By Foster Obi
National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has highlighted the dangers faced by Nigeria for joining the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), wondering why the government took the plunge without proper consultation.
A lengthy statement signed by Boniface Aniebonam, NAGAFF Founder said “It is to us in NAGAFF that Nigeria signing up for the African Continental Free Trade Area (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,” the statement noted.
Continuing it said “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,” the statement declared