BY EMEKA EJERE
The president of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said the recent declaration by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) that Nigeria had revenue of N1.35 trillion as import duties means that the nation’s economy is not working.
He said were the economy working, instead of customs collecting that kind of money, it is the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), that should collect that much money as a result of increased productivity.
Dangote, who stated this at the Consultative Roundtable hosted by the Central Bank of Nigeria in Abuja on Wednesday, called on the federal government to diversify the nation’s economy while it is still possible, as diversification may no longer be possible for the Nigerian economy in a few years’ time.
He lamented over the chant for diversification, which had been on since 1979 when he first got to Lagos, without corresponding actions that could have translated into job creation and GDP growth.
“We need to make sure we make this happen before we get to the time when even with the money, we would not be able to satisfy our demands through importations.
“My heart actually bled when it was announced by the customs that we had a revenue of N1.35 trillion as import duties. It means that the economy is not working. If the economy is working, customs should not collect that kind of money. In fact, it is the FIRS that should collect that much money because we should produce more,” he said.
He alluded to Nigeria’s over 200 million population growing at 2.7% annually, a domestic market and labour force, which he said could be exploited in the direction of self-sufficiency.
“We need to adopt backward integration and economic substitution. The country spent almost $47 billion on imports last year. It is not sustainable for us to continue importing everything we consume. We need to find a solution as to how to make our country to be producing things that we consume. Even if we decide to produce goods worth $30 billion, imagine how many jobs would be created.
“We cannot have 200 million people, growing at an average of 2.7% and then we are importing most of the things that we consume,” Dangote added.
He called on the government to adopt the backward integration and economic substitution where firms would be encouraged to import the machinery and carry out production in the country, rather than import finished goods.
Due to the adoption of import substitution in the Dangote groups, he said, Nigeria would become the highest exporter of cement in Africa this year, and highest exporter of rice and petroleum products in Africa, upon the kick-off of the rice plants and the refinery.
He stressed the need to address power and infrastructure problems to lower the cost of business operations, as the government loses taxes when entrepreneurs make fewer profits.