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Nawa oo!! Nigeria Now Importing Saw Dust

According to Trading Economics, imports to Nigeria surged 48% year-on-year to N943.6bn in December 2018, mainly driven by purchases of manufactured goods that took the chunk of 88.3% and raw materials, a meagre 12.5%.  The implication of the minute 12.5% in raw materials import is that Nigeria is extremely poor in value addition, meaning that as a nation, we are lacking in simple and complex industries that helped in the transformation of other economies. An example is the huge importation of our cocoa beans by the USA and the UK; no matter how the huge import bills may be, those countries are the richer for it because what they have imported is for value addition.


This scenario of unbridled import of finished products was aptly captured by the many super stores daily springing up in urban centres in Nigeria. A walk through these stores will make the patriotic citizen heave a forlorn sigh and wonder if the nation will ever be free from the imports of the biggest technologies like airplanes and ships to the import of minute technologies like matches and toothpicks. I was in such a mood when in a store in remote Akure, I saw imported sawdust on the shelf. I felt shocked to the marrows and dragged my colleague who was shopping with me to come and see what I saw. Sawdust! He exclaimed. I went back the following day to buy a pack for N1,299. It was to show to unbelieving Nigerians and lift it up to God to plead, “Save your people O! Lord.” That is if God in His benevolence interferes in such pedestrian matters. It is bad enough that Nigeria imports common banana and other exotic fruits into the country, but sawdust?


What was the selling point of this imported sawdust from France? The details on the pack claimed that the sawdust was made from old wine barrels and as such when it is used to roast meats, the aroma of the wine that the barrels had soaked over the years of using it for storage will flavour the meat. In simple terms what the French had done for us was a very simple “waste to wealth”; old wine barrels that would have been stacked somewhere until they decompose or taken to French rural areas to be used for winter fire were carefully converted into sawdust, neatly packaged and shipped to Nigeria and maybe other countries that have the “taste” for “luxury” and “class”.

Sawdust seems to be a recurring encounter for me. Some years back, as an employee of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry, we hosted a business delegation from South Africa. One of them had told me, “Akin I saw on the long Bridge, how your country is burning money.” I had wondered if they came through the Niger Delta and my answer was “O! our gas flaring”, not knowing that he was talking about what he saw in Oko Baba, that strip on the Lagoon around Ebute-Ero when one is going to the Island through the Third Mainland Bridge where the bulk of saw-milling in Lagos takes place. What he saw was sawdust being burnt into ashes as a way of disposing the easily accumulated dust. He had told me that all we needed was a machine that could convert the sawdust into briquettes, and we have in our hands simple export commodities. The big question till today is, where is the technology and where are the entrepreneurs to make it happen? We all probably want to export crude oil. Where is the government’s will to boost Nigeria’s export at all costs? Those that have the money to import briquette-making machines would rather import state of the art fuel dispensing machines, build mega petrol filling stations to log into the dying but still lucrative petro-chemical industry in Nigeria. No wonder the landscape is filled up with fuel filling stations, where some, out of extreme poverty come to dispense N100 gasoline just to power their “I better pass my neighbour” generator to charge their phones and have a one-hour feel of civilisation.


We have waited for too long to take our place in the league of industrially competitive nations. I hope we will not get lost on the way, the way we are going about it. The rich and the mighty rejoice at the importation of exotic items for homes, offices and personal uses, or how do you explain the trinket and ornament catches of a former minister recently displayed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission? The middle class and the poor rejoice at the importation of second-hand goods which have dovetailed into used socks, boxers for men and intimate wear for ladies.

Courtsey: Punch Newspaper 

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