By Isaac Tersoo Agber
Nigeria is in the ranks of developing countries that give too much priority to importation of substandard products worth N15 billion annually, reports have shown. Analysts have observed that the situation is overstretching the values of forex against the naira, prompting capital flight and killing the local manufacturers.
The Chairman and Chief Executive Oficer of Erisco Foods, a subsidiary of Erisco Bonpet Group, Chief Eric Odinaka Umeofia, told journalists in Lagos that existing loopholes in policy formulation and implementation have allowed a preference of imported products over locally produced ones.
Umeofia said this when he hosted the Nigeria Association of Agricultural Journalists at his office, located in Oregun, Lagos. He described the situation as unfortunate, explaining that the so-called foreign products are substandard and cannot match locally produced ones.
Venting his spleen on the challenges his company – Erisco Foods– encounters in the market, the CEO rated one of the company’s products, Ric-Giko tomato paste, above other foreign products in the market, saying it is hygienically processed and has a tasted quality compared to the fake products Nigerians are cajoled into believing that they are better off because they are imported.
He blamed those in possession of authority who, out of their selfish gains, pave way for such imports to flourish, undermining the health of Nigerians.
“People are just taking advantage of their positions in authority to work against the progress of this country and the government is not doing anything to stop them. They give preference to imported products because they are the ones handling the contracts and they are making huge amounts for themselves while the local industries suffer.
“Meanwhile, most of those so-called imported products are fake; they can’t match our products here. Is it not from China they import them? Go and check the factories there; they are not as big and well equipped as what you are seeing here. Go find out. And somebody will tell me they are eating red, you will eat red chemical and die.
“The government appears blinded to the situation. The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is only abusing its responsibility. How can you accept substandard products into your country and give Nigerians the impression that they are better than the locally produced ones simply because you want to enrich yourself? You don’t care if others will die as long as you are making your money; that is cheap money or blood money,” Umeofia posed.
He called on the government to put sound policies in place that will place value on locally manufactured products over imported ones. According to him, no country has ever grown its economy with foreign products. Government must realize this fact and take necessary measures against the influx of substandard goods.