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Abuja – Following Nigeria’s acceptance of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, the Federal Government, on Sunday, raised a new revenue target base of $150 billion expected to be generated from sources other than oil and gas.
The move, according to Executive Director of Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Segun Awolowo, is expected to be partly driven by the National Economic Council (NEC) headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, all in a bid to exploit market opportunities that would be created by the African Free Trade Agreement.
Although the targeted revenue base is expected to span between 10 and 15 years, the uncertainties that may arise from joining the AfCFTA, including low patronage for oil at the international market, spurred government to begin to look inwards.
Awolowo, who revealed these plans to State House correspondents, said: “Buhari raised some questions on zero oil implementation plan and how the country can go about it, including how we are going to be able to really diversify the economy.
“I told him of the setting up of a national committee on export promotion by NEC, chaired by the governor of Jigawa State, and what we are working on in order to diversify the economy.
“What we hope to achieve is to raise more revenue for Nigeria from other sources. You know, 90 percent of our revenue is from oil and we cannot survive.
“Even though oil prices are rising a bit because of Iran, there is problem there. But we should not rest on our oars because those days of $140 per barrel are gone forever. So, we have to look inwards and produce more.
“The zero oil plan is about raising production and productivity. We identified 22 sectors where we can earn foreign exchange apart from oil. We are hoping that in the next 10-15 years we will be able to raise $150 billion from sources outside oil.
“That is what we are working on and we are galvanizing the whole states behind us in other to raise production and productivity. We are working with the relevant MDAs to achieve this.
“You know, the CBN just announced an initiative on five of our products and giving them low interest rates to farmers and raise production.
“The sectors are particularly cocoa. Cocoa is an immediate win for us because, it’s been our number one none oil revenue making. But we are on less than 300,000 metric tons, Ghana is heading to 900,000, Cote d’ Ivoire almost two million metric.”
On how Nigeria hoped to compete effectively, Awolowo said, “If you see the landmass in Nigeria, you can imagine what we can do.”
He said another sector not fully tapped into was sheer nut and cashew.
He said: “These two agricultural products are another breadwinner for us, so let’s raise production, let’s give our farmers, plantations low interest loan so that they can raise production for us.
“We are also looking at value addition for all because that is the way you create jobs, we cannot continue to sell the raw materials.
“I was happy to present to Mr. President some tomatoes and Bell peppers from a green house in Benin. I also presented him Casanovas, which is cassava chips which a cottage industry is producing in Idu Industrial Estate, that is already being exported to Germany. And that is the future for Nigeria.
“We have just entered into African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which is the biggest in the world, we don’t want to be a dumping ground and that is why Mr. President refused signing until we are ready. We must be competitive, we must produce more, and we must help our manufacturers get into this market.”
Commenting on packaging and substandard products, the NEPC boss said, “Our products are no longer substandard and we are exporting all over West Africa and inter-land Africa.
“We have a few challenges here and there, but I always tell people, the journey of processing raw materials to producing goods is not going to happen overnight.
“We are going to have rejects but we will not succumb to them. Our packaging is improving and we are even packaging and labelling in different languages so we can get into those markets, particularly when Africa opens up for us now.
“For instance, you know we used to send our goods to West African countries but you know we are surrounded by francophone countries and we don’t even label our products in French but now we are not even doing that.”
Meanwhile, after several years of carryovers, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved payments of backlog of N350 billion export expansion grants (EEG) to exporters.
Awolowo, who disclosed this, said the backlog will be paid to exporters through the Debt Management Office (DMO).
With the approvals, exporters will now receive their certificates which they can use to cover loans, debts, pay AMCORN and taxes as well.
Awolowo, who expressed gratitude to President Buhari for the gesture, said the sum of N190 billion has been appropriated in the 2019 budget and approved by the National Assembly for payment.
“The president promised to give continuous support for this export. I thank him that we have paid the backlogs on the export expansion grant, that is an incentive that we give to exporters. We owed them for several years but we have reversed the whole system and the president approved to pay the backlog of N350 billion to pay them.”
Source: independent

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