The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has assured that it will set up a N2.5 billion export development fund in conjunction with the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, NEXIM.
This was announced by the NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Nsima Ekere, when a delegation from the NEXIM Bank paid him a courtesy visit at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
Ekere said that the NDDC, as an interventionist agency, needed to leverage on NEXIM Bank to tackle the challenges of creating jobs and building sustainable development programmes. He decried a situation where youths of the Niger Delta were often left without hope, stating: “We need to give the youths hope through providing opportunities for them.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that the Commission had built a lot of infrastructure but must also develop the human capital in the region. “That is why we are going to partner with NEXIM Bank to develop a regional export market which provide new opportunities for our people,” he said.
Ekere noted that the Niger Delta region had over the years provided a greater percentage of the revenue sustaining the country. He added: “There is no better place than the Niger Delta to prepare for the diversification of the country’s economy. Now that revenue from oil has started dwindling, this is the right time to begin to create opportunities for the people in the non-oil sector.”
He assured that the NDDC would set up a technical team to work out the modalities for setting up hubs for regional exports in the Niger Delta. According to him, “the region is blessed with a lot of agricultural products that can be developed for export. We have rubber, palm oil, cashew nuts, shrimps that can be developed to keep the youths gainfully employed as well as generating foreign exchange for the country.”
Ekere declared: “We are now doing things differently by using the the 4-R initiative to add value to the process of the Commission. Through the new initiative, we have structured our processes to make them transparent. Hence, we are restructuring the balance sheet; reforming the governance protocols; restoring the Commission’s core mandate and reaffirming its commitment to doing what is right and proper.”
He said that the Commission had entered into agreements with several international and local partners, noting that the collaboration with NEXIM Bank would be an addition to the existing ones.
The executive Director Business Development of NEXIM Bank, Hon Stella Okotete, stressed the important of building a platform for viable export markets for the Niger delta region, adding that there was need to create awareness for a regional export initiative.
Okotete said that the Federal Government had a deliberate policy to encourage the non-oil exports, especially in agriculture and solid minerals. She stated: “We need to scale up credit to the non-oil sector and that is why we are seeking collaboration with NDDC to drive the process.”
She affirmed the commitment of NEXIM Bank to increasing the flow to the non-oil export basket and promoting export initiatives at regional levels, adding: “we need to improve on value-added exports, instead of just dealing on primary agricultural produce. This will enhance capacity development in specific export produce.”
In his presentation, the Technical Adviser to the NEXIM Bank Managing Director, Mr. Hope Youngo, identified some areas where the bank was ready to partner to drive export. He listed agricultural products such as palm oil, rubber, cocoa and solid minerals like limestone.
He said that a focus on rubber, for instance, would help to bring back the tyre factories, which would create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths. He added: “We are proposing schemes in the areas where the Niger Delta has comparative and competitive advantage.”