By Gabriel Ewepu
As African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, set to take off in 2021, the President of Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria, FACAN, Dr Victor Iyama, has raised concerns that without fixing the nation’s precarious power problem she will be disadvantaged in the stiff competition from other African countries, as he spoke on other salient issues.
How prepared is FACAN for AfCFTA take off?
We in FACAN are prepared for African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, by the time the whole thing sets off but the truth must be said like I have told my members that we should be ready for stiff competition. Most of the things that will be coming in are things from foreign lands, and that is the simple truth.
Do you mean Nigerians are not equipped and prepared for the competition as far as AfCFTA is concerned?
The main thing that will ease production is power. If power is not there and we operate on generator we are already at big disadvantage. If we don’t fix that we are just jokers because how do you depend on diesel and generator and think you can be competitive price-wise? You can’t be competitive.
You mean power should be fixed immediately?
Of course! Then we can start talking of being able to compete, and without that we are just jokers. If I have to produce and sell at N10 and another person is producing the same thing and selling at N5 or N6, how do I compete and the two are of the same quality.
What is your concern about Nigerians always patronizing foreign goods instead of ‘Nigerian made’, especially now that Nigeria will be competing with other countries under AfCFTA?
To an extent it may but on the long run it would not, and you see that among those who are elites that talk about foreign goods are, and of course some Nigerians have nap for foreign things but with the closure of borders that has gone down a little bit’ people are now more conscious health wise and that is why about chicken and other poultry products now realize that most of those chickens and turkeys they import is really dangerous to their health, and have come to realize that it is better to consume their live chickens in Nigeria than those imported to the country through the borders. I believe to an extent closure of the borders have created so much awareness that they are beginning to watch what they eat now.
What we are insisting is that on the borders the security should be up and doing and if possible we will want to form a task force for our members to also be at those borders.
Is that doable?
Of course, if they allow us. Why I am saying is this because this is our own profession; we can’t take bribe to kill our own profession. It us that wear the shoe, and if some of us are allowed to go there it will go long way to check the excesses of Customs and other security agents.
We will know the kind of people we are going to put there and will not be compromised, and we won’t tell them when we will be coming, and it will help to sanitise what security agents are doing at the borders.
Was FACAN carried along on the take off of AfCFTA?
We were carried along in the process because I am there for the organization.