MORE STAKEHOLDERS’ SCEPTICISM BAPTIZE AfCFTA, IN MAJAN’S ROUNDTABLE
The Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria’s, News and discussions event, MAJAN ROUNDTABLE, held on Thursday 18th of February, 2021, in Apapa, saw relevant key Stakeholders diset the topic “African Continental Free Trade Area agreement: How ready are Maritime Stakeholders to key into the concept?”
BY LOD ONYEJI
MAJAN, as a leading Maritime industry Media advocacy group, who always strive to set the pace in the right direction, decided to swing into the AfCFTA agreement enlightenment campaign, after very much spirited efforts on advocating against the traffic gridlock on our major ports access roads in Lagos, that is yielding some results through some agencies policy decisions on the traffic situation.
At the MAJAN roundtable, the guest lecturer, FWDR. Francis I. Omotosho, RFF. Registrar , NAGAFF Academy, poured lots of lights on AfCFTA project. According to him, AfCFTA, being a recently established regional trade block that Will allow for free movement of goods, industries and services within and outside the countries that have assented to the agreement.
A wonderfully laudable innovation to better ease of doing business within the African continent, of which, when properly executed will grow the African Continent socioeconomic and political wellbeing, through its numerous advantages, such as, increase in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), Tariff removal, easy import and export around member countries etc.
Still from the guest lecturer, AfCFTA is a flagship project of African Union Agenda 2063, a blueprint for attaining socioeconomic and political inclusivity and sustainability growth. Nigeria as a key stakeholders in the agreement has high hopes of the immense benefits from big project.
However, the topic of the roundtable is rhetorically asking how prepared Nigeria is to tap into the agreement it willingly and diligently signed? Ordinarily by signing such agreement one would expect any responsible and faithful government to seriously mean what it has signed especially as the Presidency, on 20th of December, 2019, in Abuja inaugurated the National Action Committee for implementation of AfCFTA. The government of the day went on to effectively have the Federal Council ratified Nigeria’s membership of AfCFTA on November 11, 2020. These moves maybe because of the pressing need to meet up with the agreement’s timetable as it was billed to start in January, 2021.
Truly, judging from some of internal policies and political gymnastics, especially when tabulated side by side with the main objective of having a single continental market for “Made in African” goods, industries and services. The need to have a Continental Customs Union, liberalisation of the Continental Markets and AfCFTA becoming the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Nigeria cannot be said to be prepared for the AfCFTA project.
Another speaker at the roundtable was the MD/CEO, Mac-Manuel Global Logistics and also the Vice President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Emeka Enwelu, who showered MAJAN, with encomiums for the association’s boldness and visionary steps of championing the awareness campaign of a national program of this magnitude even when the relevant government agencies are not doing much in that direction or even seeing reasons to give the Association the empowerment and support it needs to effectively carry on with this very important national campaign. Sighting that only few weeks ago MAJAN, released a communique on another positive event it did on investigative journalism, that was like this too, making some far reaching recommendations.
Emeka, went on challenge the government of the day to do more on enlightenment campaign of the AfCFTA project which always has ready vessel in a possible collaboration with MAJAN on that. On how prepared Nigeria is, he said, Nigeria is not showing much signs of being prepared for the AfCFTA project. He made reference to the policy contradiction in the system where a regional trade block is signed with our borders still tightly closed even a proclamation of reopening such borders. This is a clear example of self deceitfulness. Therefore, with the prevailing circumstances, Nigeria cannot be said to be in any way prepared for AfCFTA. Though we have an untapped advantage which is our population, that gives any market product a bigger booster. He went on to advise the government to give AfCFTA, the type of publicity it has been giving COVID-19 and stop shrouding the regional trade block with much secrecy.
In his remarks, the MAJAN President, Comrade Ray Ugochukwu, said the worth of AfCFTA is over $3billion annually and has the tendency to increase over the years.
He assured that MAJAN would continue to discuss with relevant stakeholders and enlighten the public through responsible reportage.
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 Maritime Summit on ‘Apapa traffic gridlock’ is slated for next month, March 2021. We’re optimistic that our modest contribution towards addressing the nightmare Apapa gridlock has become, will yield good results”.
“The summit will provide a good platform for stakeholders, regulatory agencies and government departments involved, to proffer lasting solutions to the perennial gridlock at Apapa ports access roads.”
The MAJAN President, thanked all the resource persons, who graced the occasion, including Dr Emeka Enebili, the Chief Host, among others. He said that MAJAN Roundtable is going to be a regular exercise going forward.
After exhaustive deliberations, the following were recommended:
a – To benefit equitably, the government, maritime stakeholders and freight forwarders need to understand the concept of digital Payments System;
b – access to information and communication technology facilities, via space satellite hosting for adequate internet connections;
C – adequate training and re-training key players;
d – access to capital/loan,
e – access to multimodal transport system;
f – provision of adequate security measures;
g – provision of infrastructure;
paperless port operation processes;
h – seamless cargo clearance,
24 hours operations at land border, airports and seaports;
reduction in Customs tariff; and
I – 24 hours bank services.
# *PROUDLY MAJAN*