…Says N800 billion lost annually to paper Importation
By Henry Umoru
THE Senate has begun probe into all the moribund Paper Mills in Nigeria, with a view to ascertaining what went wrong with the hitherto companies that provided jobs to over 300, 000 Nigerians.
The Senate said that it was worried by the recent statistics released by the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) that Nigeria lost over N800 billion naira annually to paper importation.
According to the Senate, the Printers Association of Nigeria puts the figure at $1 trillion US dollars annually through the importation of over one million metric tons of paper at the cost of $1,000 US dollars per tones.
Consequently, the Upper Chamber has mandated its Senator Theodore Orji, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia Central led Senate Committee on Privatization to carry out a holistic investigate into the activities and operations of the Mills and report back to the Senate.
The Senate has also urge the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria (CIPPON) and Nigeria Customs Service to review duty on importation of published books and importation of paper as raw materials into the country and make it favourable to print locally in Nigeria.
Resolutions of the Senate yesterday were sequel to a motion titled “The need to revive the Moribund Paper Mills in Nigeria.
The motion was sponsored by Senator Christopher Ekpeyong, PDP, Akwa Ibom North West and co- sponsored by 25 Others.
Presenting the motion, Senator Ekpenyong said that “The Senate: Notes that the Nigeria’s three Paper Mills: Nigeria Paper Mill (NPM) Kwara State, Nigeria Newsprint Manufacturing Company (NNMC) Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria National Paper Manufacturing Company (NNPMC) Ogun State were established by the Federal Government in the 1960s and 1970s to produce Corrugated Cartons, Sack Craft Paper, Kraft Paper, Linear and Chip Board as well as fluting media to meet the country`s needs in writing and printing papers;
“Further notes that these Paper Mills were privatized by Government as a result of lack of adequate funds to run them and non-performance, hence the redirection of the management into private hands through privatization to ensure effective and profitable management.”
According to him, the Senate is “Aware that paper production is one of the major industrial activities regarded as a pointer to industrialization and educational development worldwide, making the sector a major booster to our economy and national development;
“Observed that the sector has gone moribund since privatization, leaving the country with another huge income deficit. The companies who bought these mills have either abandoned them or not been able to revive them to full capacity making the country to depend on imported papers;
“Recalls with nostalgia that these Mills formerly had a work force of over 300,000 people and an investment worth over N100 billion naira before the privatization policy by the Government;
“Concerned that the unhealthy state of the printing industry is adversely affecting the education sector. Statistics show that over 100 million books are required annually in the country for the 20 million students in schools and by the National Book Policy, five books are the requirement set per pupil. 75 percent of these books are printed outside the country. This is because printers make more money printing abroad because the duty on importation of published books is zero percent while importation of paper, as raw materials into the country is up to 30 percent; and
“Further worried that the result of the non-performance of the Paper Mills is the missed opportunity for job creation in the sector; this amounts to a loss for the Nigerian economy. If these Paper Mills are working, thousands of Nigerians would be actively employed working in these mills. Books and paper needed by students would have been cheaper since they are produced locally.”