Mr. Ibe at the interview session.
Story by Dili Utomi.
A prominent member of the import, export and the freight forwarding community, Mr. Stephen Ibe has decried the deplorable nature of Nigeria’s import and export businesses.
Mr. Ibe who has been in these lines of businesses for nearly forty years says that the dwindling fortunes of the business around our maritime corridor especially the amount of goods that come into the country owes the slide majorly to the nosediving value of the national currency, the naira. He spoke exclusively to us on the state of the nation’s import and export businesses and gave his opinion on the way forward.
On the question of whether there is a generally less amount of importation, Mr. Ibe said that this is real for two main reasons. The value of our means of exchange, the naira is becoming less by the day and this affects the amount of foreign exchange the naira can generate. Secondly he said that the cost of clearing goods from the ports are getting higher by the day adding that since 2019 the government has increased the Tarrif on imported goods several times and this is affecting the capacity of Nigerians to invest in the importation business as they now find it very difficult to raise the kind of money needed to do the business because of high and multiple Tarrif. Mr. Ibe noted that the reintroduction of a benchmark in the clearing of cargo has become so stifling to businesses as it has created a steep slope in the process of goods clearance for players.
On export, Mr. Ibe says that this is on the increase both in volume and value, but that there are also processes that seem to hamper this area of business. “The vice president of the federation came to the port sometimes ago, launched the ease of doing business with all the pomp and pageantry that come with it and there was a lot of expressed hope about the policy, but in our country, saying something is different from doing it; as soon as the vice president left for Abuja, the government officials at the Ports returned to doing things their own way”. One area that would have really helped our export is the manufacturing of finished goods, but we all know that the deplorable nature of our electricity generation and supply cannot help us to attain the status of a real manufacturing economy. If we fix our power problems, we would have fixed probably half of our economic problems. I had the experience of trying to go into goods manufacturing with a Chinese counterpart and the needed machinery was brought in, but six months down the line, our foreign partner got frustrated and eventually left the country mainly because of power supply issues.
Mr. Ibe said that apart from the fact that the exchange rate is negatively impacting on the economy, he also said that the lending rate for banks should be reviewed downwards so that people can access funds to do business and create opportunities for the teeming population.
He also advised the government to repair the refineries in order to provide fuel for the local economy and for export. He reminisces on the state of the nation about forty years ago and compared it to now and says that when we produced in the 70s and 80s, the value of the naira was comparatively high, he noted that our vehicles and clothes were new and were produced locally and that there was no such things as tokunbo vehicles then. “If we produce our own fuel, we will not be frittering our scarce foreign exchange on the importation of the needed fuel and the money saved can be used to provide the needed local infrastructure and the other areas of the economy may be revamped”.
We, as a nation need to be more serious with the building of our economy and so all the needed ingredients that can help us to achieve our economic dreams should be encouraged and the conducive environment should be created.
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