The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has expressed concern over the ban on importation of Nigeria’s cocoa into the United States.
The Deputy Director in charge of Press at the ministry, Mr. Samuel Olowookere, quoted Ngige as having expressed the worry at the concluding session of the Labour and Trade Ministerial Roundtable of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act at the State Department, Washington D.C, United States, in a statement on Sunday.
He quoted Ngige as having made a case to the US authorities to reconsider the decision to suspend the exportation of the cash crop into the US.
Ngige said he was uncomfortable with the international emphasis on Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the area of agriculture throughout the talks with delegates from West African countries.
He wondered if the cocoa being produced in Nigeria was not the same crop that was exported and exploited by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to develop the defunct Western Region and also used by the late Chief Michael Okpara to build vast plantations in the Arochukwu axis of the defunct Eastern Nigeria.
The minister said he was saddened by the development and had to make a case for technical assistance for the production of cocoa that would satisfy the standard required for exportation into the US and European markets.
Ngige said that he had to take advantage of the event to dispel the rumour in some quarters that Nigerian laws were anti-labour.
“The minister further made a case for the reconsideration of the suspension of the import of Nigeria’s cocoa into the United States.
“According to Ngige, ‘I was upset that throughout the discussions on agriculture, Ghana and Cote D’ivore became instant toasts and pride of other West African countries’ delegates.
“Is it not the same cocoa that Obafemi Awolowo used to build the Western Region? The same cocoa with which M.I. Okpara built massive plantations along Arochukwu axis of the Eastern Region?
“I was peeved and therefore made a strong case for technical assistance towards the production of cocoa that meets the standard of export into the US and European market.’
“It was also an opportunity for me to also dispel a negative report making the rounds at the international forum that Nigerian laws are labour-restrictive. I gave, with concrete examples, the deep constitutional provisions on fundamental freedoms and the flourishing democratic tenets that guide government relations with labour,” the statement read in part.