Harsh economic environment and persistent importation of pencils, coupled with the foreign exchange scarcity and epileptic power supply have hindered Nigeria’s plan for local manufacturing of pencils.
This is as Nigeria continues to lose over $2 billion annually to pencil importation, and keeping over 400,000 people unemployed.
Recall that prior to 2015, there was no Pencil Manufacturing company in Nigeria and the then minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu had promised that the nation would make pencils in Nigeria by 2018.
However, stakeholders say that since the country began manufacturing pencil in 2019, poor policy formulation by the federal government to encourage operators has been lacking and as such they have been unable to keep up the competition in the face of continuing pencil imports and the stifling operating environment in the country.
Commenting on the situation, founder/chief executive officer, Bamib Resources and Investments Company Limited, Mr Muideen Ibrahim, urged the federal government to develop policy that will encourage local manufacturing of pencil.
Ibrahim, while speaking with journalists in Lagos yesterday said that enhanced local content in pencil manufacturing from all projections as originally conceived would have meaningful impact on the economy and created at least 400,000 jobs.
According to him, such projection was conceived to have a meaningful impact on the economy and create at least 400,000 jobs.
Ibrahim said, with determination based on the promises by the then minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, his company was incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Abuja in 2016 to carry out the manufacturing of pencils and allied products.
“We use old Newspapers for the production of our pencils in order to preserve the Eco System and also in conformity with one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Our pencils are green with better quality products that are comparable to international standard,” he said.
Describing the business environment as harsh and frustrating, Ibrahim said that the firm had visited 10 states, gone to several ministries, parastatals and agencies without patronage.
“There is no form of encouragement save for Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu who gave us letters to UBEC, ministries of Education and Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs but they all turned us down,” he added.
On challenges facing the manufacturing of pencils, the founder listed lack of power supply, patronage and high cost of diesel, non implementation of the Local Content, high foreign exchange among others.
“Nigerians prefer low quality products from foreign countries. Lack of Policy on Pencil has made Nigeria now a dumping ground for low quality Pencils from some foreign countries.
“There is need for urgent intervention fund at Single digit Interest Rate by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment wrote a letter to CBN to avail the Pencil Manufacturers Intervention Fund at Single Digit interest Rate but unfortunately, the letter has not seen the light of the day.
” This should be done as it was done for Power, Agriculture and other sectors in the economy. The CBN should please do the needful in this regard.
“There should be Policy of Pencil without further delay by the Federal Government as it was done for cement, agriculture among others,” Ibrahim said.
He said that the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) should also key into consumables such as pencils henceforth while the Ministries of Education and other Agencies that buy Pencils should patronise Local Pencil Manufacturers.
“The government should implement the Local Content to the letter. Diesel should be subsidized for the manufacturers.
“There is need to increase tariff on imported pencils without further delay so that we can look inward as done in China, Indian just to mention but a few,” he added.
According to him, there is need for round-table discussion with the pencil manufacturers.
He said that grants and other technical aides should be availed to the pencil Manufacturers without further delay.
“The National Productivity Centre and other relevant agencies should be up and doing. An Agency should be monitoring the compliance of the Local Content.
“The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Investment should work with the Pencil Manufacturers with speed,” he said.
Ibrahim also called for zero tariff on imported machines, adding that the government should encourage manufacturers to export in order to bring in foreign exchange into the country.
He said that if necessary actions were taken to protect the industry, the business could create huge employment opportunities and transfer technology to the country for maximum economic benefits.