The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has alleged that French speaking West African countries and even some English speaking ones also, deliberately killed the successful implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS)
The ETLS is the main ECOWAS operational tool for promoting the West Africa region as a Free Trade Area where all goods made in any of the countries can be imported freely without duty payment.
For several years however, NAGAFF said that Nigeria has been losing billions of naira through abuse of the ETLS by West African countries, especially Côte de Ivore who import goods from their colonial masters; France and dump them in Nigeria.
Recall that recently, the Customs Area Controller in charge of Seme border command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Compt Uba Garba had also raised an alarm that importers evade payment of duties by declaring their Nigerian bound imports which are mostly shipped from China and India through Cotonou port in Republic of Benin and other ports in the West African sub-region as ETLS goods
Deputy National President of NAGAFF, Barr Fred Akhokia at a roundtable session with Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Apapa recently noted that the ETLS failed from inception because Nigeria itself does not manufacture any product to make it compete favourably within the region.
“ETLS is a practical example of how we had thought that liberalisation of trade in the West African subregion would help Nigerians and our industries, help our economy, give us employment and our industries would have capacity to expand, if you sale your product very well, the tendency is that plough back some of your benefit into our economy to expand”
“But the ETLS failed before it even started. The West African sub region consists of satellite countries of the colonial masters, French speaking, English speaking West African countries”
“When the ETLS started, the whole idea was for products made in West African countries to move freely among member countries, but it failed ab-initio because of the French speaking African countries in Cote de Ivore.
“The coffee we consume in Nigeria is coming from Côte de Ivore, but the spirit and letter of the ETLS agreement is that, it is only those goods produced in West African countries that can be brought into Nigeria”
“But these people thought they were being smart, they will go to their parent country in France, everybody knows that France is the maker of Nescafe, they will go over there and import the product, they are just like surrogates to the products that were coming from France, they labelled them made in Côte de Ivore, but in actual fact they were made in France”
“They were shortchanging us and we now became a dumping ground for French made products because of ETLS.The agreement is is for goods made in West Africa and not those repackaged”
“It is not only Cote de Ivore, there are so many others bringing in products from their colonial masters into their country, repackaged it and send it to Nigeria”
The NAGAFF top gun said that the West African countries distrusted each other and that was why they were cutting corners.
He said that some countries were not ready to operate the ETLS in good faith.
He however cautioned that “Now that we are going into the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) Nigeria may yet again become a dumping ground for these West African countries.