NAGAFF gives conditions for Nigeria to benefit from AfCFTA

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…Wants Government to delay implementation for one year

…Seeks return of SON to Ports

The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has said that for Nigeria to benefit from the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, it must ensure that must the National Metrology Institute operated by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON)  is made to be adequately functional and proactive to quality assurance and standards.

The founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam who made this submission in a statement in Lagos on Tuesday posited that Nigeria signing up for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) without due consideration to metrological shortcomings in the local manufacturing content, shall be like opening her economy to further danger of dumping substandard, fake and life endangering products into the country.

According to Aniebonam, there was no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria was a large market for African countries in particular and the world economy, in general hence it was unthinkable to note that Nigeria signed into this agreement without ensuring that Nigerian made products could compete effectively with other manufacturers outside the country.

While recalling that metrology was the science of measurement and the component of the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) that ensured accuracy of measurements to the international system of units (SI), he observed that the institution that provided and ensured this accuracy and traceability of measurement in every country was the National Metrology Institution (NMI) which according to him was domiciled in Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and located in Enugu state.

According to him,” 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.  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”.

He therefore recommended that President Buhari should delay the implementation of AfCFTA for the next one year, invite SON management to tell him what shall help them to discharge their statutory duty effectively and efficiently, engage NAGAFF, CRFFN and other sister associations to make inputs on how best the free trade agreement can be implemented operationally at the entry points.

He further recommended that the Nigerian Customs as the lead agency of the government at the nation’s entry points, may wish to engage the critical stakeholders in conjunction with SON, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (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.

Aniebonam who is also the National Chairman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) informed advised that inherent abuse on ECOWAS treaties and implementation should be a guide to that of free trade in Africa adding that Nigeria definitely was a target while also acknowledging that it 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.

“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”, he added.

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