The Federal Government on Thursday said it was working on a new trade policy with nations under the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, with whom it shares important mutual trade relations.
The government also said it has perfected plans to commence a twenty-four hour ports operations in order to resolve the challenge of congestion in Lagos ports.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Trade and Investments, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, while addressing State House correspondents during the weekly inter-ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister explained that the policy is meant to immune the Nigerian economy from the numerous sanctions from western countries currently strangling Russia, adding that the new trade policy would be subjected to thorough considerations before being presented to President Muhammadu Buhari and then to the public.
He further said that the trade department of his ministry has been mandated to analyse the crisis in the region as its concerns trade with Nigeria to come up with a report.
Adebayo spoke while appearing on the weekly inter-ministerial press briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Asked if the sanctions imposed on Russia would affect Nigeria, the Minister said, “My ministry is looking at all the issues involved since the war has come up.
The trade department is looking at what we import and export to them with a view of coming up with a policy paper which we will present to Mr. President.
“We have mandated our trade department to do an analysis to look at all the issues and come out with a report. Once that report is ready, I will be presenting to the President, after presenting to the President, I will come here to brief you about it.
”The Minister statement came on the heels of the report quoting data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics that revealed a worrisome impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Nigeria. It disclosed that since 2019, Nigeria has received $84.3m in capital imports from Russia.
The country also imported N144bn ($346.2m) worth of durum wheat in 2020 and N123.9bn ($297.8m) worth of durum wheat between January – September 2021 from Russia.Besides, Nigeria also imports various seafood such as mackerel, herrings, and blue whiting from Russia.
According to data obtained from the NBS, Nigeria similarly imported milk worth N721.5m ($1.7m) from Ukraine in 2021.On the Presidential Sugar Backward Integration Program, the Minister noted that although local demand for Sugar was 1.75 million metric tons as of 2021, only 5 per cent of the sugar consumed in the country are produced locally.
According to him, the prime goal of the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan, therefore, is to attain self-sufficiency in sugar production and begin exporting to other nations by 2032.
Asked how his ministry plans to bridge the wide production gap, Adebayo said “We’re looking at Nigeria being self-sufficient in sugar production in 10 years. We’re hoping and we believe with the programs that we have in place that within the next 10 years, we will be 100 per cent self-sufficient in sugar, and not only that, we’ll be able to export sugar produced in Nigeria.
”On how the government would achieve the 10-year self-sufficiency plan and other goals of the Sugar Master Plan, the minister revealed that it would be joint work with the Organised Private Sector.
“The sugar master plan is being undertaken in conjunction with the private sector. So the funding, the money that is being spent is majorly investments by these major industrialists, who are those involved in the backward integration programme. It’s not government funding, it is private sector funding to implement the sugar master plan,” he explained.
He also raised hopes that the new excise lever per litre on nonalcoholic beverages and sweetened beverages mean to discourage excessive sugar consumption—as announced in January by the finance minister, Zainab Ahmed—will not affect sugar manufacturers in the short term.
Adebayo said, “Yes. In the long term, it might affect sugar producers. But in the short term, it will not.
At present, our sugar intake in Nigeria, we import 1.7 billion tons of raw sugar every year. At the present moment, we are only manufacturing less than 5 per cent of that.
“So, it allows us to build up what we are manufacturing. So, in the short term, it really will not have that effect on the manufacturers, the practitioners of the backward integration programme.
”On concerns raised about the clearing challenges importers grapple with at the seaports and how such challenges are stifling ease of doing business in Nigeria, he said plans are underway to keep the ports open 24 hours, seven days a week.
He said, “Yes, there are major challenges that are being encountered in the industry. And I said, one of the challenges is with the clearing of goods. I am part of the ease of doing business. My ministry is charged with the implementation of ease of doing business. I am vice-chairman of the Presidential Ease of Doing Business Environment Council, which is under the chairmanship of His Excellency, the Vice President.
“Only two days ago, we held another meeting under the chairmanship of the Vice President and this issue came up again, it keeps occurring. And a lot of effort is going into trying to see what efforts can be made and what can be done to ease that particular environment.
“The government is spending a lot of money on infrastructure, the road to the port. Contracts have been awarded for scanning machines for the Customs to enable them clear goods more efficiently and quicker.
Plans are underway for the port to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week so that there will be quicker movement of goods. Before the end of the year, it is believed that the new port at Lekki will be operational.”