Mr. Ofon Udofia is the Executive Secretary/CEO, Institute of Export Operations and Management (IEOM) based in Port Harcourt, River State. He is very vast and knowledgeable in export matters and operations. He takes a brief look at the export processing terminals licensed by the federal government through the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) and concludes that the efforts have given the nation some mileage of success in the export space but there are still more work to be done. Excerpts.
Has the NPA licensed export terminal changed anything in the export space?
Yes, I will say yes and no. Yes in the sense that at least you now have a place you can call your own, then No, in the sense that, what are their charges? May be it is has changed in terms of logistics and the rest, but our export prices are still not competitive, our prices are still higher because when you compare what they’re charging and everything, export should not be treated as imports, because we are contending with too many issues like infrastructure, electricity, among others.. So the only difference is that you have a place you can call your own, but what are their charges? It needs to be regulated to enable us to export more. What I will say is that, when our export has increased at a favorable price, I will say they have done something and there is a change.
What about the documentation, licensing and the rest of the processes?
It is a little bit easy in documentation using the terminals, because it is private terminals, quite unlike what you have in the main port, hope you understand, where you make a lot of payment here and there so most of those things have been reduced.
How has it been with the Customs?
Well, I think the only thing we need to do in this country, whether we like it or not, that will make us have an ease of doing business is a single window, in the sense that everything can be done from the comfort of your home without having an interface with anybody. And then they should also be consequences. Yes, because when you do things and get away with them, there should be consequences. I want to see how many Customs officers are sanctioned as a result of their illicit act in the port and that will serve as a deterrent to others. There’s no consequence as I’m talking to you. Somebody will do something and will even tell you,’ if you like call the CG’ and meanwhile our country is dying because of lack of export in the field and people are passing through hell.
With the new dollar rate, I think we should be attracting dollar, not we given out dollar, what do you say about that?
The challenge is that America is the highest importer in the world and the highest exporter, that’s how they balance their trade and that is why the dollar is always ahead. Even if we cannot balance the import/export ratio completely, we should be able to go to a certain percentage and that is why we are always having issues with the dollars. Let me just give you an analogy, a child that is well fed, on seeing another person’s food will not be worried, when there is something in excess what do you look for? It is scarcity that makes people run around, if people were exporting and we have a lot of dollar in the system, we won’t have this issue but because people want to import they need dollar, they want to pay their children’s school fees, they need dollar, they want to travel abroad, they need dollar, then what’s our production rate?
So you see that the demand is high and you know the issue with demand and supply. So when politicians say they will bring one dollar to one Naira, I laugh because they don’t have the power to do that.
Talking about trade now, how much are we doing to be able to balance a little of that, because you’re hoping on the export?
Well, from my perspective from the institute, and from the data, a lot is done. Lots of people, the awareness is there, on daily basis, a lot of people come to make inquiries, people also come to take training, so you know it is a gradual process, government should also look at it. What are the other things you need to do? You know, export is a process not a transaction that is why It’s a little bit difficult. We should also think of taking it to the school because apart from the product, we need also to export services. If we have one million companies coming into the country to do export, that will create employment, but who will they employ? How many of them have export knowledge? How many of them understand export? We are still going to import services, that’s why we are making a deliberate effort with the Rivers State University to take export to the University and see how we can expand it to other universities. A student in Ghana can do up to $200 in a session which is good for them. So much should be done, we should do more and talk less. Thank God we have created the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, they should work with the agencies under them, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Export Promotion Council whose major brief is to promote export, so if we all adhere to a team work mentality, believe me, we will get out of this wood soon.