By Teddy Nwanunobi
Abuja (Sundiata Post) — Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, on Friday, made case for regional economic integration by the states of the federation along their geopolitical zones to fast-track the nation’s industrialisation.
This is even as he said the failure to maintain a uniform exchange rate was antithetical to the promotion of the industrial sector and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), and had led to the flight and death of many industries and enterprises.
Ekweremadu, according to a statement issued by his Special Adviser (Media), Uche Anichukwu, spoke at the opening of the 28th Enugu International Trade Fair on Friday, where he also advocated linkages between different groups of enterprises as big businesses had more access to international trade and investment links.
The senator said states stood to gain more and develop commerce, industry, mines, and agriculture faster when they converge their potentials and resources to benefit from the economies of scale.
To encourage this, however, he said the nation needed restructuring to allow the federating units reasonable autonomy and constitutional empowerments to take initiatives.
“Contiguous to regional economic integration is the need for restructuring to move matters like power, railway, aviation, ports, and mineral resources, among others to the concurrent list. That way, states will not have to depend on the Federal Government for the critical infrastructure needed to drive industrialisation.
“With this and visionary leaders, the South East can easily become the Japan, Dubai, and Europe of Africa rolled into one, given the entrepreneurial capacities and ingenuity of our people, as well as the potentials already shown by Nnewi, Onitsha, and Aba.
“By their convergence, for instance, South East states can easily attract investors or pool their resources to establish industrial parks, develop the Onitsha seaport, dredge the River Niger, revive the Oji River Power Station or build an entirely new one. This is the way to go,” Ekweremadu said.
He further called for systemic inter-governmental and inter-agency collaboration and synergy, where each state and local government is able to optimise its potentials.
To this end, he said the report of the ‘One Local Government One Product’, OLOP, study carried out by SMEDAN to identify unique products or services in each of the 774 Local Governments in Nigeria should be taken seriously with a view to developing them to be competitively attractive in the global markets.
The Deputy President of the Senate advised government to take steps to arrest the exchange rate volatility and create special tax regimes for SMEs, noting that “currency volatility is worse than high exchange rates as it makes planning and business transactions extremely difficult”.
He appealed to the Federal Government and the States to design a special tax regime for SMEs to help them to grow.
“In the midst of highly deficit socio-economic infrastructure, running businesses in our country is a herculean task, especially for upcoming firms, hence the need to streamline and trim their taxes,” he said.
Ekweremadu said the Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Mines, Industry, and Agriculture of National Assembly’s readiness to always provide all necessary legal frameworks and legislative interventions to support the industrial sector and SMEs.