By Merit Ibe
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared open the Lagos trade fair, with emphasis on the need to support locally manufactured goods to boost the country’s trade activities and prospects.
The president made the remark yesterday at the opening ceremony of the 34th edition of the Lagos International Trade Fair, organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
The fair which is holding both physically and virtually at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) in Lagos, will end on December 13.
Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, noted that it is in the bid to boost trade that the government has signed the Executive Order 003 in 2017 and several campaigns have been launched to create necessary awareness and momentum.
“This will, among other things, enable us create employment for our large and growing population, diversify the economy from a relatively narrow base, build industrial capacity and trade competitiveness.”
He said it would improve the management of Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves to alleviate the economy’s vulnerability to changes in crude oil prices.
“Once again, I want to use this medium to call for collaboration from various government agencies in this regard.”
The president also pointed out the Federal Government’s commitment to revamping Nigeria’s Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP).
The challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said had made it imperative to accelerate the growth of the industrial sector.
“We are currently revamping the NIRP with a focus on driving backward integration and increasingly domesticating production of key products, especially sugar, dairy, palm oil, cotton, textiles and garments, automobiles and cassava starch.
“We are also to concession two Brownfield Special Economic Zones (Kano and Calabar) while commencing work on developing four additional Greenfield sites across the country.”
According to him, the government is also facilitating trade and maximising the benefits of international trade through multilateral trade relations with other countries.
On his part, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the deputy governor, Dr Kadri Hamzat, said over the past 43 years the fair has been providing unique opportunities for traders, investors and buyers from different parts of the globe.
Sanwo-Olu said the theme of the fair which was Connecting businesses and creating value was quite instructive and a wake up call for all governors to turn the economy around.
He assured the business community of the administration’s commitment to improving the business environment to make it more attractive for investment.
The governor said several businesses had been thrown into a state of confusion, debt and total loss following the vandalism and destruction caused by the #ENDSARS protests, assuring that the government is doing everything possible to restore hope and help these businesses get back on their feet.
“We understand that restoring our city will entail giving hope and succor to entrepreneurs and business owners, and in order to cushion the effect of all that has happened to them, we have provided avenues to give financial support in the forms of loans and grants.
“We will also be providing tax break of PAYE to affected business owners where appropriate.
“The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSTEF) is partnering with the private sector players to help businesses whose properties were looted or vandalised.
“We have also created a N2.5 billion Lagos Recovery Fund for looted businesses, and so far, over 2,500 business owners have applied.”
For president of LCCI, Toki Mabogunje, she was optimistic that the country would exit recession sooner than later.
“The economic conditions this year has been challenging. As we all know the economy slipped into recession in the third quarter of this year.But as investors we need to continue to demonstrate our resilience and determination to forge ahead despite these challenges.
” As a chamber, we have strong faith in the Nigerian economy, and we believe we will come out of this recession sooner than later.”
She assured that the chamber is committed to the vision of the current administration in respect of economic diversication and self-reliance.
“Our programmes, advocacy activities and capacity development are geared toward the realisation of economic aspirations.
“We recognise the imperative of non-oil sector development and the need to add value to our primary products in order to improve earnings for both the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy.
“This trade fair provides a platform to identify non-oil alternatives and highlights the significance of value addition.
“The trade fair equally serves as an avenue to boost economic and commercial activities.”