By; AMOS MATHEW, Kaduna
Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, has said that, it was high time the leaders of this country took decisive steps to plan beyond oil to reposition the nation’s economy for international competitiveness.
The former Head of State made the statement at the 39th Kaduna International Trade Fair Seminar with the theme, “Promoting Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for International Competitiveness”.
Gowon, who chaired the event said that the Federal Government’s Medium Term Development Plans of the 1960s’ and 70s’ were designed to reposition Nigeria’s industrial sector for international competitiveness by 1980.
He however said that subsequent leaders in the country for one reason or the other abandoned the plans, which resulted in uncoordinated failed development programmes.
According to him, the first, second and third National Development Plans clearly projected what Nigeria was going to achieve by 1980 and prepared the grounds for industrial development.
He commended the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KADCCIMA), the organisers of the event, for being in the forefront of promoting trade among various local and international businesses.
“KADCCIMA is closely associated with Kaduna State and the Federal Government to develop local and national economy by encouraging foreign enterprises and investors to invest in the country.
“One of the key event of the trade fair is the seminar that provides avenue for dialogue and exchange of ideas with local and foreign business communities on ways to drive the national economy forward.
“There is no better contribution than to show support to states and Federal Government quest to reposition the country’s economy for international competitiveness, ” he said.
The Guest Speaker, Malam Hayatuddeen Mohammed, President, Alphine Services Ltd., Lagos, said that no development occur without planning and action.
Mohammed called for a national vision, based on development planning to articulate where the country would be in the next 30 years.
According to him, the country’s industrial development should be tailored toward producing what Nigeria has competitive advantage.
“There is also the need to provide incentives for investors and industries as encouragement and make effort to fix the country’s infrastructure, particularly power and transport network.”
He noted that the country was faced with monumental challenges to achieve international competitiveness.
“We are dealing with monumental problem in Nigeria, a country with no guarantee of security, high cost of doing business, access to finance nearly impossible and insufficient skilled labour.
“Poverty, conflict and violence, with human development index of 152 out of 180; global competition index 124 out of 140 countries and prosperity index of 125 out 142 countries.
“Not only that, income disparity is quite wide and continue to widen with the poor getting poorer at an alarming rate while the rich are getting richer.
“It is, therefore, very difficult to talk about international competitiveness under such circumstances, “Mohammed said.
He said that to be competitive was to be the best in any given economic endeavour at affordable price and attractive to end users.
“But above all, the focus should be improving businesses to improve quality of the lives of the people and raising the level of prosperity for Nigerians, propel development forward and transform the economy.
“Having the resources is not enough, what we need is developing our skills, hard work, vision and imagination
“We also need to focus on improving the quality of life by increasing access to quality education, health services, good infrastructure and increase employment opportunities, “he said.
On his part, Gov. Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa noted that technology would soon render oil economy useless, adding that the country must industrialise to compete in the international community.
Abubakar said Nigeria must plan beyond oil by taking conscious steps toward exploiting the opportunities that the manufacturing sector provides.
Earlier, KADCCIMA President, Dr Muheeba Dankaka, said that the theme of the trade fair was carefully chosen to draw the attention of government on the need to move away from oil dependent economy to manufacturing.
According to her, strengthening commerce, industry and agriculture would create the needed boost in the journey towards national economic development.