Save Nigeria’s Import-Dependent Economy


Recent official statistics regarding the Nigerian imports of goods, products and services of varying sorts from foreign countries are comparatively and quite bothersome, just as their deep impact is visibly being felt on the country’s dwindling foreign reserves and the Naira, the nation’s currency.

But what constitute these imports? Trading Economics describes an import as “any good or service brought into one country from another country in a legitimate fashion, typically for use in trade. Import goods or services are provided to domestic consumers by foreign producers. An import in the receiving country is an export to the sending country. Imports, along with exports, form the basis of international trade…”

Although import of goods usually requires the involvement of the Customs’ authorities in both the country of import and the country of export and is often subject to import quotas, tariffs and trade agreements, the situation in Nigeria, oftentimes, is different from what actually obtains in other climes due to official corruption, smuggling and other sharp practices hurting the economy.

Research has indicated that Nigeria’s imports were worth US$13.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, covering mostly industrial supplies (32 per cent of total); transport equipment and parts (23 per cent); capital goods (24 per cent); food and beverage (11 per cent) and consumer goods. Whereas the nation’s predominant import partners in this regard are China (17 per cent of total), Albania (11.3 per cent), United States (7.5 per cent), France and Belgium.

With all manner of imports, both legitimate and otherwise, into the country of late, official statistics reportedly made public by both the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that Nigeria’s imports were worth about N10 billion in July 2011 alone.

As if the country delights in remaining a perpetual net importer of varying products from abroad, recent revelation by Dr. Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina, Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources, was short of a national embarrassment. According to him, during his presentation of Agricultural Transformation Plan at the recent National Economic Summit (NES#17), of the total imports the country had recorded in recent years, food and beverage imports took about US$628 billion (over N98 billion) of the total import bills between 2007 and 2010.

Offering further insights into how worrisome Nigeria’s over-dependence on imports (averaging 11 per cent per annum) has become in recent years, Dr. Adesina reportedly disclosed that in the food and beverage sub-sector alone in 2010, the country spent whopping “N635 billion on importation of wheat, N356 billion on rice, which invariably translated into spending close to N1 billion per day; N217 billion on sugar imports as well as N97 billion on fish importation,” in spite of the numerous marine resources, rivers, lakes and creeks rich in sea foods, stretching across the Nigerian federation.

This precarious development is quite disappointing, unsustainable and unacceptable in a country that had hitherto prided itself on its comparative advantage in exporting products such as oil palm from the East/South; cocoa from the West, cotton and groundnut from the North, among other notable agricultural produce which contributed immensely to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the days of yore. That was the time when the “trap” of oil boom and its concomitant sudden, huge wealth regime had not overrun the nation’s economic life.

While one is not contending that there no nation on earth today that is an autarky, a country operating economic self-sufficiency, which is entirely independent of international trade and does not rely upon imported goods one way or the other, yet, it is mind-boggling to realise that the continual, slipshod importation of all manner of goods and products from absolutely counterfeit to substandard into this country, is ultimately over stretching Nigeria’s foreign reserves in addition to turning ours into a dumping ground.

Again, the latest revelation by the Agriculture and Natural Resources minister on the planned cuts on food exports to other nations of the world, including Nigeria, by the frontline food-producing nations. Such countries include Thailand, Russia, India and Vietnam, which, following pressure over increased demands for same food items at home, are somewhat signalling to Nigeria and other import-dependent consumer nations to start thinking, at least, with regard to the way out if these food-producing and exporting nations finally decide to execute the food export ban proposal.

In this era of technology revolution, a sequel of the industrial era, Nigeria should jump on the bandwagon of promising knowledge economy that predominantly drives the development of new technologies, skills, strategies, processes, procedures and aptitudes to revive the nation’s comatose industrial sector, thereby creating employment opportunities and wealth for millions of our people.

In a deliberate national paradigm shift of sort, embracing these new developments may afford the nation the opportunity of preserving whatever remains of its national dignity in the eyes of the international world, aside from enabling the country to play big in the proposed, coveted league of 20 top economies in the world by year 2020.

Border security officials, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) officers and other food and product regulatory agencies such as the National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), need to do a lot more in regulating the standard of foods and other goods and products being ordered and shipped into this country these days.

The purported connivance of many unpatriotic Nigerian importers who indulge in expressly encouraging manufacturers, especially in China, to produce low quality goods and products, which in most instances, are very harmful to the life of the average Nigerian consumer of such sub-standard goods and products, must be tamed. Such wicked importers and their collaborating foreign manufacturers agreeing to commit this grave economic crime, flooding the nation’s markets with poor quality products, should be detected by these government agencies and sufficiently prosecuted.

In the name of globalisation, Nigeria should no longer be a dumping ground for all kinds of sub-standard products, a practice which even the proponents of globalisation as Europe and the Americas can never allow on their shores, when it comes to importing quality goods and products from other countries. Rather, we need to put our act together and make conscious efforts at promoting Made in Nigeria goods by reviving the nation’s ailing industries, empower the largely struggling Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in order to support the growth of entrepreneurship that can create opportunities for the army of unemployed young population.

As rational, self-respecting humans, shouldn’t we have standard in connection with imported products we consume from time to time? After 51 years of political independence, when are we planning to achieve relative economic independence? In fairness to them, it’s high time we stopped blaming the white men for the nation’s persistent socio-economic and political woes, even decades after officially managing Nigeria’s affairs.

•Gbenga Kayode, a media professional, writes from Lagos.