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Revenue Drive: Evaluating NEPC’s non-oil export commitment

The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) last year launched a number of policies directed at improving the country’s leap in non-oil commodity export. Abdulwahab Isa examines some of these policies


Nigeria’s non-oil commodity export profile maintains steady rise back to back from 2021 to 2022, courtesy of aggressive reforms, overhaul of export structures engineered by Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). In 2021 fiscal year, Nigeria’s total exported non-oil products stood at $3.455 billion. The performance was higher in 2022 fiscal year. A recently released non-oil export data of NEPC put Nigeria non-oil export earnings at $4.82 billion in 2022. The increment in non-oil export commodity earnings in 2022 from 2021 $3.455 billion position was a product of carefully implemented policies driven by the management of NEPC. At a February, 2022 strategic retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State for top officials of the Council, the members had agreed to reposition the agency’s operational activities in line with current economic realities. During the retreat, the Council resolved to provide strategic non-oil export intervention programmes/ projects that will help cushion the negative impact of COVID-19 on businesses, especially the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). In the course of rendering the Council’s progress report for 2022, Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NEPC, Dr. Ezra Yakusak, attributed the feat to a lot of rebranding processes put in place for reengineering. According to Ezra, non-oil export earnings of $4.820 billion recorded for the year under review represented an increase of 39.91 per cent over 2021. He listed some of the policies pursued by the Council. Export4Survival campaign To increase volume of non-oil commodities for export is a target for the current management at NEPC. To attain the goal, Yakusak launched Export4Survival policy. It’s a strategic initiative designed to increase awareness of opportunities in export sector. It’s designed also to benefit exporting Nigerian goods and services and boosting overall growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product |(GDP). The Minister of industry, Trade and Investment (FIMIT), Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, unveiled Export 4 Survival policy on November 21, 2022 during the NEPC Export Week. The policy without doubt stimulates more exporters’ interest in variety of nonoil commodities for export. About 214 different products ranging from manufactured, semi-processed, solid minerals to raw agricultural products were exported in 2022. Of the category of products exported in 2022, according to NEPC’ data, urea/fertiliser came top with 32.87 per cent. Emergence of urea/fertilizer as highest exported product in 2022 was attributed tothe Russia-Ukraine war which created an avenue for Nigeria’s Urea/Fertilizer to    thrive. Speaking to the improvement recorded in exported goods, Dr. Yakusak said Nigeria’s products were exported to 122 countries with Brazil recording the highest import value of 12.27 per cent in 2022. Data on non-oil commodity export performance of NEPC also showed improvement in exporters’ participation. For instance, 1,172 exporters participated with Indorama-Eleme Fertilizer and Chemical Limited taking the lead with 23.25 per cent. Similarly, 31 issuing banks participated with Zenith Bank Plc processing the highest NXP values while 19 exit points were used with Apapa Port recording the highest tonnage. Securing global certification One of the black spots, which had hindered Nigeria’s commodities primed for export was their inability to get global recognition. To change a seemingly bad perception about Nigeria exported products at global scene, NEPC management launched ‘go global, go for certification initiative.’ The go global, go for certification is the Council’s project designed to facilitate SMEs acquisition of international certification in order to access niche market with premium pricing. The programme aimed at promoting export of quality products from Nigeria thereby reducing incidences of product reject in the international market. Speaking to the importance of go global, go for certification project, NEPC CEO noted: “It may interest you to know that over 154 MSMEs across the country have so far benefitted from this initiative by acquiring the certification in Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP|) and.Food and Drug Administration. The certification process for 200 fresh SMEs have since commenced.” Export rejects A known setback for Nigeria’s products in overseas was unbridled rejection for not meeting standards. Years back, Nigeria’s exported commodities have had to be dumped at overseas’ screening bays for lack of proper package, and other minute mistakes on part of exporters. Product rejection had rubbed off Nigeria expected forex gain. NEPC set out machinery in motion to tackle incidences of Nigeria’s products rejection across overseas. In collaboration with Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment among other relevant MDAs, NEPC embarked on fact-finding mission to the United Kingdom (UK) and other Europe nations as.part of strategic effort to address the issue of export reject which constituted major constraint to the.growth of the non-oil export sector. “The objectives of the factfinding mission were to provide Nigerian export-regulatory and facilitating agencies the opportunity of observing the processes of agricultural commodities import procedures and interface with Port Health and Food Import Regulatory Agencies at the Border Control Points (BCPs) in the UK. “At the end of that visit last year, an Inter-Agency meeting was held to debrief stakeholders on the outcome of the visit. The visit led to intensification by NEPC of its various capacity building programmes geared at addressing incessant issues of rejects. An inter-Agency committee on export reject was also constituted by the Minister,” he said. Another important initiative set up to address product reject in the foreign countries is creation of Domestic Export Warehouse (DEW). Giving update on DEW set up two years ago, Ezra said: “Since DEW came on stream two years ago, a total of 13 firms have been licensed to operate under Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) arrangement with one Aggregation Centre. “DEW is one of the key export intervention projects of the Council that has been put in place to address the high level of rejections of Nigerian commodities in foreign markets. “More importantly, it will further ease logistics constraints experienced by exporters. Presently, a Standard Operating Procedure is being developed for onboarding some of the DEW Operators on the Nigeria Ports Authority e-call up system. Kaduna Inland Dry Port is ready and will be used to flag off the DEW project in the first quarter of 2023.” Activating EEG Non-clearance of backlog of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) was a big unresolved issue hitherto hindering smooth conduct of export commodity business. EEG is a Federal Government programme aimed at supporting active exporters and expanding their international businesses. It is a postshipment incentive designed to encourage Nigerian exporters to expand export volume, value and improve global competitiveness of Nigerian products. Over the years, the Federal Government had not given it greater commitment it deserved partly due to funds paucity. Through Council strident push, Federal Executive Council (FEC) gave it an open hearing in 2021, with a commitment to begin the clearing of EGG backlogs. In 2022, for instance, FEC approved the sum of N375 billion to clear the backlogs of claims for 285 beneficiaries of the Export Expansion Grant scheme. The Council has commenced the process for clearance of backlogs of claims for 2021 and 2022 respectively. Last line Given the various strategies, polices lined up in place for export commodity promotion by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Nigeria is on the path to reclaim her position as foremost non-oil product export nation in Africa.

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