N1trn EEG debt: Awolowo raises exporters’ hope

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*NEPC director general, Mr. Segun Awolowo

The director general and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Segun Awolowo has assured exporters that the N1 trillion debt owed to them under the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) scheme would be paid.

The money represents accumulated payments for 2016 and 2017.

Speaking at a forum held in Lagos recently, Awolowo said payment was expected to commence as soon as the national assembly approves it

“The government has done all that is necessary for the take-off of this programme. Right now, we are waiting for the National Assembly…and then they will grant approval for that promissory note programme,” he said.

A check on the EEG policy document shows that claims are first audited by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) which normally includes calling for comprehensive documentary submissions from the individual exporters and also extensive field visits to the exporters’ facilities.

In spite of the assurance, exporters prayed the federal government for prompt settlement of the outstanding debt so that they might continue the export business.

A medium-scale enterprise operator Mrs. Mojisola Adenekan, who exports processed nuts and oil reacted saying prompt approval of the money would enable Nigerian entrepreneurs consolidate on their business plans.

“Usually, you are expected to pick orders from different locations which you spend so much money to execute. And when you do not get the returns on your investment immediately, your business could be grounded.”

“Sometimes, it is not easy to get bank credit. And when you do, it is on high interest rate. Besides, the total money required by the export business is huge. If you do not get reimbursement fast, your business could be grounded,” she said.

However, she expressed optimism that the national assembly lawmakers would do justice by promptly approving the payment as a way of triggering increased activity in the export sector.

For the general manager of Leather Worth Nigerian Company, Mr. Jerry Ugwu, many exporters appreciate the export initiative of the government but urged the government to offset the outstanding arrears to avoid a backlash.

“I would appeal to the members of the assembly, not to look at this particular issue from the point of view of politics. This is one area in which Nigeria’s image is being publicized abroad while at the same time bringing revenue.  The exporters should be paid promptly”.

He said hunger does not know politics stressing that once Nigerians have a means of survival there would reduction in crime.

Ugwu added that issues concerning the economy, especially those ones capable of creating jobs should always be considered with priority, in the interest of the larger Nigerian society.

“You can imagine what would happen when such an amount is released. It would be ploughed back into the economy and more jobs would be created”, he said.

For the general manager of Sagenta Nig. Enterprises, Mr. Godwin Odhiare, the federal government deserves commendation for EEG initiative, which according to him, has boosted exports.

Nevertheless, he urged the legislature to complement the gesture by quickening the process of releasing the money.

“Anyone who is genuinely interested in the Nigerian export business would appreciate the administration for the initiative. It was suspended, but he revived it, which is very okay, but as far as I am concerned, it does not end there.  What would gladden the hearts the more is to see that the proposal has been endorsed by the Assembly and the monies paid.  You know, there is a proverb that he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches. It is those who spend money in exportation that would understand the burden of not being settled on time”. There is need to ensure that noble initiatives involving our export sector are implemented to the latter”.

According to Odhiare, many of them who have been nursing the idea of expanding their operations are being held back by the outstanding payments since according to him, the monies involved is huge.

“The export market is competitive. Many of us are proud to be flying the nation’s flag in that area and we would appreciate every assistance that the authorities could give,” he added.

In his reaction, the chairman of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Export Group, Chief Ede Dafinone, thanked the federal government for reviving the EEG, especially with the expansion of the use of the Export Credit Certificate (ECC).

“As a result of this expansion, our members will be able to transfer the ECC to a third party and use it to settle all federal government  taxes as well as purchase of government bonds and settlement of credit facilities by development banks and liabilities of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON),” he said.

He also said 2017 was tough for members of the group due to shortage of foreign exchange, high cost of energy and funds, multiple levies and taxes as well as smuggling which he said unleashed untold constraints on  manufacturing operations.

“Also, since the collection of the unutilized negotiable duty certificates by the federal government, no payment has been made which put our members in a difficult position with their banks. I hope government will commence full payment of the new EEG soon,” he added.

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