Senate Makes Case for Reduction of Import Duty on Papers


* Moves to revitalise Oku-Ibokun, Jebba, Iwopin paper mills

Chuks Okocha and Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Senate yesterday urged the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to review duty on importation of published books and paper to make it more favourable to print locally in Nigeria than relying on imported printed materials.

The lawmakers also made bold moves towards the revitalisation of the three moribond paper mills in Jebba, Iwopin and Oku-Ibokun.

It also directed its Committee on Privatisation to investigate the activities and operations of the three paper mills and report back to the Senate within four weeks.

Leading the debate on the motion entitled “The need to revive the moribund paper mills,” Senator Christopher Ekpenyong, urged the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria (CIPPON) and Nigeria Customs Service to review duty on importation of published books and paper to make it more favourable to print locally in Nigeria than relying on imported printed materials.

He said he was aware that paper production is one of the major industrial activities regarded as a pointer to industrialisation and educational development worldwide.

The Senator observed that the sector has gone moribund since privatisation, leaving the country with another huge income deficit, explaining that companies who bought these mills have either abandoned them or have not been able to revive them to full capacity, thus making the country to depend on imported papers.

In its resolutions, the senate said that it is worried by the recent statistics release by the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC), which showed that Nigeria lost over N800 billion annually to paper importation, while the Printers Association of Nigeria put the figure at $1 trillion annually through the importation of over one million metric tonmes of paper at the cost of $1,000 per tonne.

The Senate also recalled with nostalgia that these Mills formerly had a work force of over 300,000 people and an investment worth over N100 billion before the privatisation policy by the government.

The red chamber further expressed concerned that the unhealthy state of the printing industry is adversely affecting the education sector, stressing that statistics showed that over 100 million books are required annually in the country for the 20 million students in schools.

The statistics also showed that by the National Book Policy, five books are the requirement set per pupil, while over 75 per cent of these books are printed outside the country.

In view of this, the Senators noted that printers make more money printing abroad because the duty on importation of published books is zero per cent, while importation of paper, as raw materials into the country is up to 30 per cent.

The senate said that it is further worried that the result of the non-performance of the Paper Mills is the missed opportunity for job creation in the sector.

Also, the Senate mandated the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NSDC) to investigate why a particular species of fish in the Bonny Island of Rivers State is being washed off the sea.

The motion sponsored by Senator Betty Apiafi from Rivers State, said that it is necessary that the senate intervenes because Bonny Island is important to the economic survival of Nigeria because of the importance of the NLNG.

In his submission, Senator Sunday Onu from Cross River State urged the senate to intervene because Bonny Island is a centrifugal point of Nigeria’s economy.

The senate further called National Oil Spill Detection and Regulation Agency (NOSDRA) and other related agencies to intervene and save marine lives, while directing the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to send the necessary relief materials to the people on the island.