By Naomi Uzor
Nigeria, Ghana and cote dâ€™Ivoire have commenced moves to check trade abuses relating toÂ the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS).
Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Achike Udenwa said in that ….in order to address the abuse of the Rules of Origin, Nigeria has agreed with Ghana and Cote dâ€™Ivoire to establish a joint inspection/Certification Committee consisting of all relevant agencies from their countries to inspect and certify goods from any one of them to qualify for the ETLS.
NigeriaÂ Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) is currently the agency issuing the Rules of Origin Certificate on behalf of the Federal government and that governmentÂ has also accelerated its customs modernization and trade facilitation programs and isÂ fully committed to the automation of all border posts as well as ensuring the implementation of the policy on 48 hours clearance of goods from the ports.â€
He said that records indicate that Nigeria dominates theÂ ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS). â€œAs at December 2008, Nigeria has 535 companies with 1,440 products registered under the Scheme, an increase by 23 companies and 126 products from the year 2007. This places Nigeria first in respect of volume of trade in the sub region with more than 50 per cent of companies and 40 per cent of products in the scheme, followed by Ghana with 30 per cent and Cote Dâ€™Ivoire with 16 per cent.â€
Government , he said is aware of the challenges of implementing the ETLS and t is making efforts to address them nationally as well as at the regional level and the issue of the domiciliation of the coordination of the ETLS is already being addressed andÂ believes that before the end of the year, the scheme would be transferred to a more appropriate ministry.
He said in respect of the Common External Tariff (CET), Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry, championed the adoption of a fifth band of 35 per centÂ by the sub-region and has already started working on the categorization of products under the 5th band. â€œWith the CET in place, the fear of dumping of goods through other member countriesâ€™ borders would be allayed, and smuggling will reduce at our borders. As regards the removal of non tariff barriers, Nigeria has officially directed that joint checkpoints (of relevant border agencies) should be established from the entry border posts and reduced to a maximum of three in order to facilitate the movement of goods and services. I am happy to inform you that the National Focal Point, an inter-institutional body which consists of all the main regulators as well as operatorsÂ of trade, from the private sector and civil society, has been reconstituted and expanded to take care of all issues on trade. Within it, a Committee on Trade Facilitation would be set up and be responsible for monitoring the proliferation of illegal checkpoints and other non-technical, non tariff barriers to trade, among other things.
It is gratifying to note that Nigeria has commenced the sensitization of operators and other stake-holders on the ETLS and introduced a fast track process through the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria together with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council to set up information desks in their offices. This arrangement will no doubt assist exporters to have easier access to the ETLS application forms, guide them to complete the forms correctly and assist them to handle any other challenges.
In addition to this, the ECOWAS Commission with assistance of the World Bank is trying to establish a joint customs clearance committee at the different borders in West Africa.Â Nigeria is already planning to streamline the functions of the various border agencies of government in order to establish a one-stop shop at the border where all the involved agencies will check goods simultaneously thereby saving time and cost.â€