NAGAFF Faults Nigeria’s Involvement In ACFTA Without Due Consideration

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The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has faulted Nigeria’s involvement in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement without due considerations.

Speaking to journalists yesterday in Apapa Lagos during a round table discussion organised by Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN), the Founder of NAGAFF, Dr Boniface Aniebonam who was represented by NAGAFF Legal Adviser, Barr Fred Akokia identified numerous factors which could militate against Nigeria in maximizing the benefits of the ACFTA.

According to Dr Aniebonam, “It is to us in NAGAFF that Nigeria signing up for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) without due consideration to metrological shortcomings in our local manufacturing content, shall be like opening our economy to further danger of dumping substandard,fake and life endangering products into Nigeria.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is a large market for African
countries in particular and the world economy, in general. It is
unthinkable to note that we signed into this agreement without ensuring that Nigerian made products can compete effectively with other manufacturers outside the country.

“And for the avoidance of doubt, we do know that metrology is the
science of measurement. It is the component of the National Quality
Infrastructure (NQI) that ensures accuracy of measurements to the
international system of units (SI). We do also know that the
institution that provides and ensures this accuracy and traceability
of measurement in every country is the national metrology institution
(NMI) which is domiciled in Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON)
and located in Enugu state.

“We also know that NMI is the custodian of the national primary
measurement standards for all fields of measurements namely: – mass,
volume, length, pressure, temperature, force, etc. It is therefore our
informed opinion that building adequate infrastructure for metrology
in Nigeria will provide the required confidence in Made-in-Nigeria
products and services and will be highly competitive amongst the
foreign products. In other words if Nigeria must benefit from AfCFTA
we must ensure NMI is made to be adequately functional and proactive
to quality assurance and standards.

“And for us in NAGAFF we have to continue to advise the government
through our public policy advocacy, the need for government to pay
greater attention to the informal sector groups than the present
position wherein the government has continued with uncommon support
for the organized private sector with their bogus and unverifiable
economic inputs to the ailing economy.

“We have also and severally advised government to return Standards
Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to the ports and borders rather than the
present situation wherein they are only invited when the need arises
at the ports. It is on record that even when their interest is
indicated, the products may have been released and exited out of the
ports and borders.

“Indeed the Nigeria Customs operatives are not
conversant and familiar with matters on quality assurance and
standards. Our informed position at the entry points is to state
clearly that if we must make gain from the free trade agreement, SON
is the roadmap meaning that NMI and SON efficiency are of utmost
importance.

“The other critical infrastructure is steady power
generation and distribution and indeed human resource development and
management. Otherwise AfCFTA may become an economic suicide for Nigeria.
We therefore recommend as follows to Mr. President:-

1. Delay the implementation for the next one year.
2. Invite SON management to tell you what shall help them to discharge
their statutory duty effectively and efficiently.
3. Engage NAGAFF, CRFFN and our sister associations to make inputs on
how best free trade agreement can be implemented operationally at the
entry points.
4. The Nigerian Customs as the lead agency of the government in our
entry points, may wish to engage the critical stakeholders in
conjunction with SON, NSC and NAFDAC to educate and enlighten the
informal sector groups on matters of compliance to Customs regulations
and quality assurance and standards of products entering Nigeria.

“The principle and/or doctrine of “you see something you say something”
should be a watchword. It must be a collective effort on the part of
government and the people to achieve the desired objective.

“May we therefore under the circumstance inform the Government that
inherent abuse on ECOWAS treaties and implementation should be a guide
to that of free trade in Africa. Nigeria definitely is a target while
acknowledging that we must not be an island.

“At this juncture, it has become pertinent to take a flash back into
history, especially the ETLS programme, which eventually, left Nigeria
and its economy badly bruised. Nigeria has a large market no doubt.
It ended up serving as a dumping ground for products from other
African countries which may have repackaged the products originally
manufactured outside Africa. Let us take coffee as an example.
Coffee is primarily produced in France, but may have been imported
into countries like Cote D’ ivoire, but repackaged and re-labelled as
being produced in Cote D’ ivoire and exported to Nigeria enjoying zero
tariff under ETLS.

“This is the source of our fear. That this might
be the fate of Nigeria as other African countries, that depend solely
on imports from Europe and other parts of the world, will import such
products into their countries, only to repackage and re-label them and
again export them to Nigeria, paying little or no tariff under the
AfCFTA.

“We therefore urge the Government to be circumspect in commencing the
implementation of the AfCFTA. Some safeguard measures as we mentioned
above should be put in place first. Recall that in 1999 – 2001,
NAGAFF advocated that the Nigerian Ports must take proactive measures
noting that our ports are undergoing second phase of development
wherein manufacturing firms started springing up in the ports arena.

“Truck parks became an issue within the ports. We advised that truck
terminals should be established outside the ports on call up system.
Nobody listened to us and today the issue of truck parks is a problem.

“We also advocated for the establishment of Deep Seaports that can take
more cargo and reduce freight rates to Nigeria. We concluded by
insisting that the process shall make Nigeria a hub and transshipment
centre in Africa with all the economic gains. Nobody listened to us
till of recent.

“We are again advising on this issue of free trade and
we do hope that somebody will listen to us in the interest of the
Nigerian economic matters. It took Mr. President some time to sign
this agreement, suggesting that he was reluctant to do so initially.
We know that Mr. President meant well for this country but still the
burden is on him to do the needful in the interest of the greater
number and the economy.

“In totality let it be on record that the Nigeria Customs Service being
the lead Agency of the Government in the ports and borders is very
strategic in the economy of Nigeria. Therefore the need to take their
input for Government trade policy formulations must not be over
emphasized because Customs laws are inclusive on trade matters and facilitation”.

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