17 July 2016, Lagos — Against the backdrop of renewed militancy in the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta and the attendant revenue loss to the federation, which has been conservatively put at over N2 billion daily, observers are of the opinion that any effort to diversify the economy and shore up the country’s foreign exchange earning potential should be a welcome development.
Though before the renewed bombing of oil assets, the federal government had identified the need to expand the country’s export profile to include non-oil sector as a way to shore up its foreign exchange earning potential. But keen observers noted the absence of articulate sustainable non-oil export strategy that will address the challenges stalling the growth of the sub-sector. The continued suspension of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG), some observers insisted underscored that contention.
The issues affecting non-oil exports are generally fundamental – infrastructure deficit, high cost of doing business and regulatory bottlenecks. Findings also revealed that access to finance is yet another issue affecting the non-oil export business in the country.
However, some analysts insisted that the issues affecting the sector are not limited to finance. Some of them voiced concerns that bordered on other issues including quality and standard even as they hailed the recently launched Non-oil Export Stimulation Facility (ESF) and submitted that it was a welcome initiative.
It could be recalled that the suspension of EEG came about when dried beans from Nigeria were found to have contained high level of pesticides considered dangerous to human health.
While the suspension lasted, relevant agencies including National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), had assured at various times that the suspension would be lifted as necessary steps were being taken to see to that.
Last May, Coordinating Director, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, reportedly told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that “We are working towards the lifting of suspension. The suspension is to end this year. We have sufficient laboratory equipment to test aflatoxin. So we don’t have any issues with that, we are trying to put our house in order,” he stated.
*Olaseni Durojaiye – Thisday