The Nigerian Export Promotion Council said on Tuesday that the effective implementation of its new strategy on non-oil export would enable the country to increase its foreign exchange reserves to $150bn within the next 10 years.

The Executive Director, NEPC, Mr. Segun Awolowo, stated this in a presentation to stakeholders on the new strategy of the commission tagged: “zero oil plan.”

The stakeholders mostly, from Kaduna State, were led to the commission by a senator from the state, Shehu Sani.

The nation’s external reserves, according to figures from the Central Bank of Nigeria, currently stand at about $26.3bn

Speaking at the event, Awolowo said the volatile nature of the global oil market had made it imperative for the country to depend less on oil revenue.

He lamented that while the country was making a huge chunk of foreign exchange from oil, such gains were usually eroded as a result of the huge import bill.

For instance, he said while the country earned about $70bn from crude oil in 2014, about $50bn was spent that same year to import various items into Nigeria.

Awolowo stated that as a result of the drop in global oil prices, the situation was worse in 2015 when the country earned about $40bn from oil but spent $50bn on importation.

He said the fall in the country’s foreign exchange earnings through importation was one of the reasons why the Central Bank of Nigeria was having difficulties in meeting forex demand by manufacturers and other businesses.

The NEPC boss said if the country could effectively key into the plan of the commission by taking advantage of the opportunities in the agricultural sector, there would not be a need to depend on oil revenue for survival.

He stated that through the zero oil plan, the commission had identified 22 priority countries as markets for Nigerian products, while 11 strategic products with high financial value had also been identified to replace oil.

These products, according to him, are palm oil, cashew, cocoa, soya beans, rubber, rice, petrochemicals, leather, ginger, cotton and Shea butter.

Awolowo said, “Nigeria is in need of an export revolution because we can no longer continue to rely on oil for our survival. We have an annual import bill of $50bn, which is financed from the proceeds of the foreign exchange generated from oil.

“In 2014, we earned $70bn from oil and paid $50bn as import bill. In 2015, we earned about $40bn and still spent about $50bn on importation; that is why we can’t continue to finance our imports. And so, we need an extra $30bn from non-oil exports to secure our future. Our objective is to increase the reserves of the country by $150bn in the next 10 years through the zero oil plan.

“This is achievable if all stakeholders collaborate with us because we want Nigeria to survive in a world where we no longer sell oil.”

Commenting, Sani said the challenges facing the economy had given an indication that this was the time for Nigerians to look inwards as the days for over-dependence on oil revenue were over.

“The days of depending on oil as a major revenue earner are over. Non-oil exports are the only path that will lead us to a sustainable economic development and guarantee for the yet unborn as oil is no longer reliable.”

He expressed optimism that if Mexico and the United Arab Emirates could reposition their economies with proceeds from the non-oil sector, Nigeria should be able to replicate such success thorough the development and promotion of its locally-made goods.

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