Industry operators are praying earnestly that members of the National Assembly promptly and patriotically approve payments for the outstanding obligations.
When last year, the Federal Government took the decisive step of resuscitating the once famous Export Expansion Grant (EEG) renaming it Export Credit Certificate (ECC) not a few operators in the real sector of the economy were elated.
Their excitement was for more reasons than one. First, the scheme had always provided succour and impetus for genuine exporters to enhance their financial capacities in taking Nigerian-made products to the international market.
That also has brought a lot contingent advantages, including value addition to Nigerian made products, additional value chains, creation of more jobs for Nigerians as well as increased returns to the economy.
What is more? The new scheme since its return last year, has brought to bear, a bit of stringent provisions aimed at curbing abuse associated with the former, thereby helping to make it fulfill its obligations.
It stipulates that an intending beneficiary of ECC must be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) as an exporter, and must be a manufacturer or merchant of products of Nigerian origin.
Such an intending beneficiary must have carried out a formal export (with proceeds repatriated to Nigeria within 300 days from the date of export) and submitted baseline data (relevant completed forms, audited financial statements etc.) for the relevant period.
The baseline data is used in determining the incentive rate for the beneficiary’s exports in a given year, and ultimately, the quantum of incentives enjoyed by the beneficiary. Beneficiaries are also required to present an export expansion plan as a prerequisite for participating in the scheme. This would be a basis for determining continued eligibility. Beneficiaries of the revised scheme would be entitled to an export credit certificate (ECC).
By its modulations, the ECC is similar to the defunct Negotiable Duty Credit Certificate (NDCC), which was granted to beneficiaries and used as a negotiable tax credit.
However, unlike NDCC, which was transferable from trader to trader without restrictions on title and tenure, ECC is only valid for two years after issuance and transferable only once within this period.
It has to be pointed out that, as seemingly cumbersome as these conditionalities, that Nigerian exporters abided dutifully by them and indeed fulfilled that obligation of taking Nigerian products to the international market..
The snag, however, is difficulty in getting their reimbursements as dictated by the terms of engagement.
It is to the extent that currently, exporters under the scheme are owed a whopping sum amounting to about N1 trillion, as confirmed by Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, NEPC, Mr Segun Awolowo at a forum in Lagos recently.
READ ALSO: NEPC, Edo eye $35b int’l oil palm market
He, however, added that the Presidency had already passed the papers for the payment of the said sum, but the only gap for now, is that the National Assembly which is expected to okay the proposal, was then on recess.
And here is the crux of the matter.
Industry operators, who have all along been excited by the current resuscitation story, are praying earnestly that members of the National Assembly promptly and graciously and patriotically approve payments for the outstanding obligations.
In fact, some of them have reasoned that this is not a matter to sit on for days, because it would amount to continued hamstringing of the exporters, and by extension, holding the economy hostage. The immediate and long-term negative effects of this cannot be overemphasised.
At its level of development, Nigerian deserves to maximise all opportunities available to it, for it to remain competitive in the global marketplace. In fact, she would be visibly missing the party to 2020, if she does not take developmental bulls by the horns. In fact, our country would remain its sorry self if she continues to be a net importer of finished goods.
In economic discourses, reference is usually made of the Far East regions, and more pointedly, the Asian Tigers for the developmental models that they have become. Part of their strategy was exploring and, in fact, dominating the export market. The same could be said of Nigeria so long the willpower is there.
It needs be stated clearly that although exportation may not be the beginning and ending of industrialisation, it is a leeway to it. Via the export business, countries are able to attract value to indigenous products, empower their entrepreneurs, earn foreign exchange and fully pull the trigger of industrialisation.
It is one way of staving off dependence on imported items; instead, transform raw products to meet much of local consumption demands while shipping the surplus overseas.
In the case of Nigeria, she already enjoys some fundamental advantages. Beyond the abundance of local raw materials, she has a ubiquitous market courtesy of huge population. Nigeria could exploit her clout in the whole of the west coast of Africa and indeed the developing region, to sell her products, so long such products come with the right value.
It is for these reasons and more, that the prayers of the teeming Nigerian exporters particularly and the Nigerian real sector generally should be answered.
Let the members of the National Assembly rise to the occasion of moving our nation to the next strategic level by appending their dignified signature to the ECC document as prepared by the NEPC and passed to them by the Presidency.
They would have written their names down for posterity, especially in much more challenging time.
Ezenwa, former Associate Editor with the Financial Standard newspaper lectures at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ikeja, Lagos