Expert tasks minister on trade, ECOWAS policies
A Trade and Economic Development Advocate, Mr Ken Ukaoha, has urged the new Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Adeniyi Adebayo, to renew Nigeria’s trade policy in order to advance the sector.
Ukaoha, who is the President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Abuja.
According to him, the first agenda for Adebayo is providing Nigeria with a trade policy.
“It is a shame that up till this moment, since 2002 when the country had its last trade policy; we are yet to have one.
“A lot of people have been asking. We have been engaged in a number of trade negotiations, here and there, what then are we negotiating this trade with, upon what domestic policy are we negotiating.
Ukaoha disclosed that the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s rules provided that every developing country such as Nigeria would have to renew its trade policy every five years.
He said there had always been WTO policy reviews; and it had been noted that Nigeria’s trade policy was outdated.
He also urged the minister to look into the subject of a Common External Tariff (CET) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) related trade policies.
Ukaoha said that the CET experimentation for Nigeria would expire this year and by 2020, Nigeria should be having a full fledged implementation of the common external tariff.
He, however, regretted that the country had not learnt any lesson from the five years experimental stage; and called for the hosting of a meeting of trade and industry stakeholders by the ministry to collaborate and strategise.
The expert called for synergy between the ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture, to boost local produce and market strategies, as the chunk of Nigeria’s export commodities export were agricultural produce.
“So that we will know what we are going to export and at what level we will export, to reduce our food imports while we are also using that to industrialise the country,’’ he said.
Ukaoha expressed regrets that Nigeria was still an observer of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which President Muhammadu Buhari had signed on July 7, at the 12th African Union (AU) Extraordinary Summit in Niamey, Niger Republic.
“Nigeria has been outside the gate in terms of negotiations, but courtesy of the President’s signature, which made us the 53rd country to sign on the framework.
“Nigeria has come in now, however it still remains as an observer in the AfCFTA negotiations.
“How Nigeria will come in as a full member, that is where the minister comes in, and we need an urgent fast track action from the ministry towards the ratification of the AfCFTA agreement.
“Until it is ratified, we will remain an observer in the AfCFTA. We need to catch up, a lot of things have happened without our input,’’ he said.
Ukaoha explained that Section 12 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, stated that no international agreement can come into force except it be ratified by the National Assembly, adding that the minister should facilitate that.
“As we pursue the ratification we should also call to mind where we are, and where the countries which signed the agreement and currently negotiating the agreement are too.
“It is necessary because negotiations are ongoing in terms of services, in terms of the third leg of the negotiation, corporation in intellectual property and procurement policy. We need to catch up,’’ he said.
He also urged the minister to undertake the role of working on the export strategy, in preparation of the AfCFTA implementation.
“Nigeria needs a data of market across the country, it is A shame that sometimes people call, especially from abroad requesting for where to get certain commodity or item. We need a yellow book that itemises all goods in the country.
“I congratulate the ministers, the job is quite demanding, contemporary issues on trade have revealed that trade is highly technical, and we should be prepared in terms of operations and policy works going on at various levels,’’ Ukaoha said.