A concerted effort to end oil palm importation and locally grow the crop on a large-scale basis has kicked off, with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) allocating an initial N30 billion for the project, which it said is already being disbursed to beneficiary farmers in identified states.
Consequently, the apex bank has closed all import windows for oil palm and its derivatives, warning recalcitrant importers and smugglers to prepare to have their accounts blocked, amid other unpalatable consequences, if they do not halt dumping the product in Nigeria.
Speaking in Abuja at the fifth stakeholders meeting of the Nigeria’s Oil Palm Industry Development Initiative, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele said the major economic thrust of ending oil palm importation and growing local production was to create jobs, earn huge foreign exchange via exports, grow the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and create wealth in rural communities in Nigeria.
According to him, the aggressive oil palm production programme is encapsulated in a presidential directive that mandates the CBN to end the importation of nine other crops that can be cultivated locally on a large-scale basis.
He listed the major states involved in the oil palm production project as Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Edo State, Abia and Imo.
Emefiele said: “The Presidential directive is not in palm oil alone but ten products namely rice, maize, cassava, tomatoes, cotton, poultry, fish, livestock, dairy and cocoa.
“So, those who think they want to hide under certain Customs agents code to bring in what they call hydrogenated vegetable fats, we will catch all of them. PRESCO, PZ OKOMU and others have all those hydrogenated vegetable fats. They can’t sell them yet some unscrupulous persons prefer to import them with scarce foreign exchange. It is not going to happen again. If we find you, you are going to be in trouble.
“The presidential directive that we received says we must expand, seek to give support to people who want to expand production of these products in Nigeria.
“Another part of that presidential directive also says we should blacklist from the foreign exchange market and the banking industry, all firms, their owners and their top management caught smuggling or dumping any of the restricted 43 items in Nigeria”.
The CBN Governor assured the oil palm stakeholders that no stone will be left unturned in realizing the goals of the directive as its officials have been directed to pursue it audaciously.
He added: “We are going to work very aggressively on this mandate. Our economic intelligence department has started investigating those who are involved in smuggling palm oil into Nigeria and before any action is taken against you in terms of blocking you from the foreign exchange market or blacklisting you from doing banking in Nigeria, we need to inform you that we are drawing a line that importation of oil palm must stop. But stopping it also means that we must as Central Bank and the deposit money bank also create an opportunity for you to access credit to grow your plantations.
“We know Customs are doing their best in policing the forests but the smugglers have their unscrupulous ways of still smuggling oil palm into the country. But I want to assure you we have our own way of identifying does who are smuggling oil palm and we will block their accounts.
“We must create jobs and wealth in our rural communities. Rather than their lands taken away from them, we will encourage them. If really we are desirous in creating jobs and capitalising the economy through expansion of agricultural productivity in all parts of the country that we must go back to palm oil.
The next phase will be those who are coming into oil palm production business new; just walk in through your banks and we will also extend credit facilities to them and we will also have the out growers scheme programmes as well”.
Emefiele said land, enzymes, fertilizer and other needed inputs will be m
By Brendan Umoren