The Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello; Director, Products Development, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) Mr. Williams Ezeagu; and the Chief Executive Officer, Multimix Academy, Mr. Obiora Madu, have tasked the Federal Government to formulate policies that would facilitate the development infrastructures in the country as part of measures to boost non-oil export trade.
The trio spoke on Thursday during the weekly SHIPS & PORTS Virtual Dialogue on the theme “Facilitating Non-oil Export Trade to Salvage Nigeria’s Economy”.
Bello said that access to the nation’s seaport has been a major problem to exporters, a development which he said has impeded Nigeria’s non-oil export to compete effectively in international trade.
He said, “We need a deliberate policy from the 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.”
Noting the urgent need for the government to focus on export as the fortune of oil is fast dwindling, Bello said there is 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 said if adequately harnessed, export of non-oil products can create numerous jobs, generate revenue and increase the nation’s trade surplus.
“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 the 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 said.
The NSC boss also called on 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.
“Simplification of our export documentation processes and electronic interchange is very important. The Council is looking at 80 percent digitalization of our ports and that include exports. The new deep seaports must have facilities for export. 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,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Director, Products Development, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Williams Ezeagu, stressed the need for exporters to build capacity to benefit from credit facilities.
On what the Council is doing to build capacity of exporters, Ezeagu said, “The (Nigerian) Export Promotion Council is training people right now on SMEs, we grade them on products, on good agricultural practices and quality management systems to enable them incorporate the training into their business.”
While responding to enquiries by participants on access to credit facility, Ezeagu said, “Access to credit facility is not the major issue itself. What is most important is the issue of capacity building because you don’t give money to somebody who cannot manage it or who does not understand what FOB or CIF is. 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.”
He also advocated the need to have specialized trucks to move export products from the hinterland to the port to preserve perishable commodities.
Also on the panel was the National Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah, who assured of Customs’ readiness to facilitate the country’s export trade.
Earlier in her remarks, the host of the conference, Shulammite ‘Foyeku, said the purpose of the dialogue is to seek ways the nation can leverage on export of non-oil produce to increase its foreign exchange.
She said the need for Nigeria to focus more on non-oil export cannot be overemphasized in the face of rapidly dwindling crude oil prices.