Cart before the horse

The news about Nigeria banning imported consumer goods is fascinating – always on news reports. When we’re not banning rice, it would be frozen chicken/turkey or tin tomato, I even read somewhere last year about banning books, good grief! This is all in the name of protecting local businesses, my question always is what are we protecting?

Isn’t it better to protect what we already produce rather than our intention?

Heaven knows who comes with the idea of us being self-sufficient, we are obviously not, not even nearly. Baba Obasanjo started this long ago raising poultry tariffs so high to kill all competitors – the result? Importers dump their goods with neighbouring countries for Nigerians crossing the borders, paying higher prices and facing bigger risks to their lives to pick them up.

This International Trade Centre graphs below say it all: How can Republic of Benin with population of 10.3M importation of rice close to that of China with over 1.4B people? We blame the customs officers for collecting bribes, when it seems they were put on the borders to do just that because people will cross the borders by all means possible because there are goods waiting on the other side to fill the needs of Nigerians. CTg1KRTW4AAC4pY

How can one ban importation of goods before making adequate provision for alternatives?

With the little economics I learnt in school competition works well to benefit everyone in the long run especially a nation like ours where we have left farmers to their subsistence farming from a long time with little or no assistance.

Importation of goods when done legally is good for us, it keeps prices down and encourage companies to improve on their products.

It is all getting embarrassing just reading about this nearly everyday of yet another consumer goods being confiscated.

One argument was that we need to appreciate and use our own locally made goods as that is the way to grow the economy, really? If that was completely true then how much have we grown with the cement monopoly? God bless Dangote.

Nigerians will buy goods made in Nigeria when the price is competitive, forcing people to pay higher price for equal or lower quality will result in smuggling. We’ve seen plenty of that.

When there are many unreasonable restrictions on all goods, the prices stay up leaving the public to suffer the brunt of it all. If the borders were open for consumers goods that we clearly needed, then this companies can pay their taxes legally, prices is cheaper for Nigerians as we would have cut needless transportations costs and bribery at the borders.

What should be ultimate concern of our government at least for now is make sure products coming in to the country follow strict safety regulations not outright ban when there has not been viable alternative for the people.

Hopefully, the new ministers would pay attention to this age-old problem. The idea behind being self-sufficient is fantastic but banning consumer goods when we clearly not producing enough will only enrich few Nigerians while the population pay higher price.

Categories: Nigeria

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16 replies

  1. Dearest FO…. I am sorry to report it is like I feared. This government doesn’t have a viable plan for boosting our economy, they are still playing to the gallery. Cash flow is horrible these days & the economy is slowing down FAST. Prices are getting low because folks can’t afford much, sales are down and investment at its lowest. People don’t spend & increasingly, people can’t save. It will get worse but I worry that it won’t get better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi FK, this was well written and easy to understand.
    I have questions, Nigeria does produce some rice but, this doesn’t account for the fact that Nigerians import nearly as much rice (via the Republic of Benin) as China. China’s population is roughly 7 times that of Nigeria’s. So why this huge gap in Nigeria between consumption and production, especially with the population expanding (at an unsustainable rate as it currently is). This really must be tackled with immediate urgency, countries such as Vietnam and Thailand have mastered the art of rice production – seems like a good idea to go and find out how these guys do it, and apply their techniques to the local environment.
    Banning goods is very outdated especially now when Free Trade Agreements are all the rage around the world. Government may insist that foreign companies are having an unfair advantage by granting them access to the Nigerian economy. Why doesn’t government concentrate on putting the basics (power, water and the removal of needless bureaucracy) in place to allow companies to grow in Nigeria, and facilitate exports? Banning imports is a lazy and ineffective measure. Also the arbitrary use of government bans will deter investors as the government will have shown itself to be unpredictable and unreliable.
    Oil revenues should not be used to pay for the importation of food that can be produced locally, that is simply a waste of money which could be better spent on other needs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nigeria would not deal with anything urgently except if say it hurts enough of the untouchables deeply. The sad part of our story is that most of the so called ‘patriotic’ are the same people who made deals with generator manufacturers, how can we have such dumb leaders, most of whom were highly educated in world class unis but believed the best way to make money was to sell out their country, they are the same group of people that think we should keep banning stuff, then go behind the back and negotiate with neighbouring countries and border control.

      Take for example, last week a truck full of frozen poultry was confiscated, they said it was in good condition but violated importation ban so these custom guys drove the truck to somewhere in Portharcourt dug shallow pit and buried the lot. Only for folks to decend on the pit shortly after and dug all out – to eat or sell on. What a country!


      • You have hit definitely identified the problem in your first paragraph. The people elect/nominate/permit ‘sell-outs’ to gain political office. These officials duly are solely interested in short-term gains to the expense of everything else and consequently make questionable deals with ‘vested interests’. The Emir of Kano referred to this also (which you pointed out in one of your previous posts).

        This is where the press and a patriotic public should step in. Where government officials are revealed to have a ‘conflict of interest’, this should be highlighted by the press and politics should then take it’s course and they either give up the government position or their conflicting business interest.

        Buhari may be a soul with good intentions, but is negated if he is surrounded a gang of serpents, who speak and act with a ‘forked tongue’. This is his second opportunity to lead the country, he has international experience and has ‘been around the block’, he should exercise good judgment and select those who have the ‘interests of the nation at heart’, he has over 170 million people to choose from.

        The fault doesn’t entirely lie with the government, the people are the main source of the problem, having ‘low standards’ if not ‘no standards altogether’ – reveals a very ugly selfish nature in society. Those who can get rich by any means do so, and the rest are left to fend for themselves in the same spirit. That disturbing account you posted of people unearthing buried chickens to eat in the tropics, makes grim reading.

        The betrayal of Nigeria by the society at large, not only robs the society of a ‘better tomorrow’, but also condemns future generations to life of poverty.


        • Fingers crossed for Buhari and us all. Let’s hope that we will see positive change in coming months.

          Totally agree with you, everyone has a role to play to make this country better. Well, our standard will improve once we learn not to think for ourselves.


  3. Dear Fola,

    I understand where you are coming from but Imtend to agree with Swo8 that becoming a dumping ground is perhaps worse than being “deprived” of the chance to buy whatever you have the money for.

    In 1975 when my husband and I first returned to Nigeria,, my mother gave us a cocoa bag-size of upland rice grown in Ekiti area to help us settle down. That rice lasted and lasted and helped us a whole lot. My small town in then newly-created Ondo State had a cooperative where rice growers could mill their harvest.

    Before you could spell the word “freedom” in any language, entered Shagari’s NPN banditry – actually quite tame by the standard of looting that brought the army back – a rice armada was on its way. Nigerians said goodbye to tasty unpolished rice and welcomed the bland- tasting imports fromThailand and just about anywhere.

    Okay, Fola, look at our aso oke. It’s just that there are many of us who would not touch the Chinese WIRE ASO OKE as a friend describes the Chinese imports, otherwise, it would have been goodbye for ever to one of the world’s most admired textiles.

    I think free trade is good in the hands of a serious people but we are too accepting of anything dumped on us to be ALLOWED to be left to our own devices.

    Even internally, the case of southerners waiting till tomatoes can be hauled down from the arid North is perplexing. I once wrote in one of my weekly essays when Yorubas, perhaps the most receptive of any invasive ideas, foods, imports, et cetera that IF YORUBAS CANNOT GROW THEIR FOOD! YOURUBAS MUST STARVE! That was the title and it got quite feedback. I did not mean it to be against the North but I never saw TATASE in my life till my first return from the State’s in ’75, and huge as Ibadan was even back in the 60s, people planted the OgunoanRiver bed along its meandering course thru the city with cabbage and lettuce.

    People cannot be really free until they learn to curb their appetite for foreign goods, and as govt’s chief duty should be the welfare of the people, I think putting some checks on excessive importation that drains a country of scarce financial resources should be part of that welfare care.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree with you Mrs Adenle re being self sufficient. Actually, I grew up on local rice called OMG because one needs to clean it certain way to rid of sand but we loved it as it is cheaper and tastier.

      If the govt bans importation of consumer goods in good faith meaning our borders were controlled with total honesty, then everyone lives facing the same fate, that would be great. During the elections, Nigeria govt partnered with Thai to custom-packed election rice, then after the election, they make noise about protecting locally made food. They speak with both sides of the mouth deliberately to confuse people. It is the same story since iI was little.

      How can Nigeria produce enough rice at affordable price when we still rely on generator to finish off. Adding the high cost of energy, local rice can not compete with foreign rice in terms of price, this is the same argument for fabric industry – banning importation don’t work because the shameless Nigerian ‘leaders’ are the same people behind the dump at the borders.

      The only losers here are the general public as they pay the high price. If the government want to genuinely help our economy to be self sufficient, the key reason bankrupting home industries must be addressed – power, good transport system, we can not compete on price relying on generators.

      I read somewhere that we have partnered with a Thai Co to establish rice farm in the country. This to me is better, local people get trained – let’s hope this ever move forward.


  4. Hi Fola, it is really strange but we are suffering from the exact opposite situation. Our governments are signing all sorts of trade deals that allows other countries to sell their good at below cost for what we can produce it. It is causing all sorts of problems. Our manufacturers are leaving the country and going to places where they can pay their workers less. Our businesses are disappearing at an alarming rate and we are suffering from massive unemployment. The government says it is about 7% unemployment when it is more like 18 – 20%. Even our farming is going to be threatened by the coming TPP Agreement. People will sell their farms because they just can’t compete. We will soon lose all our food independence to places like the USA. Competition is good but when you have dumping which distroys the businesses within your country, that isn’t a good thing. Why can’t they get it right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know Leslie, it is a strange world. I understand what you mean by the inverse result of outsourcing to local economy, it is not good enough if local people have to pay higher price while companies are content with getting the job done where low wage is the norm.

      What I hope Nigerians will do is what Western countries, here Canada is doing – be present and question our government motives.

      In our case it is true we must grow our own food but this will not happen until the government started investing in large scale farming and even when they did, people still need to eat while our industry is picks up.

      Liked by 1 person


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