By Eguono Odjegba
LEADERSHIP of the Association of Nigeria Customs Licensed Agents, ANLCA, has expressed worries on what Nigeria stands to gain from the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, being a consumption based nation, and one with myriads of import/export control mechanism.
National President of ANLCA, Hon. Tony Nwabunike, who expressed the concerns during his presentation at a two-day workshop organized by the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria, AMJON, in Lagos, said he foresees challenges on many fronts, essentially with regards to some existing economic models.
Nwabunike also noted that with Nigeria’s crude oil fast losing its once vital political and economic power, if urgent steps are not taken to diversify local productive base and quickly identify areas of economic advantage in the African continental free trade, Nigeria may just find herself displaced economically, to lick her wounds as a pariah nation within the continental trade bloc.
His words: “The hard truth is that Nigerian Government is still getting ready for AfCFTA. I can say that categorically because if you consider the way import guidelines and procedures are churned out and implemented year in year out, one won’t look forward to AfCFTA with much excitement.
“We are import dependent, these days government is turning more and more to the Customs Service as base for revenue earnings. So to some extent, local manufacturing capacity is been undermined by the continuous quest for revenue jack up by the Customs. Is this what we are going to take to AfCFTA?”
Nwabunnike also added: “Nigeria should position herself for the stiff competition in AfCFTA. We need to look into our import and export trade procedures. A country that depends on import duty receipts to substantially finance her budget and capital expenditure will not be sincere with the regime of African Continental Free Trade Area.”
The ANLCA boss also faulted prevailing Nigerian official position that under AfCFTA goods from other blocs within the bilateral trade territory will flood the Nigeria market and stifle local industries.
He said: “This is not true. If our local fiscal and trade policies are correct, it is Nigerian products that should flood and dominate the continental market. So, there is nothing to say more than to continue to plead with government to encourage open valuation system by making it a public document and also to stop giving revenue target to Customs.
“These will create the right and enabling trading environment, unlock our productive capacity, improve Customs brokerage, improve our exports capacity and manufacturing value chain, free our logistics and freight forwarding industry from the burden and pressure of unwarranted illegal costs.
“Giving Customs target every year by FGN should be discouraged. I strongly believe that the Nigeria Customs Service has been over stretched and this has created huge distrust in the minds of Nigerians. You cannot be talking about African free continental trade with the level of existing bottlenecks in the clearance of goods.”
There is also no reason to continue to ban essential goods for which we presently lack capacity to produce.
“It is high time the federal government considers a new approach to trade, particularly, if we are serious about our intention to run with AfCFTA.”