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Shippers Council seeks infrastructure development to facilitate non-oil export

Shippers Council
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has called on the Federal Government to formulate policies that would facilitate infrastructural development in the country as part of measures to boost non-oil export trade.

Speaking on Thursday at an industry stakeholders’ virtual dialogue organised by SHIPS  & PORTS with the theme: ‘Facilitating non-oil Export Trade to Salvage Nigeria’s Economy,’ Hassan Bello, executive secretary of the NSC said that access to the nation’s seaport has been a major problem to exporters, a development which he noted have impeded Nigeria’s non-oil export to compete effectively.

He said Nigeria has poor infrastructure and inefficient logistics that make it difficult for Nigerians to export.
“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,” he said.

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 the credit facility.
According to him, if adequately harnessed, the 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, ” he said.

Continuing,  Bello stated that “Nigeria has a 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 a policy on export, but they seem to be scattered; even the incentives are scattered. Access to finance for example, maybe 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 a concern and wean ourselves from importation.”

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 special terminals at the ports for export.

“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 includes exports. The new deep seaports must have facilities for export. Our ports must have the ambition; we don’t just build ports for building sake. These ports must have an export in mind and also efficient infrastructure,” he said.
Williams Ezeagu, director, Products Development, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), stressed the need for exporters to build capacity to benefit from credit facilities.

On what the NEPC is doing to build the capacity of exporters, Ezeagu said, “The 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 to incorporate the training into their business.”

While responding to inquiries by participants on access to a credit facility, Ezeagu added, “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 only to discover that. We must create this capacity for 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 specialised trucks to move export products from the hinterland to the port to preserve the cold chain.

Earlier, Shulammite Foyeku, the host of the conference, said the purpose of the dialogue was to seek ways the nation can leverage on the 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, with the fall in crude oil price occasioned by COVID 19 pandemic.
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