By Ugochukwu Alaribe
Former chairman of Association of Aba Industrialists, AAI, Chief Emma Obi, has warned that over 15, 000 workers employed in agro-allied industries in Nigeria risk losing their jobs unless the Federal Government stops the current smuggling of banned vegetable oil into the country.
The industrialist, in an interview with Vanguard in Aba, Abia State, noted that in 2016 and 2017, the Federal Government banned the importation of vegetable oil into the country which made many agro-allied industries that had closed down to reopen for business.
He lamented that despite the Federal Government’s ban on vegetable oil, smugglers went on a rampage to flood the Nigerian market with the product in active connivance with some corrupt Customs officials.
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“In 2016 and 2017, all agro-allied industrialists in the country commended the federal government for the restriction order is placed on the importation of vegetable oil, but since last year, importation of the product resumed unabated thereby endangering the survival of local industries with its impending loss of over 15, 000 jobs across the country.
“Reliably, foreign companies of this product are getting from between 15 to 20 per cent subsidy from their home government to augment their cost and profitability so that they can sustain productivity.”
Obi explained that with the economic policy by countries of origin of the product and inadequate duty paid on the smuggled Olein, prices of imported vegetable oil are cheaper which makes it hard for locally produced vegetable oil to compete favourably in the market thereby crippling local industries.
“We have hundreds of vegetable refineries in the country that have been feeding the nation with their products in the past two years, so, this vegetable oil importation which is another source of strangulating infant industries have started again in a very high rate with billions of Naira worth of these banned products coming into the country regularly.
“The duty for palm oil is 35 per cent, Olein is totally prohibited, but what they are doing now is to front their importation with palm oil, but in actual sense, palm oil will not be more than 5 percent of the total goods and they would now bring it in. Even at that, with the 35 per cent duty, the price they are selling it now shows that they are not paying the duty because if duties are paid, they couldn’t be selling at the price they are doing today.
“Before the Christmas break, we mass-produced and stockpiled vegetable oil thinking that as usual when we come back in January, they would be sold. But surprisingly, we noticed in January that the Nigerian market had been flooded with imported vegetable oil that is selling far below the production cost of locally produced vegetable oil.
“Nobody knows if the imported vegetable oil is good for human consumption since it is declared as spare parts to enable them to smuggle it in into the country and based on this, the relevant government agencies do not check whether they are edible,” Obi lamented.
He urged the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs, Col Hameed Ali (rtd), to checkmate the activities of his men at the Onne Port with to arrest the situation and save over 15, 000 Nigerians from losing their jobs if the agro-allied industries close down as a result of importation of banned vegetable oil.