A former Head of State, Chief Ernest Shonekan, on Thursday stressed the need for the Federal Government to put in place incentives to attract companies that had left the county, especially to improve agricultural and industrial production.
Shonekan, who spoke in Lagos at the policy dialogue with the private sector organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group on technology and business, said the country would become a net exporter of rice in a few years.
He said in the new dispensation, the country must adopt, adapt and domesticate new simple technologies from across the world in a bid to diversify the economy away from the oil sector and advance agricultural and industrial production to higher levels in the medium to long term.
Shonekan said, “Favourable incentives would enable the companies to do more and the country can move forward to greater heights. Such incentives can be in the form of tax rebates, which are deductible over a short to medium term.
He said, for example, the Federal Inland Revenue Service could allow companies that successfully develop new technologies that lead to increased agricultural and industrial output offset their cost of funding innovation against the taxes payable to the government for a predetermined length of time.
“If we do this, such incentives could help re-attract companies that previously left Nigeria due to unfavourable manufacturing conditions,” he said.
Citing Michelin and Dunlop, two tyre-producing companies that left the country, he said, “At a point, made-in-Nigeria tyres were considered far better than imported ones and the companies thrived.
“However, not all is lost for our country. Dangote Group has managed to steer the course and is today the largest cement manufacturer in Africa. They produce rice as well and I am hopeful that with the proper adequate incentives granted to them as well as other companies, in a few years, Nigeria will become a net exporter of rice.”
The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said there must be focus on science, technology and innovation to improve the country’s competitiveness, adding, “We are working very hard to close all technology gaps.”
He said investments in science, technology and innovation should no longer be considered as inferior to either investment in prospecting for oil or mining solid minerals.