Having admitted that the year 2020 was a difficult year for the economy and manufacturing sector due to the onslaught of COVID-19, manufacturers under the auspices of Manufacturers, Association of Nigeria (MAN), are seeking action to rekindle productive activities in the real sector of the economy. Director-General of MAN, Segun Ajayi-Kadir, explained this to New Telegraph in an interview in Lagos, saying that COVID-19 had a staggering devastation on global economies as evident in the huge death toll in manpower, crashing of crude oil price, slowing of global supply and demand, and the total halt in economic activities from the lockdown.
Ajayi-Kadir noted that the pandemic had a crushing impact on the manufacturing sector as it fell into recession in the third quarter of 2020 and also marginally came out of same recession in Q4’20. According to him, at the moment, and following the impact of COVID-19, the country’s manufacturing sector is at the lowest, therefore, requires deliberately orchestrated action to rekindle significant productive activities in the sector. Based on the foregoing and with the intent to address the challenges of the sector, especially in this precarious time, the association is recommending that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) grant concessional forex allocation at the official forex market rate to manufacturers for importation of productive inputs that are not locally available. It also seeks a swift approval of usage of forex on forex sources outside the official market for manufacturers, unification of all forex windows in the country, among others.
Speaking on the difficulty in accessing funds, he explained that the association implored the CBN to intervene directly to ensure that manufacturers have access to funds, particularly the N1 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. He also said members of the association should be sensitised on the feasibility of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMED) and N300 billion Real Sector Support Facility (RSSF) and how they can be accessed. On regulatory issue, Ajayi- Kadir pointed out that MAN was recommending that the Federal Government direct all regulatory agencies, especially Standards Organisations of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration & Control (NAFDAC) to reduce their respective administrative charges payable by manufacturing concerns by 50 per cent.
While speaking on poor port administration, he noted that MAN wanted Nigeria Customs Service to improve on the time taken to clear container/ cargoes at the ports, improve on trade facilitation equipment at the ports such as scanners, etc, reduce the various burdensome port charges and remove demurrage for delayed clearing due to logistics and administrative constraints, resuscitate available rail tracks and construct new ones and linking them to industrial hubs. On managing on-going COVID- 19 crisis, the MAN DG said that government should strike a balance in managing the economy and the second wave of COIVID-19 without implementing a second lockdown.