BY INNOCENT OROK
The National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike has expressed his fears and that of Custom Brokers on how Nigeria will cope when the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement kick- off in March 2019.
According to Nwabunike, lack of infrastructure like electricity, good road networks and what Nigeria will export to other countries among others will militate against the country’s chances at the continental deal.
The ANLCA president said this during his presentation at a two day national workshop on AfCFTA, organized by the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) in Lagos yesterday.
The licensed customs brokers’ President spoke on the topic ‘’The Role of Customs Brokers in AfCFTA: ANLCA Perspective.
He said “The hard truth is that Nigeria Government is still getting ready for AfCFTA. I can say that categorically because if you consider the way import guidelines and procedures are turned out and implemented year in year out, one won’t look forward to AfCFTA with much excitement.
” There has been a gradual but steady distrust between Customs officers and Customs brokers over cargo value differences and the end is not in sight to this contention.
Nigeria should position herself for the stiff competition in AfCFTA.
We need to look into our import and export trade procedures. Import guideline and trade facilitation as it affects Nigerians are equally important and should be looked into”.
Still doubting Nigeria’s readiness for the agreement, Nwabunike lamented the infrastructural decay and lack of incentives to Nigerian manufacturers as another hindrance that will affect Nigeria in the agreement.
He said that it will be difficult for Nigeria to compete with South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria etc who all have good infrastructure and standard products to export.
“Ranging from infrastructural deficits, like electricity , road networks, incentives to local manufacturers and farmers to multiplicity of government agencies as it affects trade and services.
” Also imperative is the attitudinal change of our importers and exporters must be a paramount issue to be frequently discussed at every fora.
Most importantly and bearing in mind that everything borders on implementation and strict adherence to rules and regulations.
“The Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers should have the same level of training on tariff and trade procedures. Hard decision should be taken against defaulters of the agreement.
Readily Nigeria by virtue of her population and robust economy will be an attractive market from all kinds of goods under AfCFTA, but care should be taken to avoid using Nigeria as dumping ground by other sister countries.
“Local manufacturers as well as farmers should be encouraged to export their goods and services by providing the enabling environment.
Customs should be encouraged to continue to safeguard Nigerian territorial boundaries and trade facilitations, security of goods in bound and out bound the country.
” Giving customs a target every year by FGN should be discouraged, I strongly believe that the Nigeria Customs Service has been over stretched and Nigerians seeing them as not being friendly, a situation I sincerely believe should be revisited and allow the Customs to remain what they are suppose to be according to the standard of World Customs Organisation (CWO).
Ease of doing business initiated by the Federal government must be
adhered to the later. All bottlenecks in clearing of goods and services must be streamline for the borderless trade of AfCFTA.
While, stimulation of local manufacturers must be encouraged. Nigerian government must be sensitive to unbanned some goods that are not made or being manufactured in Nigeria as of today”.
He also culled on the Federal government to provide a valuable benchmark as a standard for tariff charges.
“If the Federal Government provides a value benchmark as a means to standardized tariff charges, the misunderstanding may end. It is happening because government has encouraged it. Nigeria is the only country where Customs is being given revenue target. Customs’ responsibility on import and other port levies are supposed to be administrative cost to cushion maintenance, logistics support and infrastructure provisions.
“What I want us to understand is that revenue collection from Customs duty is a function of the volume of import. I have explained that since government changed the objective for which these duties and taxes are collected and made it a revenue system.
It is high time the federal government takes a new approach to trade , if the Nigeria economy must benefit from the AfCFTA.
“As for the Customs Brokers, our job is simply, facilitate trade to the point of need. In this case we pledge allegiance to our clients in doing so.
It is important to note that a new face of Clearing and Forwarding practice will emerged in the AfCFTA regime.
Talking about Africa to Africa trade.
A Country that depends on import duty receipts to substantially finance her capital expenditure or balance their budget will not be sincere with the regime of African Continental Free Trade Agreement. When Nigeria
government said that AfCFTA will cause goods to flood Nigeria market which will stifle local industries is not true. Instead, if the policy is right, it is Nigerian products that should flood and dominate African market. There is nothing to say more than to continue to plead to government to encourage open valuation system that should be a public document and stop giving revenue target to Custom. Happy enough AfCFTA protocols will destroy that”. he said.
AMJON has put up the event under the theme, AfCFTA, Boosting Nigeria’s Economy for Sustainable development” to brainstorm on the benefits and challenges of the continental trade deal to Nigeria.
Several speakers including Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), National Agency for Foods, Drugs and Administration Control (NAFDAC), Nigerian Exports Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), ANLCA, NAGAFF among others all bore their minds on their agencies preparedness for the agreement.
The high point of the event was the official induction of the ANLCA president, Hon. IJU Tony Nwabunike as AMJON patron.