By G9ija

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, Thursday inaugurated an 11-member steering committee for the implementation of the N50 billion Export Expansion Facility Programme (EEFP).

The facility is under the N2.3 trillion National Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP), launched last year to aid economic recovery following the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the ceremony, the minister explained that the programme, tagged #pandemic2prosperity – aims to protect export businesses from the effects of the pandemic, safeguard jobs and de-risk the economy from future shocks.

He added that the primary goal was to increase the country’s s export capacity in the near term as well as boost export volumes in the medium term.

Specifically, he pointed out that the facility was targeted at providing support to exporters particularly Micro, Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (MSMEs).

He said: “Export growth is at the centre of our strategy for diversifying Nigeria’s sources of foreign exchange and reducing the vulnerability of the economy to external shocks. We have witnessed time and again, the devastating impact that events outside our control can have on our livelihoods due to our reliance on a primary source of foreign exchange.”

However, the committee, which is headed by the minister as chairman, will ensure that the programme is implemented in line with the federal government’s objectives and for the benefit of its intended beneficiaries.

It is also saddled with the responsibility to approve the programme implementation plan and budget and ensure the programme is implemented on time, on budget and in accordance with agreed priorities.

In addition, the committee will also approve the implementation strategy of the EEF’s projects and the target beneficiaries for each project where applicable as well as approve disbursements to beneficiaries, vendors and implementation partners.

It will also review the periodic performance reports and resolve implementation challenges.

Giving an overview of the EEFP, the Executive Director/Chief Executive, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) Mr. Olusegun Awolowo commended the federal government for approving the facility pointing out that monetary stimulus package as provided in the programme will significantly help in reviving not only the SMEs, but also big corporations in the non-oil export sector that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.According to a statement by Head, Corporate Communications, NEPC, Mr. Joe Itah, Awolowo observed that the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on exporting businesses might be further exacerbated with the official takeoff of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), adding that with the emergence of the single market, there will be attendant challenges that exporters will contend with.

According to him, the EEFP will execute 16 programmes as approved in the implementation work plan under five workstreams namely – capacity building, financing, market development, infrastructure and institutional strengthening.

He explained that the application of the EEF funds fall within the context of the Export Incentives and Miscellaneous provisions Act CAP E19 Laws of the Federation, 2004.

According to him: “The Act stipulates that the funds especially (Export Development Fund and Export Adjustment Scheme Fund), shall be used to provide financial assistance to exporting companies to cover their expenses in respect of export promotion activities. The Export Expansion Facility programme is tagged #pandemic2prosperity”.

Other members of the committee included former Managing Director, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, as vice; Executive Director/Chief Executive of NEPC and President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mansur Ahmed, among others.