity Trade Agenda that Works for All.

”This was necessitated by the need to meet up with changes in domestic and international environments which have made it imperative to review the policy to reflect the current realities and emerging issues, specifically, trade and investment facilitation, electronic-commerce and digital economy, and regional integration,” the statement noted.

According to the release, the other reform is the Intellectual Property (IP) Registration, which has been made faster and more transparent.

”With the IP reforms the backlog of applications for registration and issuance of certificates dating back to 2012 have been cleared, and digitisation of the records of the registries has addressed the problems of missing files and inaccessible records.

”Also, for the first time in 51 years, since the Trademarks Act came into force, the Acting Registrar of Trademarks issued the Annual Report on the implementation of the Trademarks Act and the compendium of all opposition rulings in the Registry of Trademarks has been published,” the ministry added.

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