Misplaced policies and inadequate infrastructure deny Nigeria $25 billion yearly from non-oil exports, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
As non-oil export is increasingly becoming important to the economic development of Nigeria, deficient infrastructure and bad policies seem to have hindered efficient shipping of agricultural produce and mineral resources at the various seaports in the country. Also, it was learnt that lack of strict procedures and proper documentation has not created room for exporters to compete at the global level at a time crude oil is facing diverse challenges in international markets. Over time, exporters have faced different challenges ranging from transnational challenges to terms and conditions, complying with international laws both at the seaports and global markets. Worried by the inadequacies, the Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Segun Awolowo, had said that the Council had been building the capacity of both active and potential exporters through intervention programmes. For instance, he explained that the programmes had gone a long way to address significant factors necessary for accessing the international market, noting that exporters needed to be trained on how to understand the procedures and documentations required for non-oil exports. According to him, a good product without documentation would not be acceptable at the international market.
The executive director noted that NEPC had began to develop strategies to accelerate the diversification of the Nigerian economy through exports long before the country started experiencing economic challenges from the fall in oil prices. He said: “The plan is one of the key components of the country’s recently released Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. The goal is to grow national earnings from non-oil exports first to $8 billion and eventually $25 billion. The plan includes the selection of export products such as palm oil, cocoa, cashew, sugar, rice, cement, iron ore/metals, auto parts/cars, aluminium, petroleum products, fertilizer/urea, petrochemical and methanol to ensure that sufficient income can be earned to replace lost national revenues within a reasonable investment cycle. Also, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, said that access to the nation’s seaport had been a major problem to exporters, a development, which, he said, had impeded Nigeria’s non-oil export to compete effectively in international trade. He said: “We need a deliberate policy from government now on infrastructure such as road, rail and for the port to be export friendly. “For about two weeks now, there are about 400 containers of export on the road and shippers’ council has been grappling with this problem of trying to have the export go because the export will degrade and spoil as they remain in Nigeria and they will not be acceptable and that means the integrity of our export will be challenged in other countries.” Further, the executive secretary said at a forum organised by Ships & Ports Virtual Dialogue on the theme: “Facilitating Non-oil Export Trade to Salvage Nigeria’s Economy,” that it had become necessary for government to focus on export as the fortune of oil is fast dwindling, noting that there was need for relevant government agencies and exporters to synergise and develop an aggressive policy on export that will help address some of the challenges faced by exporters including access to credit facility.
He stressed that export of non-oil products could create numerous jobs, generate revenue and increase the nation’s trade surplus, if adequately harnessed. Bello explained: “COVID-19 has taught us a lesson that we cannot and should not depend on oil for revenue. It is not a dependable thing. We have seen how the price has fallen and it has affected us in our budget performance,review of our capital expenditure and it will affect the future of our country. So, if we continue to depend on oil, there may not be Nigeria again. “We have competitive advantage over many countries. The quality of our products is world class. All we need to do is for government agencies and exporters to come together and evolve an aggressive policy on export. “We have policy on export, but they seem to be scattered. Even the incentives are scattered. Access to finance, for example, may be fragmented. “We need to come together to diversify the nation’s revenue, which means export. We need to open a new vista as far as export is concerned and wean ourselves from importation.” He advised government agencies at the nation’s seaports to simplify export processes just as he advocated the need for the creation of export-dedicated terminals at the ports. Bello said that simplification of export documentation processes and electronic interchange in the country was very important, noting that the council was looking at 80 per cent digitalisation of seaports. He explained that the new deep seaports must have facilities for export.
Bello added: “Our ports must have ambition; we don’t just build ports for building sake. These ports must have export in mind and also efficient infrastructure.” In his opinion, Director, Products Development, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Williams Ezeagu, advocated the need to have specialised trucks to move export products from the hinterland to the port to preserve perishable commodities. He stressed the need for exporters to build capacity to benefit from credit facilities. Ezeagu said: “Nigerian Export Promotion Council is training people right now on small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). “We grade them on products, on good agricultural practices and quality management systems to enable them incorporate the training into their business. “We must create this capacity to the emerging exporters. It is only when you have the capacity and the quality of what you want to do that you can talk of money and that is why the NEPC is launching a campaign on quality improvement of products.” Also, the National Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah, assured Customs’ readiness to facilitate the country’s export trade. The host of the conference, Shulammite Foyeku, stressed that the need for Nigeria to focus more on non-oil export cannot be over emphasised in the face of rapidly dwindling crude oil prices, saying that the only option was for the nation to leverage export of non-oil produce to increase its foreign exchange.
Only non-oil export can boost Nigerian economy since oil export prospect has dwindled in the global market.