Economic restructuring, key to Nigeria’s development – Umeofia
A lot has been written about Nigeria’s inability to attain self-sufficiency in tomato paste production in the nearest future. Some of the writings have been laced with outright falsehood to hoodwink Nigerians into believing that it is impossible in the meantime to produce tomato paste locally; while some are sponsored by the cabal that are bent on frustrating genuine indigenous manufacturers from succeeding, others are aimed at sustaining the importation of the products. It is disheartening to know that though Nigeria is ranked the second largest producer of tomato in Africa and 13th in the world, the country is also the largest importer of tomato paste from China and India. What empirical and economic justification can be used to explain this anomaly, if not economic sabotage? The beauty of the diversification agenda of the present administration is that Erisco Foods Limited, a wholly indigenous Nigerian Company has developed a technology that processes fresh and dried tomatoes to paste.
In an interview with the President of Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia after the facility tour of the company’s factory in Lagos by The Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, he stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria is technically killing indigenous manufacturers. “It will interest you to know that we source our foreign exchange up to 96% from the parallel market and a paltry 4% from the Central Bank of Nigeria for the importation of machinery and spare parts, yet we have proof that foreign exchange is still being allocated to trading companies owned mostly by foreigners for the importation of most of the prohibited items like tomato paste, fish heads and supermarket items that can be produced locally” he said. Umeofia further challenged the CBN Governor to publish how much foreign exchange they give to indigenous manufacturers, let’s compare it to what importers of food products get to tell you that we have sold our economic right to foreigners.
Chief Umeofia expressed concern over the continued approval for the importation of tomato paste in the country when we can attain self-sufficiency in tomato production. When the question of the effects of the importation of tomato paste has done to the economy was put to him, he emphasized that they stifle indigenous manufacturers forcing many of them to stop production. The attendant implication is that thousands of teeming Nigerians are thrown into unemployment. He advised the President to urgently reorganize his cabinet to get patriotic people that will help him to achieve his economic diversification agenda. If we completely get rid of the importation of tomato paste in the country, believe me, with our expansion projects and the right government support, we can attain self-sufficiency in tomato production and processing by December 2016 and even start exporting by 2017” he said.
On the expansion drive of the company, he said the idea behind the recent ground – breaking foundation ceremony of its Multi – Billion Naira Tomatoes, Rice, Groundnuts, Maize farm and Tomato processing plant in Katsina State on the 9th day of August 2016 is the company’s backward integration strategy for the growth of the much-needed foods and raw materials for use in their factories in Lagos and other parts of Northern Nigeria, including Katsina state. Umeofia stated that the efforts of the company are geared towards diversification of the nation’s economy, save as well as earn foreign exchange for the country, and above all create jobs for our teeming youths. The production capacity of the firm will hit one million metric tonnes when the factory is completed.
It will interest you to know that we are the only company in the whole of the country that currently produces tomato paste from fresh and dried tomatoes and the production lines were recently commissioned by the Wife of the President – Her Excellency, Hajia Aisha Muhammadu Buhari on February 18, 2016”, he emphasised. He however commended the Executive Governor of Katsina State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Maisari for making Katsina State the investment destination in the country by providing the enabling environment for private enterprises to thrive and enjoined all other Governors to emulate the governor by doing same. We are the architects of our failure, because if adequate support if given to indigenous manufacturers and ban the importation of tomato paste, the strategy will save Nigeria over one billion dollars currently being spent on the importation of substandard tomato paste in the country. He emphasized that we need to restructure the economy for Nigeria’s recovery as no foreigner can develop this country for us.
When reminded that he is being accused of trying to monopolise the market, he countered that he encourages competition among various stakeholders to bring out the best in them, but not when you are importing the same product we are manufacturing locally. According to him, many local manufacturing companies have shut down due to unfriendly policies. If the Federal Government and regulators give indigenous manufacturers 20 per cent of the support they give to foreign investors, we would become one of the biggest exporters of tomato products in the world.
The fight to put Nigerian economy in the right track is a fight for everyone as we must all rise up to save our economy by supporting and patronizing ‘Made in Nigeria’ products, he concluded.