for eBizguides. November 21st, 2003
present us in facts and figures what the trade sector represents
Nigeria is a very
big economy, with more than 125 million people, it represents
a huge market. Currently our economy is dependent on oil and
gas, 90% of our foreign exchange comes from oil, only this
sector of the economy is fully developed, not even our gas
sector is properly developed. So when we realized that Nigeria
was becoming a mono-economy with all the dangers this implies,
we saw the only way we could make our economy move and grow
was through the diversification of the economy. The main sectors
we have to look at are first of all agriculture, which employs
60 to 70% of our population. The problem with those farmers
is that they have just small farms barely producing enough
for their own consumption. So the Government is trying to
see how they can be empowered through incentives and agricultural
inputs like tractors, pesticides, fertilizers, etc…
our ambition is to feed ourselves 100% and then still have
enough to export. The Government has put emphasis in certain
products like rice and cassava. We believe that when the agricultural
sector will be developed, we will be truly able to diversify
our economy as it is where most of our people are currently
working. Our intention is to create wealth for this country
and to have more revenue to service other sectors of the economy.
We also want to eliminate or reduce poverty as well as creating
job opportunities to our people coming from universities.
Those are basically our core intentions, create wealth, generate
employment and fight poverty. Then we come in because we try
to promote trade and investment into Nigeria and enable an
environment that can actually attract investors to come to
this country. For instance in solid minerals we have over
30 different kinds of minerals, each one of them in quantities
enough to start a successful export operation.
commerce play a vital role in the economy of a country. What
are the policies you are implementing to ensure your sector
becomes a strong and thriving sector?
I believe in studying
my environment before starting to shoot. Once I have started,
I don’t stop, but before starting you have to know the
environment, you have to plan properly, you must have a focus,
you must have a sense of direction and knowing where you are
going. I just have set up a committee that will guide me on
the vision for this Ministry and the initiatives for trade
and commerce in Nigeria. I believe commerce and trade is the
backbone of any country, whatever you produce, you want to
sell it. That is why we must have a focus and a sense of direction
and knowing where we are going. In order to do that I believe
we must go into partnership with the private sector. Some
of the policies and laws we are preparing cannot be implemented
without their support and understanding. This is why it is
so important for me to have the private sector as a partner.
After studying my Ministry, my parastatals and the international
environment, I have decided to set up this technical committee
to assess me on my initiatives. We must meet as a Ministry
with all our parastatals and have an in-house reassessment.
Look at what we have done in the past, what we are doing now
and what we will do in the future. Once this is done, we will
be able to face the private sector. After that, I am going
to organize a national interactive forum for all stakeholders.
I want everyone to be involved in the making of the laws and
regulations so that we can collectively implement them. We
are going to refocus and reposition the Ministry and trade
investment in this country. We are going to have a mission
statement and an action plan so that we know where we are
going and that we are not going alone.
the incentives your Ministry is launching to generate more
First of all we
are creating free trade zones, we already have one in Calabar.
The trade zone will provide all the facilities, infrastructure
and everything that will make an investor come to Nigeria
and acknowledge all the facilities to produce, process and
export are present. It is a country within a country. We are
creating two more zones, one in Lagos and another one in Kano,
there are plans for a fourth one in Jigawa, but we intend
to create more as we see them as a centre for investment attraction
towards the country, but Nigeria is so vast that we cannot
cover the whole country at the same time. Once installed in
a processing zone, the investor will be given land, tax holidays,
incentives for export and even the raw materials imported
will be tax free. At the same time we are also having various
forms of bilateral discussions with our partners and our friends
all over the world to see how can we operate within the global
economy and compete with other nations. We are also in multilateral
negotiations with the WTO, the EPA and the EU in order for
us to obtain access to larger markets and promote trade. Those
are some of the things we are doing to boost a quantum of
trade with us and other countries.
then the main partners and main markets of Nigeria?
The United States
and Europe are our main trading partners. Unfortunately, the
trade within Africa is very limited. This is basically due
to lack of infrastructure, currently it is easier to travel
to the US or EU than to another African country and this hinders
trade among us. But when it comes to trade partners, we are
actually targeting the whole world. We are looking at our
competitive advantages and where we can sell. We are indeed
looking for new trade partners, so we are looking at Asian
markets as well as Eastern European markets and other parts
you tell us more about the kind of products you are actually
considering for trade with those countries?
Agricultural products and solid minerals are our main focus,
but we want to ensure that we encourage the export of non-oil
products, this is very important for us. We want to increase
the capacity of our factories and make them able to compete
as well as to produce what we want.
One of the main concerns with trade in Nigeria is
smuggling and other malpractices. What are the actions undertaken
by your Ministry to eradicate this kind of activities?
There is more going under the ground than on the surface,
we export a lot, but most of it goes through illegal channels.
One of the ways to solve this problem is the creation of borders
free trade zones, this way we can bring this informal sector
into those zones so they can carry on with their activities
within this specific area. If we succeed at that, we will
be able to obtain more revenue for the Government and will
then be in the position to know exactly how much we export
abroad and import into Nigeria. Due to the informal channel,
it is very difficult to have reliable statistics. People tend
to go to the informal trade, there are billions of Naira going
unnoticed. The free trade areas along the borders and the
export production villages will help to solve that problem.
The idea of the export production villages is to get several
small enterprises together so that we can monitor them and
help them export formally. The first two export production
villages have been launched in Jos and Lagos in November,
but we are planning to launch more in several states of the
How is Nigeria benefiting from interregional integration
efforts like ECOWAS and other international structures or
initiatives like AGOA and what are its direct effects on trade?
It is very important to seize every opportunity we get and
it is also important to integrate into West Africa; having
a common market, common custom union and currency will help
us to create economies of scale. We will have a region with
over 300 million people, a huge market that will give us a
higher bargaining power with our trading partners. This will
also allow us a diversification of the economic activities
giving us also comparative advantages. The integration will
also help us to improve our infrastructure like roads, transportation,
communication, power, port facilities, etc… More important,
the integration will help us to improve development within
the area as well as the lives and the earning capacity of
our people. It will help us to fight poverty effectively.
This is why integration will bring along several advantages,
this is why Nigeria will do everything to encourage it and
will go for collective efforts rather than just individual
Our readers want to know more about the man behind
the Ministry, could you tell us more about your professional
I went to the University in Zaria (ABU) where I did my first
degree, after my National Service, I joined the Government
as an administrative officer. From there I grew within the
ranks of the Government hierarchy. I became a Permanent Secretary
and later Commissioner of Finance, Commerce and Industry.
In 1993, I retired, one year later I was called upon and elected
to go to the National Constitutional Conference. Meanwhile
I had other public responsibilities and after retirement I
was also involved in the private sector. I have worked directly
with nine Governors. I also helped to form our political party,
the PDP. After winning the elections, President Obasanjo appointed
me to go as Ambassador to Pakistan. After my diplomatic mission,
I was appointed as Minister of Commerce, so now I am trying
to market our products and services abroad.
What would be your final message to all businessmen
willing to start trade activities in Nigeria?
It is very important for us to show some high sense of commitment.
We all have a stake in the country called Nigeria. We want
to fight poverty and unemployment, achieve industrialization
in this country and improve the life of our people, we want
to be in the global system and make the 21st century our century.
We want to move to the position of a developed country. If
we want to achieve all this, everybody must be on board to
be able to make it happen. Therefore there is a commitment
that all of us must give ourselves to, it is something worth