Many were optimistic that Dr Okechukwu Enelamah would emerge the Minister for Finance, having put up a sterling performance on financial matters during his screening at the Senate. At the screening before the Senate, he showed deep understanding of the Nigerian economy and the antidote for the ailments the country is presently suffering from. So, when he was eventually named the Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment on November 11, many were taken aback. But he is not a misfit in the portfolio that has been assigned to him as he has made his mark in the corporate world. But for his appointment as minister, he would still have been sitting on the boards of Flavours Food Limited, Landmark Property Development Company and Associated Bus Company Plc (ABC). However he was required by law to vacate all the positions he was occupying before he could become a minister.
The new Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment is coming into office at a time when the country’s cash cow- crude oil is seriously bleeding, due to the global fall in oil price. Before now, Crude oil was contributing 10.45 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as at the third quarter of 2014, but fell to 8.97 per cent in the last of year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) data. It must have fallen forward as oil had further dipped since then. The black gold is Nigeria’s highest foreign exchange earner, accounting for about 70 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange. This has therefore dropped significantly as oil which peaked at US$145 in July 2008, now sells for only about $40 per barrel. This has brought to the fore once again the need to diversify the country’s economy, which has been a virtual mono-product circuit all these years.
One sector of the economy which needs to be improved on extensively is the real sector which has been comatose for many years. This sector which is supposed to be the country’s gateway to industrialisation, which once contributed as much as 24 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP is now contributing less than 4 per cent, despite the large human resource base and huge market that is available in the country.
This is traceable to the neglect the sector has suffered in the hands of successive governments. This is where Enelamah would be expected to bring to bear his financial expertise even though he is a trained medical doctor. All the experiences he has garnered over the years as an operator in the Organised Private Sector (OPS) would have to be put to test this time around as a policy maker for the manufacturing sector.
If the present administration wants to leave its name in history as the government that put Nigeria on the path of industrialization, the Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment would have to tackle the daunting task of rejuvenating the real sector. This he has to start by seeing through some of the over 60 reforms and 12 game- changing programmes that are already in the works. These include the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) and the Nigerian Automotive Policy (NAP) that were introduced by his predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Aganga. They must not be thrown into the bin, saying it belongs to the past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, because government is supposed to be a continuum. They could however be tinkered with where necessary to be in tandem with today’s realities.
One critical sub-sector that is under the purview of the Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment is the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). This sub-sector which should be the catalyst for the diversification of the country’s economy is in dire need of attention. It has been stifled by lack of access to cheap funds and the huge infrastructure deficit. Although the immediate past minister initiated different interventions like the N230billion MSMEs Development Fund and the N300billion Real Sector Fund which were intended to ensure lending to manufacturers at single digit interest rates as part of efforts to bridge huge funding gap in the sector, however, they were greeted by complaints that a lot of the MSME operators could not access these funds because of the stringent requirements the disbursing lenders were demanding.
Enelamah would have to see to it that MSMEs have easy access to funds. Already noteworthy is the fact that the Central Bank of Nigeria has just reduced the Monetary Policy Rate, MPR, aka interest rate from 13 per cent to 11 per cent and the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) from 25 per cent to 20 per cent as it rose from its recent Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting. Analysts believe this would help free more liquidity to the manufacturing sector. So, the Minister who until his appointment was at the helm of affairs at Africa Capital Alliance (ACA), the largest Private Equity firm in Nigeria, and one of the largest in West Africa, which has five funds and an excess of $700m of assets under its management, would have to work in concert with the CBN to ensure that the MSMEs are properly funded so that they will be able to help in tackling the massive unemployment figures that the country is presently battling with.
His wealth of experience in investment banking, having worked for Goldman Sachs in London and New York and Arthur Anderson in Nigeria would also be vital in attracting Direct Foreign Investments (DFIs) into the country which is seriously yearning for them. A lot of people would be expecting to see industrial parks spring up in different parts of the country under him. He had already pledged to hit the ground running and bring his wealth of private sector experience to bear in the discharge of his mandate.
Enelamah had his Bachelor of Medicine from the University of Nigeria in 1985. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1992 and in 1994 earned a Masters of Business Administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. He was one of the first few people in Nigeria to be certified as a Chartered Financial Analyst.
He was also one of the original principals of Zephyr Capital, where he helped launch a $150 million fund for direct equity investments in South Africa. Until his recent appointment, he was a Director in TechnoServe, Inc., Director, Emerging Markets Private Equity Association as well as Director and Chairman of Investment Committee, Cornerstone Insurance Plc. He was also on the board of African Venture Capital Association and Dorman Long Engineering Limited as director. The Minister was a Non-Executive Director and Member of the Governance & Remuneration Committee at UAC of Nigeria Plc.
The 55 year old, who hails from Abia Sate, was also a pastor at the Olive Tree Parish of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, TRCCG. Incidentally, Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo was the provincial pastor at the same parish before he was himself elected into office.
BY FELIX OLOYODE