Affluent Nigerians are getting pizza delivered 4,000 miles from London.
Nigerian Agriculture Minister Audu Ogbeh told the Senate Agriculture Committee that some Nigerians are ordering pizza air-flown six hours from London to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, via British Airways.
“There are Nigerians who use their cellphones to import pizza from London. Buy in London, they bring it on British Airways in the morning to pick up at the airport,” Ogbeh complained at a Senate hearing on March 26.
A British Airways spokesperson wrote in an email, “It’s not much dough to get to Lagos on British Airways, our customers can get a slice [of] the action for just £539 [$707].”
Minister for Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, says there are Nigerians who use their phones to order pizza from London. According to him, they order for pizza at night and British Airways flies it in in the morning!! pic.twitter.com/gxkifGUCqL
— Uncle Suru (@unclexofficial) March 27, 2019
During the hearing, Ogbeh was defending his ministry’s budget for 2019 which would provide support for local producers.
He said foreign imports were seen as status symbols by many people, and the obsession with foreign goods extends even to necessities like rice and tomato paste, according to The Daily Mail.
Ogbeh said that this demand for foreign produce is not because the products are better than locally produced goods—it’s all about status.
‘Nation of Importers’
Ogbeh described Nigeria as a “nation of importers,” according to Nigerian-based World Stage Group. For example, Nigeria spends $50,000 on toothpicks and $1 million on tomato paste annually. Importers have “hijacked” the economy of Nigeria, he said.
“They have taken it hostage and they have no intention of giving up. This regime is unpopular in part because it is trying to cut down imports,” he said.
“I know what I am saying because I have been in this business for 41 years. We import sugar, handkerchief, toothpaste, even pencils,” he added.
Ogbeh said that international importers were the biggest obstacle to Nigeria’s efforts to encourage Nigerians to buy locally produced products.
“Unfortunately, when you do you make enemies; even the importation of rice that we are trying to reduce is creating for us enemies, heavy enemies, people, who can kill if they have the opportunity because you are spoiling their business,” he said.
Some locals prefer foreign goods even when they could be produced locally, such as rice.
Nigeria is one of the largest producers of rice and yams in Africa, and agriculture was once the country’s main industrial sector.
Nigeria is the world’s second biggest rice importer after China.
According to the World Bank, Nigerian imports as a percentage of GDP increased between 2015 and 2017.
Abdullahi Adamu, chairman of the Senate committee, called on the federal government to address high imports of fruits and vegetables.
“What is eating deep into our capacity to develop are the little things,” he said, according to Nigerian-based The Cable.
“Go to these major shopping malls in Abuja, Kano, Lagos, go to the sections where they sell vegetables, any of them, they are imported from South Africa.”
Total imports increased a hefty 48 percent year-on-year in December 2018, mainly driven by manufactured goods (88 percent) and raw materials (12 percent). The bulk of the imports came from China (32 percent) and India (8 percent).
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, has a population of more than 190 million people, and heavily relies on oil as its primary source of revenue.