By Michael Eboh & Jacob Isaac
National Cashew Association of Nigeria, NCAN, has warned that unless something urgent was done to address the leadership crisis rocking the association, the Federal Government’s $7 billion cashew export target annually would be derailed.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Vice President of NCAN, East Zone, comprising cashew-producing states in the South-East and South-South states, Mr. Chuks Nkanele, declared that currently, there was a huge demand for cashew from Nigeria, but lamented that the country was struggling to meet up with less than one per cent of the demand.
He also warned that unless something was done urgently to curb the activities of foreign produce buyers that had invaded the country, Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings from cashew export would be completely eroded.
He said it was the duty of the government and the national leadership of NCAN to address the threat to the industry, but the present leadership of the association has failed to rise up to the challenges and is instead concerned about perpetuating themselves in power.
He disclosed that cashew was a major foreign exchange earner for the country, and the Federal Government, in realisation of that fact, had agreed to set up six cashew processing plants across the country.
He, however, noted that initiative of the Federal Government is currently under threat over NCAN’s crisis as the current leadership of the association has refused to step down after the expiration of their tenure, thereby usurping the group’s constitution.
He explained that in 2010, Nigeria was ranked by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, as the number one cashew producer in the world, but as at 2017, Nigeria has dropped to the sixth position.
According to him, foreigners from Vietnam, China, the United States, among others, have invaded the country, even the remote parts of Nigeria and are illegally buying cashew directly from farmers and even from women coming from their farms with the produce.
He said, “There is a cashew value chain that the government has brought out and this value chain states who plays what role from the farmer to the person exporting. We are not supposed to see the foreigners coming into our local market but today, during the harvesting season, jobs of Nigerians were taken over by foreigners from Brazil, China, India and others, penetrating all the villages, buying from farmers, therefore throwing our people out into the labour market.
“This is serving as an economic drainage for the country. People used to survive on cashew, but today, it is no longer so. The country can no longer meet up with one per cent of demand for the cashew.
“In 2010, by the FAO ranking, we were number one in the whole world in cashew, but seven years after we were about the fourth in Africa under this same executive, Tanzania, Guinea Bissau and Kenya have taken over from us and recently the republic of Guinea have also joined in taking over from Nigeria and we are the sixth in the world. It is an economic damage that we have seen in the last number of years.”
Commenting on the leadership crisis rocking NCAN, the East Zone Public Relations officer, Mr. Wordshot Ugwele, said the constitution of the association was being usurped and violated by some individuals under whose leadership since 2010, Nigeria’s cashew output had stagnated and is currently beginning to decline.
According to him, Nigeria’s cashew trees are aging and needs to be replaced to ensure improved yields, but the illegal executive of the association had not deemed it necessary to engage governments at all level in this regard.
“These individuals want to perpetually remain in office illegally, despite the fact that they have not done anything to grow Nigeria’s cashew output through capacity building programmes, education and enlightenment activities and constant engagement with government,” he said.
Reading the mandate of the East Zone of NCAN to the crisis rocking the association, Nkanele said the zone was unanimous in its view that nobody should be allowed to sabotage the economic activities of the Federal Government with regards to the contribution of cashew as an important national crop.
He said, “NCAN East demand that as an important stakeholder from a Zone that contributes over 70 per cent of national produce, its views must be respected.NCAN East seriously demands that our current Constitution must be respected in terms and principles and must be enforced at all times.
“That in accordance with the Constitution, a set of National Executives must be elected at a legitimately constituted Annual General Meeting to replace the current Exco led by Mr. Tola Faseru whose tenure expired in December 2014.
“That any meeting called or held outside the requirement of the Constitution to amend the Constitution and elongate the tenure of the current Exco led by Mr. Tola Faseru is illegal, null and void.
“That the Federal Government through the Ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment, and Agriculture and Rural Development should cease forthwith to recognize the Faseru-led Exco as representative of NCAN.”