- Afreximbank sets aside $500million for Nigerian manufacturers
- Navy debunks security risks at Eastern ports
By Kenneth Jukpor
Hundreds of trucks conveying made-in-Nigeria goods, including popular brands like Dangote, Unilever, Cadbury, among others have been trapped at various border-posts, with hundreds of millions of naira wasting away as Nigerian manufacturers groan in anguish following the Federal Government’s decision to close the land borders for almost three weeks.
While there are reports that the border closure helped forestall influx of harmful products and smuggling, the exercise has seen Nigerian manufacturers record colossal losses especially those who export a large chunk of their products via land borders.
Some manufacturers who have been shortchanged by this impromptu policy have called on the government to open an avenue that would allow genuine indigenous manufacturers operate their export businesses.
The exercise code-named, ‘Ex-Swift Response’ and tipped to last for twenty-eight days, is jointly conducted by the customs, immigration, police and other military personnel and coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
While the fiscal losses in terms of government revenue can’t be captured aptly, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) would have lost about N500million at the end of the exercise.
Speaking at the public session of the 47th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), last week, Mr. Fredrick Mordi who works with Cadbury Nigeria PLC said, “Cadbury trucks has been stuck at the Seme border since August 21. We have only big companies like Dangote and Unilever affected by this border closure. I want to plead as a genuine members of MAN, can we get special consideration to move in these trucks as we aren’t sure when this ban would be lifted”
With the numerous illegal land borders around the Seme and Idiroko border areas, observers have expressed worry that some of the restricted goods may still find a way into the country while genuine Nigerian manufacturers can’t export their products.
Although the exercise was authorized by the NSA, stressing the benefits of the border closure the Controller, Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A Ikeja, Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu said, “I was in charge of Seme border-post for one and half years. If I tell you what goes on there, you will be shocked. I had a cook who is from Benin and everyday he comes to my house to cook for me and go back. The rice is coming to Nigeria through Benin but this common Benin man doesn’t eat it. Benin is not up to some local governments in Kano, yet my cook doesn’t eat what I am eating. Are we true Nigerians? Go to Kebbi, Bonny, Abakaliki; you would discover that with this locally produced rice alone, we can feed all Africa if we are serious”
The FOU Controller lamented that some of the products branded foreign from neighbouring countries were actually Nigerian products.
“Nigerian fruits are taken to Seme, washed and brought back. Go there and see. Try any of the supermarkets today; you would observe that the salad there is finished. MAN has been cheated. As long as these activities at Cotonou continue, Nigeria is going nowhere. This exercise would last for 28 days. After this exercise, the neighbouring nations would know the importance of what is in Nigeria”, he argued.
He observed that although rice import was prohibited via Nigerian land borders but it wasn’t prohibited in Cotonou.
“Tell me one rich man, who can afford 20,000 metric tons of rice or 20,000 Prado jeeps, they are all fronters for Nigerians. The first tramadol seizure we had came from Benin Republic. Remember that Benin was in the former Dahomey that is under Oyo empire, it was in Benin that they released 25, 000 ammunition that was heading to Nigeria. How can you call me your neighbor and brother, yet you are sending something to hurt me. This closure at the border is for Nigeria’s good, it is to our advantage.” he said.
While these reasons did seem valid, the Chairman of MAN Export Group, Chief Ede Dafinone expressed displeasure that the businesses of genuine manufacturers had been stifled by the government’s move to curb influx of harmful products.
Chief Ede said, “We have just been informed that the border closure would be for a period of 28 days. We are Nigerians and the MAN Export Group represents Nigerian companies. We are patriots and we will support anything good for the country, however we have members that depend on export in order to make their profits. We have members whose sole business is to export to neighbouring countries via land borders. So, the closure of these borders for 28 days is going to cripple these companies”
“These companies have set up industries, employed people and they have taken loans from banks. Twenty-eight days is a whole month of zero revenue. We cannot afford it. I and my members are fully in support of a prosperous Nigeria. This is not a zero oil plan. This is not the growth of non oil export central. I know that Customs is not responsible but manufacturers, exporters are suffering” he added.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to curb the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria and boost the nation’s economy, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) will allocate $500 million from its Nigeria-Africa Trade and Investment Promotion Programme to support Nigerian manufacturers to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement.
Afreximbank President, Prof. Benedict Oramah, also announced this at the MAN AGM and Presidential Luncheon, noting that the facility would support Nigerian manufacturers to expand trading in their products, source raw materials from other African countries and compete favourably in the region.
According to Oramah, it would also support Nigerian manufacturers to adjust to any difficulties that might arise due to the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement. He added that Afreximbank officials would meet with representatives of MAN to work out the implementation modalities, terms and conditions for the facility.
Oramah said that the opportunity for African manufacturers under the AfCFTA was phenomenal and that intra-regional trade in manufactures could rise to more than $150 billion by 2022 as a result of the entry into force of the agreement.
In another development, the Nigerian Navy has debunked claims that security problems were the factors responsible of low patronage of Eastern seaports.
Meanwhile,the Flag Officer Commanding the Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji stated this during his recent courtesy visit to Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
Responding to the Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello’s remarks that security challenges and the high cost had prevented shippers from patronizing the Eastern ports, Rear Admiral Daji said, “I can assure you that this problem could be attributed to other factors but not the issue of security”
“For instance, in Port Harcourt port, we have 40 per cent of our fleet at Onne. In Bonny, we have six capital ships that are already there. Since 2015, we have been doing escort of vessels as soon as you request for it. At Warri port, we have NNS Delta together with the defense boats which are about eight. They just need to ask for it and they can be escorted into the port from the channel. In Calabar, we have the NNS Victory taking care of that area. Perhaps, there are other issues that need to be looked into on why they are not using those ports optimally” he said.
The Naval boss also assured that the Navy had robust maritime domain awareness system comprising of the Falcon eye and the regional maritime awareness capability system to monitor and track vessels beyond the nation’s exclusive economic zone which is 200 nautical miles.