Friday, April 22, 2016 2:27 pm
The Regional Coordinator of Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Mr Babatunde Olusegun Faleke, bears his mind to Esther Komolafe in this interview at the council’s south west office in Apapa.
The situation in the country is up and down as the oil sector that has been the major source of income is dwindling and the government is trying to diversify into agriculture in order to be able to rescue the situation. How do you think the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) can help in order to meet up fast?
There is nothing that is fast, it all has a process. It is unfortunate that we allowed it. I tell you when NNPC was created, NEPC was also created and both were being nurtured and they were yielding results even though oil was booming, export too was not doing badly but much attention was given to oil while export was neglected which was the genesis of the the problem we are faced with now. There is no magic but it is better to be late than never. The truth is that we are not yet an export nation, we are not producing up to capacity, we are yet to meet up with our own demand, not to talk of excess for export .
You and I know that when we were growing up, nobody imported rice; we ate our local rice but today the reverse is the case. We are net importers of rice, we have neglected production of our local rice, you can only export what you have in excess. The cocoa export then was what they used to build Cocoa House but now how much of cocoa do we have? The onus is that we have to face reality, what we have neglected in the past we have to key up to it and scale up production to go back to the basics. The council came up with the zero oil plan; everybody should look inward, check what you can export: soyabeans, corn, groundnuts, cashew nuts and others.
The president himself said we should behave as if we don’t have oil again; its either we export or we perish. I remember during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s first coming that he introduced Operation Feed the Nation; everybody was involved. We need to scale up production of what we can export, we should look inwards. I mean we can export everything in this country, we are capable. But how many people are in the farms today? Let us go back to the farm; everybody wants white collar job. I will not also blame anybody, because we can’t use the same tool to get the best result. Now it must be mechanised, the earlier we organise ourselves the better and that is why we are campaigning zero oil plan. The plan is we should behave as if there is no oil. We will not get there immediately but eventually we will arrive at a better destination.
What are you processing to put in place for zero oil plan to kick off ?
We have started with what NEPC did and called zoning. The country has been split into six zones and we will also want to have offices in all the states of the federation to be able to work with the states, and we have a program we call one state one product. It doesn’t mean that it is only one product you will do, you can do more but your state must be known and identified with at least one product that you are better at, come what may. We also have regional coordinators to work with in the states. The council has gone into review and functional systems in order to achieve this aim.
When we look at this plan, it is very good but politically, is there any shift or are they all in one direction?
And: There is what we call Nigeria’s revolutionary plan, the last government started it and this government has continued with it. There was economic summit recently chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governors came together to look into what step to take because oil is in total collapse. When this government came into power, the economy was in a sorry state; the oil is there but the rate has dropped badly. When the value was good, we did not take the advantage of it.
The present situation is so alarming that the forex policy is affecting the exporters and they are worried because they don’t know what line of action to take. What is the council doing to sensitize?
The policy is harsh but the truth is that what government is saying is that people should generate dollar, not wanting to collect, which is in the right direction. If you generate dollar and put it in your domiciliary account, nobody can stop you from using it and this can only be achieved by selling out our own products to outsiders and getting dollars in payment . In order for export circle to be completed, you are to repatriate back into the economy, (that is what the law of export says).
There are a lot of informal exports going on in our boarders and airports which do not have record in our income papers. Go to the airport now, you will get to see a lot of goods being taken outside the country that do not have records.
Sometimes ago, the council visited the airport and border area; there are a lot of activities going on there daily that has no record in our income paper. The money they get from such commodity does not go into the economy but to the individual purses. So we can not aggregate them as income.
What is the council doing about it?
It is not our mandate to capture data, it is the duty of the National Production Statistics and we are working together to see how we can put an end to it.
You can only advocate and provide incentives for the officers at the port borders in order to counter these cabals.
Any synergy with other government agencies?
Yes we are working together.
What are we to expect from you?
I want to make south west a reference point. So far so good, the states are encouraging.
The incentives that were removed from the council has it been reversed?
Not yet but we are optimistic it will be reversed soon.
Yes but it is a good problem that gives us opportunity to reason through another dimensions.