Nigeria is looking to increase engagement in trade and commerce through a public-private sector partnership shouldered by a National Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council established by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.

The council, which was set up on Tuesday, is divided into two different groups - public and private sector - with one of them chaired by Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote.

Professor Osinbajo is the chairman of the council, with the 2 ministers of Industry, Okechukwu Enelamah and Aisha Abubakar heading the public sector team.

The chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, will chair the private sector group, with Atedo Peterside as alternate chair.

At the inauguration of the council held at the Presidential villa, the Acting President pointed out that the council’s duty was not just patriotic but one to enable Nigerians create livelihoods for themselves.

“It is not just a patriotic duty but I believe that it is what will rescue and save our country and give our country a real chance to be competitive in global business and commerce.

“And to give our people a fair chance of being able to create livelihood for themselves, jobs and all of those things that will make for a nation of people who are happy and satisfied,” he told members of the council.

The Acting President observed that the council members were persons that were at the top in Nigeria’s industry and business sector and who also work with the public sector.

According to him, “if the council cannot get it right then it is unlikely that the country can never get it right”.

'Not Enough To Be Wealthy'

Professor Osinbajo also highlighted that the council was important because generally speaking the public sector was not known to be good in business and could not deliver on any industrialisation effort.

“Everywhere the government drove industrialisation, it always ended up in stagnation.

“Even the most successful experiments ended up in stagnation because government simply does not make the best business men or women.

“Government simply is not motivated enough,’’ he said.

He told the members of the council that they had come to a point where it was not just enough to be wealthy or successful especially in a country with enormous potential.

“To make more profits the environment needed to improve.

“I am really excited that we are starting something today which I strongly believe that if we do it right we have a chance to turn things around permanently in the country.”

He wants the council to hold the government accountable and make the government to act more effectively.

“I think that what we have tried to do by creating this council is to be able to put policy to test and policy to examination.

“So that there is a process by which the private sector is able to contribute to policy implementation but more importantly also to developing those policies,” he added.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Enelamah told reporters that the council represented what the government was working out in furtherance of the partnership between the public and private sector with respect to industrialisation.

He is confident that the council will provide the formula that will work and produce results.

At the inaugural meeting of the council, discussions were centred on the industrialisation priorities for the economy, with Mr Dangote pointing out that establishing the council was a good development which if well utilised could ensure diversification of the economy.

Nigeria has had the desire to diversify its economy and shift it away from crude oil sales that generate about 70 per cent of the nation’s revenue, but constraints have slowed the speed of the process of harnessing the nation's human capital, potentials in agriculture and mining of other mineral resources.

Mr Dangote, however, believes that if the government could remove the constraints hindering industrialisation such as power, transportation, inconsistencies in policies, and challenges in land acquisition and communal violence, there would be a positive result.

He requested that the government should strive to implement the recommendations of the council for Nigerians to feel its impact.

Also, Mr Peterside added that the council was also established because the industrial sector was not big enough.

He wants an environment that will ensure new players are accommodated to be created especially for the youth who were not much present.

“Our task is to make it possible for existing players to grow and expand and to eliminate the barriers that have kept the youth from taking part in this sector that should be a vibrant sector.

“In so doing our approach has to be holistic.

“It should not be that we do business only by government intervention periodically because if you run the right environment and put the right policies in place government should not need to intervene except in rare cases,” he added.