By Gabriel Ewepu and Alice Ekpang – Abuja
As Federal Government continues to make efforts to diversify the economy, non-oil commodities’ exporters under the auspices of the Network of Practicing Non-oil Exporters of Nigeria, NPNEN, weekend, called for synergy with relevant regulatory bodies on goods acceptance.
The call was made at a one-day town-hall meeting of non-oil exporters and regulatory bodies, held in Abuja.
Speaking on the issues affecting non-oil export business in Nigeria, Chairman, NPNEN Steering Committee, Olufemi Boyede, urged the regulatory bodies in Nigeria to help facilitate the acceptability of Nigerian products in other countries.
Boyede said: “The truth is that Nigerian agencies can help the acceptability of Nigerian products in every country of the world if the Nigerian agencies will just identify their partner organization in that country.
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“Every country has its own import regulation but yet the exporting country’s institutions have the rule to play in expanding the acceptability of export products from Nigeria.
“We appreciate and see the government efforts to ensure that Nigeria becomes a non-oil export-driven economy, but you can bring these programs from the textbook they have got to be demand-driven, they have got to address the issues of the sector
“Let us look at ourselves as facilitators rather than regulators; we should not use regulations as policing.”
According to him the advocacy unit of NPNEN is ready to do everything that is possible to engage appropriate institutions of Nigeria’s business space to address issues that are pertinent to non-oil exporters.
“To exporters, NPNEN is ready to be your voice, give us the arsenal we will fire the shot and we are not in confrontation with the government, we want to work with the government, it is not us versus them the only thing is we want them to understand from our point of view”, he said.
One of the panelists who also is into export logistics, Rita Owese, said it has become imperative for relevant stakeholders in the non-oil sector to unite and speak with one voice and form a formidable force that would tackle challenges plaguing the industry.
Owese who acknowledged the huge potential in the non-oil sector yet to be explored and utilized said, “We should be the envy of the whole world if we can properly put things in place to work but we have very serious challenges that hinder our ability to stand out and take advantage of the potentials we have to carry out a lot of non-oil export.
“And of course there is the challenge of synergy between the different organizations, the NPA, the shipping line, the exporters in terms of the documentation process.
“Let us as stakeholders come together to stop this back and forth toss, let’s look at these challenges why must we have several agencies doing one job why can’t we have a synergy between all the regulatory bodies, why must we go through each and every one of them for a single export.”
However, according to her, one of the major challenges affecting non-oil exporters include bad road network, which makes it virtually impossible for exporters to move shipment around from any part of Nigeria.
“One of the key issues is the road network is bad and because the road network is bad its effect is almost seen in everything; in the transit time, in the cost which is quite huge, in the confidence the international community has in Nigeria to be able to handle their logistics, the exporters are crying because they are not meeting demands due to the challenges on ground.
“With the bad road network making it impossible to ship, to pick up the shipment from any part of Nigeria even within Lagos, to come into the port takes one month or 20 days.
“We just have to find a way to reach out to the relevant authorities. A lot of African countries that are supposed to learn from us are now learning from them. It is high time we look inwards to these challenges which I believe we can resolve”, she stated.
Meanwhile, a representative from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, Chioma Chudi-Anaukwu, pointed that non-oil exporters in Nigeria have continued to face the challenge of ban or rejection of the consignments because countries they export to have their requirement and conditions that exporters are expected to meet, but unfortunately most exporters from Nigeria fail to fulfill those requirements.
Chudi-Anaukwu said, “There are things we need to put into consideration as a way forward for non-oil exporters to be able to effectively export their products without bans or rejection that has to do with importing requirements from the country you want to export our product to.
“We find out that a lot of countries have various importing requirements to their countries but most times, most of our exporters try not to fulfill those requirements. If we try to encourage exporters to actually look into that they may be able to get the various requirements that are required by each country because the requirements for each country and continents actually defers.
“So exporters should be enlightened on these because getting to know the requirements of importing country are actually very key despite every other thing we try to put in place.”
In another remark from one of the officials from PDF-Bridge, Dr Olumuyiwa Alaba, the regulatory agencies are acknowledged of what they are doing but how can this add value in helping players in the non-oil sector.
“The regulatory agencies are doing a lot, but it is not about what they are doing or what they think they are doing, it is about how well they can do all of these things to assists our exporters
“How much are you making life easy for the exporters to be able to meet all of the requirements? We need to unbundle why Nigeria is not a preferred destination to export and how can our regulatory body do better to help.”
In their reaction, participants at the town hall meeting charged regulatory bodies to become facilitators rather than being revenue generation conscious to meet and surpass targets as they alleged that regulatory agencies are stumbling blocks to export rather than export facilitators; until they change that mindset we are going nowhere; Most times when we ship our goods it gets lost in transit but if we have a national carrier that will bring things to England or to Rome. That will definitely help reduce the cost.
“Apart from the infrastructure facilities and logistics challenges, there is a need to establish communication channels for the sector, because it seems as if everything is in place but people do not know where to get what.
“There is a need for us to have a point of communication, one-stop shot where every information about export is domicile so that anyone interested in export can access and know all that is required.”
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