It was a historic day last Thursday in Akure, the Ondo state capital as the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) commissioned the first toothpick and pencil making factory in Nigeria.
Nigeria with a population of over 170 million persons and being the largest economy in Africa, sadly import every pencil used in the country. This development remains a sad tale in the country’s quest toward job creation and economic development
Quoting a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) report, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said last September that the country spends over $18million (about N5.6 billion) annually on importation of tooth picks.
Also, because there is no factory that produces pencils used by school children and other professionals in West African sub-region, Nigeria, therefore, spends colossal sums of money every year to import this product from other nations. It is estimated that over N750 billion is spent on importing pencils into the country annually.
For a country battling economic recession, spending such hard earned resources on non-essential items is indeed counterproductive.
In June 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) listed toothpick and 40 other products that will no longer access Foreign Exchange from CBN, banks and bureaux de change for such importation.
The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said the measure would prevent further depletion of the country’s foreign reserve, lamenting that the country was spending huge amount to import things that could be produced locally.
But in line with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration quest to diversify the economy and encourage local manufacturing, young Nigerians are beginning to see the need to think outside the box.
Speaking during the commissioning, NDE Director General, Mr Kunle Obayan said that the Nigerian economy is facing challenges is no longer news. He said What should make news now are efforts being made to fix the economy
He said, “We may recall that all the tooth pick and pencils used in this country are imported. You may now appreciate why I referred to this project as a novel one. This is probably, the first indigenous toothpick making factory in Nigeria
“It is on record that millions of dollars are spent annually in the importation of toothpicks and pencils. The Central Bank of Nigeria no longer provides foreign exchange for the importation of toothpicks therefore; the viability of this project is not in doubt.”
According to Obayan, it is however time for Nigerians to change the lifestyle of love for foreign goods and adapt to the dictates of our current socio-economic realities.
He said, “We no longer need to import toothpicks from China or any other country for that matter. Let us begin to patronize our own from today henceforth”
He said the expectation of the NDE is that the factory will be able to provide 30 immediate direct jobs and another 150 indirect jobs within the first months of operation.
He said the Directorate will also lay the foundation for the gradual substitution of the importation of toothpicks while aiming at export of same.
On the pencil production, he said all the equipment needed for the production of pencils have been purchased and installed but the authorisation for the use of formaldehyde Resin Powder, an essential commodity in the production process is being awaited.
He said, “I wish to use this opportunity to request the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to expeditiously approve the application for waiver of End user’s Certificate (ECU) for Urea formaldehyde Resin Powder, an essential input in the production of pencils using waste paper.”
He said when the second component of this initiative takes off, the NDE is confident that over 2,000 jobs would have been injected into the economy.
He said, “We don’t have anybody that does that in Nigeria. We import all our pencils. And we have a beneficiary who has set up a plant to produce pencil. The beauty of this pencil is that it is actually made out of waste paper. It is not from wood. So, it is from waste to wealth.”
In his speech, the Chief operating officer of the toothpick factory, Samuel Babatunde thanked the NDE for the support in the actualization of the project.
He said, “we sincerely appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari whose insistence that we must use made in Nigeria products. Though, to the average Nigerian, this is causing a lot of hardship but there is nothing good that comes easy.
With this development, it is hoped that the process for Nigeria’s economic recovery has begu