A Technical Expert to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment on the National Cocoa Plan, Ayo Akinola, has said inter-agency rivalry among ministries, departments and agencies of governments is hurting Nigeria’s cocoa sector.
He said this during an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Wednesday.
Akinola, who is also a Consultant to the African and Caribbean Cocoa and Chocolate Forum as well as the International Cocoa Diplomacy, noted that the lack of inter-agency cooperation has created a challenging situation in the Nigeria cocoa industry.
He said, “Unfortunately, we still do not have a dedicated clearing house or agency involved in cocoa. Over the years, we have had MDAs playing overlapping roles. Rather than having inter-agency cooperation, we have been having an inter-agency rivalry.
“Whether it was the Ministry of Trade and Investment or the Ministry of Agriculture, we were not sure who was leading. There are other agencies involved in the running of cocoa, and this puts the sector in a bizarre situation. Beyond the policy framework, we also have many actors in the sector without a guide.”
Akinola, who is also a former Senior Technical Advisor of German International Corporation (GIZ) on the Sustainable Cocoa Business and a development consultant, posited that the government was performing averagely in the sector due to the clashes among government agencies.
He said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, I will rate them five. A lot has been done, but one of the issues here is the lack of inter-agency cooperation. In a recent survey that I did in the cocoa sector, we had about 27 federal ministries, departments and agencies involved in cocoa. That is a fiasco. Each of them has funding and overlapping mandates. This is not good for the economy.
“In the area of quality assurance, you have the federal produce agencies, you have the private inspection agencies, the quarantine services, you have the NAFDAC, SON, Customs, NPA, all of them involved in quality assurance. But between and across all these agencies, there is no cooperation between them. It is not seamless, and there is a lack of cooperation. This affects what government is doing in spite of policies and protocols that should support the production of cocoa in Nigeria.”
He further stressed the need for proper awareness to increase local consumption of cocoa in the country, which will likely boost the income of cocoa farmers who have been struggling in the sector.
The expert, who is also a Technical Adviser to the Ondo State Cocoa Council and the Nigerian Focal Point for the ICCO-led Africa Cocoa Exchange Feasibility Study, expressed confidence that the nation’s cocoa sector could be a major foreign exchange earner if properly harnessed.
He emphasised the need to put in place measures that will make Nigeria regain its position as the number one cocoa exporter in the world.