When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, he said his administration would focus on security, corruption and economic diversification through boosting the agricultural sector.
Like he said, “We must eat what we produce”.
In line with this directive, the Central Bank of Nigeria set up the Anchors Borrowers Programme to improve access to finance for farmers. It also restricted forex for the importation of 43 items to improve local production.
The federal government also set up a technical committee to pursue yam exportation aggressively.
It also began to devise means to ensure a formal and seamless process to guide the export of dried and processed beans.
However, an act from 1989 could be the clog in the wheel of the progress of the government’s export diversification agenda.
“Any person who takes, causes to be taken, induces any other person to take or attempts to take out of Nigeria any of the goods specified in the Schedule to this Act shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for life,” the act reads.
It states offences and penalties as:
“Any person who takes causes to be taken, induces any other person to take or attempts to take out of Nigeria any of the goods specified in the Schedule to this Act shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.
“In addition to the penalty specified in subsection (1) of this section-
- the goods, as well as any vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other thing whatsoever used in connection with the exportation; and
- all the assets, movable or immovable, including motor vehicles, of any person convicted of the offence, shall be forfeited to the Federal Government.
- Any customs officer or other person who aids, counsels, procures, or conspires with any person to commit an offence under this section, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to the same punishment as prescribed for the offence under subsection (1) of this section.
- Any offence committed under this Act shall be triable by the Federal High Court.”
The act lists items that cannot be exported as Beans, Cassava tuber, Maize, Rice, Yam and imported foods.
Commenting on the act, Simon Irtwange, chairman of the technical committee on yam exportation said: “Yam export is still on-going under the government policy on the diversification of the economy but in the regulatory framework, we are having issues.
“The Export Prohibition Act of 1989 is the issue but we have made a lot of efforts trying to advocate relevant government agencies, ministries and the national assembly that if we really want to diversify this economy, that law has to go.
“I think they are working on it but if the 8th National Assembly is unable to repeal the law, as soon as the 9th National Assembly comes, we will begin to engage them from the first day.
“As long as that law is there, there are many people who want to come into the business who are scared.
“Export of yams have not been suspended because people still carry food products to America hiding under the guise of taking food items to their relatives there but we are not as aggressive as we wanted to be.
“The earlier we put the Act out of the way, the better for us.”