Despite the ban placed on importation of certain items by the Nigerian government, imported spaghetti still sell at shopping malls across Nigeria, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
The federal government had in 2016 placed a ban on the importation of certain items as part of its yearly efforts to control import and encourage local production.
On January 5, the Federal Ministry of Finance circulated a list containing 25 items banned from being imported into the country.
Festus Akanbi, spokesperson to the finance minister, equally told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview that the 2016 list was still in place as no new one had been provided for 2017.
Items contained in the list include soaps, used fridges, refined vegetable oil, fruit juice in retail packs, bagged cement and Spaghetti.
Immediately the federal government made the announcement in January, PREMIUM TIMES launched an investigation into the issue, to verify whether the banned products are being sold in Nigerian markets and shopping malls.
PREMIUM TIMES findings, however, revealed that despite the ban, imported spaghetti and noodles still sell at some Nigerian malls.
When our correspondent visited the Ikeja Shoprite mall in Lagos, checks revealed that a certain Barrilla Spaghetti, produced and packaged in Parma, Italy, is being sold at the mall. Equally displayed for sale is Super J. noodle, a noodle brand produced by Super J. Limited, a company based in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand.
Similarly, further checks at the Sango-Otta branch of the mall revealed that the same Barilla Spaghetti was on display for sale at the mall.
At Sahad Stores, one of the largest in Abuja, similar Italian Barilla Spaghetti brands were also on sale despite the ban.
However, in all the stores visited, other banned items like fruit juice in retail packs were absent.
John Ifeanyi, a customer at the Ikeja Shoprite mall, attributed the development to Nigerian’s love for imported product, noting that it is the bane of Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, in the country.
“Nigerians love imported products and these malls have identified that…and that’s why they are keying into it,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
“It is the reason why our local industries and start-ups always struggle to survive,” he added.
Azeez Akorede, a Sango-based entrepreneur, said the porous nature of Nigerian borders was the cause of the development. While imploring the government to look into the situation, he decried the harsh business environment Nigerian entrepreneurs and business owners are being made to operate in, noting that no country develops with such system.
“Nigerian entrepreneurs and manufacturers are faced with numerous challenges; yet they have to still compete with their foreign counterparts on Nigerian soil. Government needs to do something drastic to protect Nigerian business owners and manufacturers,” he said.
“No nation develops by exposing its manufacturers to risks and undue competition from foreign businesses.”
Officials at the malls visited declined comment.
At the Sango-Otta Shoprite mall, the attendants including a man they identified as ‘their oga’, declined to speak. Same at the IKeja mall in Lagos and Sahad Stores in Abuja where officials all declined comment.
An e-mail sent to the officially listed address on Shoprite’s website was also unattended while phone calls to its customer service was unanswered.
A phone call to Sahad Store’s customer service listed on its website was answered by an official who identified himself as Auwal. He, however, said he was unaware of the spaghetti ban and that he would communicate to the management who would address the issue promptly.
Efforts to reach the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, proved abortive as the phone number of its Public Relations Officer, Victoria Anioke, was not reachable. For more than a week, she did not reply messages sent to her either.
But when PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Joseph Attah, the acting Public Relations Officer, disclosed that the agency is doing its best to control the activities of smugglers and their collaborators. Mr. Attah, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs, noted that all hands must be on deck to ensure that anti-smuggling operations of the Nigerian Customs are successful, noting that the general public has a role to play too.
“Anti-smuggling operation is like fishing; you cannot catch them all. That’s why we often tell the general public to supply us with information so we could track them (smugglers) down,” the Customs spokesperson told PREMIUM TIMES.
Commenting on PREMIUM TIMES findings, Mr. Attah disclosed that importation of Spaghetti in commercial quantity still remains banned, adding that investors should desist from channelling their funds into such business.
He, however, urged the Nigerian media to intensify efforts in sensitizing the people on the economic benefits of patronizing Nigerian-made Spaghetti, noting that apart from being more nutritious, it contributes to the nation’s economic growth.