The study examined manufacturing performance for sustainable economic development in Nigeria, while the specific objectives are as follows: i) to look at the growth rate and contribution of manufacturing to GDP. ii) to examine trend in both manufacturing and employment. iii) to determine the structure of capacity utilization. iv) to determine factors influencing manufacturing performance. Panel data analysis was used on secondary data from 1980-2008 that was extracted from CBN Statistical Bulletin. The results indicate positive relationship between manufacturing and each of capacity utilization and import as 1 percent change in capacity utilization and import lead to 43081 and 3.8 percent change in manufacturing respectively. However, there is a negative relationship between manufacturing and each of investment, exchange rate, and export. A 1 percent change in investment, exchange rate and export lead to 0.04, 12729, 0.3 percent reduction in manufacturing respectively. The t-values for investment, capacity utilization and import were used to test the hypothesis that each coefficient is different from 0. This is rejected; since the t-value are lower than 1.96 (at 95% confidence level). This showed that investment, capacity utilization and import were major determinants of manufacturing performance for the period. The study concludes that the key to reversing the poor performance of Nigerian manufacturing is to provide incentives for firms to become more export oriented.