The Chairman, Port Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin, has tasked the Federal Government to focus on creating a non oil export oriented economy to solve the economic challenges presented to Nigeria by the Coronavirus pandemic and drop in oil price.
Folarin who made the call while speaking in Lagos said the country has enormous export products whose potentials can be harnessed to generate foreign exchange, create jobs and grow the nation’s GDP.
The PCC Chairman, who took a swipe at the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), for doing little in promoting non-oil exports said the Covid 19 pandemic and the fall in oil price has further exposed the need for government to create policies that would encourage export produce where the country has comparative advantage.
“Where do we have the comparative advantage, it is in export. If we were producing enough in the 40s, 50s when there was no oil and we can build cocoa house, run the general hospitals, and the Nigerian airways even to London, we can do it now.
“If we are looking inward, we have to start with where we can control the flow, which is export. It has worked before because we have the comparative advantage and we dictate the price we are ready to sell. We can’t dictate the price we want to sell oil now; it is the buyers who dictate the price and the volume you should produce.
“The export we need to focus on now apart from the crude is produce, such as cocoa, palm kernel and groundnut. We have export Promotion Council, promoting what? As policy, government should allow the Council promote these export or they succeed or perish because even the banks depend on export,” he said.
Folarin further noted that for the nation’s port to play its role in driving diversification there is need to put in place structures that will enhance operational efficiency and make the ports more competitive.
He also stressed the need for operators to embrace full automation which he noted will help improve cargo clearance and minimize gridlock as well as human interface at the ports.
According to him, “If we have competitive port administration and management that attracts all the ships and services to Nigeria we can become competitive by providing the expert needed for services and port productivity so that we become the preferred port of first port of call. Then, the hub we are talking about will become real.
“If we can turn around a container vessel in 24 hours and discharge 10, 000 bulk cargo within two days, everybody will come here. So, port productivity is also key. We need to look at the cost of services and the quality of services they render.
Removing bureaucracy in port management also goes to Customs and other agencies to remove all the bottlenecks in cargo clearance. We need to automate our processes.
For example, if we have an electronic call up system, we will not have everybody trooping to the port because all the trucks will not be there. I am confident that Nigeria can beat any country in terms of economic recovery in Africa with Covid 19 and even after if we enforce these regulations.”