AfCFTA: MARITIME STAKEHOLDERS DOUBT NIGERIA’S PREPAREDNESS; FAULT FG ON SENSITISATION
BY MCANTHONY ONUOHA
Stakeholders in the Maritime industry are still in doubt of Nigeria’s preparedness to open her borders to 55 African countries that entered into Free Trade Area agreement for economic benefit across the continent.
At a Roundtable discussion organized on Thursday, February 18,2021, by Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN), in Apapa, Lagos, Maritime practitioners expressed doubt on the level of Federal Government’s preparedness for African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) agreement, saying that member countries (especially Nigeria as giant of Africa) are expected to put the needed facilities in place in other to ensure smooth intra-country movement of goods and services.
One of the discussants at the Roundtable parley, the MD/CEO of MAC-MANUEL Global LOGISTICS, and also, the Vice President, National Council for Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr.Emeka Enwelu, who also was the Guest Speaker, said that the Federal Government was not yet ready because the level of sensitization on the Continental Free Trade Area agreement was very low.
In his words,” Government has not done much in educating those concerned about this concept. Look at an important sector like maritime, nobody has reached out to licensed Customs agents and other industry players”.
Mr. Enwelu pointed out that Government signed AfCFTA agreement when our land borders were still closed, saying that it was a clear indication of its unpreparedness, adding that member countries ought to have been mandated to use a given period of time to make adequate preparation of which, any country that fails to meet up would be dismembered prior to the sealing of such important agreement.
Continuing, the Maritime guru said that the only things Nigeria has are the population and a large market. He wondered why such a huge Continental business deal that by now, ought to have been on the lips of everyone like Covid-19 is being shrouded in secrecy.
However, Fwdr. Francis Omotosho, Registrar,NAGAFF Academy, who was the Guest Lecturer, opined that Regional trade agreement vary, depending on the level of commitment and arrangement among countries. Adding that it comes with internal rules that member countries must follow, and these rules include: Removal of trade barrier; free movement of goods and services across the region; Customs Union of Member countries must reduce trade barriers to enhance seamless cargo clearance; free import and export of resources must be allowed; member countries have to adopt a set of economic policies and use of one currency; regional integration must be encouraged. Investors who want to put money in developing countries must be protected against political risk.
Omotosho went further to say that AfCFTA has economic benefits which include, increase in foreign direct investments (FDI), and reduction in trade tariff. And that the agreement helps to remove trade barriers as well as boosts economic growth, creates jobs and also paves the way for market expansion.
In his paper presentation, the Registrar of NAGAFF Academy reveals that AfCFTA is a flagship project of Africa Union Agenda 2063, a blueprint for attaining inclusive and sustainable growth. He went further to point out that on 20th, December, 2019, in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the National Action Committee for Implementation of AfCFTA on November 11,2020, as scheduled.
According to Fwdr. Omotosho, “the objectives are to create a single Continental market for made in Africa goods and services, with free movement of business, persons and investments, paving the way for establishment of Continental Customs Union”.
“AfCFTA is to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). AfCFTA is to consolidate Africa into one trade area for entrepreneurs, businesses as well as consumers across the continent”.
Meanwhile, the following recommendations were made : To benefit equitably, the Government, Maritime Stakeholders and freight forwarders need to understand the concept of Digital Payments System; access to information communication technology facilities, space satellite hosting for adequate training and re-training ; access to capital/ loan and financial empowerment; access to multinational transport system; provision of adequate security measures; provision of infrastructure; paperless port operation process; seamless cargo clearance,. 24 hours operations at land border, airports and seaports; reduction in Customs tariff; and 24 hours bank services.
At the end of the Roundtable Chat, Mr.Emeka Enwelu, expressed satisfaction with the quality of discussion that shaped the event, commending Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria(MAJAN),and its leadership, for coming up with a Noble idea of biweekly Roundtable Chat with Maritime Stakeholders. In his words,” l am really impressed by the level of reportage and enlightenment MAJAN is giving the industry; it is quite beneficial for the growth of the sector”.
In his remarks, MAJAN helmsman, Comrade Ray Ugochukwu, assured that the Association would continue to discuss with relevant stakeholders and enlighten the public via responsible and verifiable reportage.
In his words,” As journalists, our duty is to enlighten the masses through our reports. This is what MAJAN is doing as a group. Our maiden National Summit on ‘Apapa traffic gridlock’ is slated for next month, March 2021. We’re optimistic that our modest contribution towards addressing the nightmarish Apapa gridlock will help to change the narrative”.
” The summit will provide a good platform for stakeholders, regulatory agencies and government departments involved, to proffer lasting solutions to the perennial gridlock on Apapa ports corridor”.
Comrade Ray Ugochukwu, who assured that MAJAN ROUNDTABLE CHAT is going to remain a regular exercise going forward, appreciated all resource persons, who graced the event, not excluding Dr. Emeka Enebeli who partnered MAJAN to make the event a success.