Nigeria: A nation of unpatriotic consumers
One critical aspect worth realigning is our insatiable and voracious appetite for foreign and imported goods. We need a major shift and attitudinal overhaul from our preference for imported goods to the detriment of our local contents. We have blatant disregard for our local goods; an average Nigerian would prefer to spend more on foreign commodities and spend less on local ones.
‘’I’m afraid you’ve sold your own land to see other men’s. To have seen much but own nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.’’ This excerpt was lifted from one of the plays written by William Shakespeare, “AS YOU LIKE IT”, and it vividly describes the consumption lifestyle in the present Nigerian environment where people spend recklessly on foreign commodities to the detriment of our national economy.
The level of inferiority complex among Nigerian consumers is so demeaning to the extent that we have added toothpicks to the list of our imported goods, something that can easily be made locally. The revolution in the Japanese economy was initiated by strong patriotism of the citizens to their local goods and their belief in the superiority of their local content. We need a form of social reformation that will produce Nigerians that will be patriotic to our local content and goods.
Due to our inferior taste for second-hand cars, coupled with the fact that over 80 per cent of Nigerians cannot afford brand new vehicles, Nigeria has now become a dumping ground and ‘waste basket’ for both developed and developing nations. The #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira initiative that was evolved by a member of the Upper legislative arm in the National Assembly must be encouraged. This will in no doubt be a lifebuoy initiative to save our Naira from further devaluation.
The major reason why the Nigerian Naira has consistently and continuously experienced economic degradation and free fall is simply because of our consumption behaviour. Apart from our consumption pattern, it is also apparent that we have failed severally to develop global products (products that can sell in the global market), as our blatant dependency on oil has killed our initiative to evolve products that can sell in the global market. Our excessive, uncensored and unpatriotic consumption pattern is killing the nation. The way we consume is central to the growth of our economy; it also affects the way we are perceived in the eyes of the world. How we consume, and for what purposes drives how we utilize our resources, create products and produce pollution and waste. It is sympathetic to know that some people will always have to pay for the irresponsible consumption pattern of others, which has also become an anathema to national growth.
In a continued effort to sustain the foreign exchange market and also encourage local and indigenous production of some items, the federal government through the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN) recently banned the issuance of foreign exchange for the importation of 41 imported commodities such as rice, cement, margarine, palm oil, vegetable oil products, processed meat products, tooth picks, tomatoes/tomato paste products etc.
It is ridiculous to know that Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world and the largest producer of tomatoes in Sub-Saharan Africa but the eight largest importer of tomato paste in the world! It is sympathetic to know that Nigeria spends about $1.5 billion annually on tomato products importation from China and other parts of the world. It is a sigh of relief to know that some indigenous tomato brands are now coming up to reduce our total dependence on foreign tomato based products. Erisco tomato paste known as Nagiko is the first tomato paste to be made in Nigeria. This patriotic initiative, coupled with the Dangote Farms Tomato processing factory operations, will go a long way to improve the Nigerian economy.
One initiative that I found worthy of great commendation is the recent amendments made by the Senate to the Public Procurement Act. In its determination to make the patronage of locally made products mandatory, the Senate has passed the Public Procurement Act Amendment Bill. The bill will ultimately encourage responsible consumption and production.
According to the Chairman of the procurement committee, Senator Joshua Dariye, the essence of the bill was to provide for and adopt the local content policy. In summary, the amendment will help in the creation of jobs, stimulate Nigeria’s domestic economy by giving priority to locally made goods in all government procurement processes and ultimately enhance the timely completion of projects. This amendment will have a positive ripple effect on local manufacturers.
We must all work together towards ensuring consumer satisfaction and building confidence in our indigenous brands. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) will also have to renew their commitment towards ensuring high standards in this respect. We must not only stop at correcting our unpatriotic patronage for foreign commodities, but also ensuring that our local products are designed in such a way to appeal to global consumers so as to package them for importation.
In terms of production, made-In-Nigeria goods should no longer be adulterated or be made as substandard versions of foreign commodities. We must upgrade our local products and also design our manufacturing sector to be less dependent on imported items.
We need to promote non-oil-sectors of the economy as alternative sources of revenue generation, job creation and poverty alleviation. The tourism sector has the potential to generate foreign exchange, encourage development and promote tourism-based rural enterprises, generate employment and accelerate rural-urban integration and cultural exchange. Experts believe that if properly harnessed, tourism can upstage oil as Nigeria’s major revenue earner.
To my fellow Nigerians, let us patronize indigenous tourist centres in the nation, enough of our mad rush to Dubai and UK to squander resources. The Lagos State government has decided to redesign and restructure Badagry into becoming a tourist hub, I believe state governments to look inward for dotted tourist centres in their states that have the potential of becoming a tourist hub. I also enjoin Nigerian youths to see the tourism sector as a major point for their investments.
There is nothing stopping couples from having honeymoon in Obudu cattle ranch (now renamed Obudu Mountain Resort), instead of travelling out of the nation. Let us revive the tourism Industry in the face of dwindling foreign reserves as Nigeria has the capacity to be the centre of tourism in Africa and beyond. Let us debunk the elitist myth that Nigeria cannot fare better without the proceeds from oil.
Nigerians’ rush for medical tourism in foreign countries is also an issue that needs to be addressed. Nigeria loses over N200 billion yearly to medical tourism. The issue of our leaders ‘eloping’ abroad with their families for medical services must be addressed. We have capable medical centres both at the state and federal levels for varying emergencies. Our various tertiary health institutions are capable; we need a serious change of attitude.
I am personally reaching out to patriotic Nigerians to support Innoson Motors and make it our own national pride and brand. Annually, billions of naira and resources are used by government and individuals to import vehicles from foreign countries, this strange mentality and attitude will continually deplete our foreign exchange reserves. My candid advice to the Federal Government is to provide a conducive atmosphere for indigenous entrepreneurs to re-invest into the Nigerian economy. It is high time we revisit the Ajaokuta Steel Company dilemma because we are losing so much Forex to the importation of steel. We also need consumer orientation policy to educate the populace of the need to be patriotic and supportive of our local content. To all the Nigerians out there, I am emphatically saying: “PRODUCE WHAT WE CONSUME, CONSUME WHAT WE PRODUCE!”
Next week, I will be writing on CLIMATE ACTION AND AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY. Until then, act locally but think globally.