By Yinka Kolawole
THE case has been made for Nigeria to continue to be a member of the Association of African Trade Promotion Organisations (AATPO), because of its potential to aid export promotion especially amongst African countries.
The Tangier, Morocco-based AATPO which operates under the aegis of UN Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA) and the African Union (AU), was established in 1974 to assist in the harmonisation of the commercial policies of African countries in order to promote intra-African trade.
Making the case for Nigeriaâ€™s continuous membership in a chat with Vanguard, Prof. Adeyinka Orimalade, who is the current Secretary-General of AATPO, noted that Nigeria withdrew her membership of the organisation in 2007, advising that the decision be reconsidered in line with its pioneering role in its formation as well as the numerous trade benefits accruable to people in export business.
He added that it is also embarrassing in view of the fact that he became the scribe of the organisation having been nominated twice for the post by the Nigerian government. â€œPeople have become aware of the usefulness of the organisation and how it can help promote their export market opportunities,â€ he remarked, adding that a lot of countries have been focusing on opportunities in export and trade but that the scope could be expanded to include non-extractive industries and agro-allied industry.
He said that AATPO has been able to achieve a lot in the areas of fiscal policy such as taxes and tariff, noting that countries that engage so much in export have streamlined their tariff regimes to facilitate easier business transactions.
He further stated that arrangements have almost been concluded to merge AATPO with the Federation of African Chambers of Commerce (FACC), and that the membership of Nigeria will serve as a catalyst for the merger arrangement.
The septuagenarian professor however lamented that Nigeria is owing the organisation some of its financial obligations – in unpaid dues and pledges – which according to him, has seriously hampered the smooth running of the body and also an embarrassment to the nation, being the custodian of the secretariat of the body by virtue of the fact that a Nigerian is the scribe.
Orimalade however acknowledged that the Presidency is embarrassed by the development and has even constituted an inter-ministerial committee to find ways of settling the countryâ€™s commitment.
Documents obtained by Vanguard revealed that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry owes AATPO about $1.5 million in unpaid dues, in addition to various sums of money owed many other international organisations by other ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs), amounting to about N7 billion in total.
For instance, the National Planning Commission owes the United Nations Development Programme $4 million and the Commonwealth Secretariat some $600,000, while the foreign affairs ministry owes Islamic Education and scientific Organisation $1.6 million in unpaid dues, among many other such.