…Predicts Naira To Weaken Further, 2021
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has berated the National Action Committee on Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) for doing a poor job of sensitising stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime and transportation sector in readiness for commencement of the agreement in January 2021.
Vice President of ANLCA, Dr. Kayode Farinto blasted the Committee while speaking with journalists in Lagos on Tuesday.
The AfCFTA Action Committee in the Transportation and maritime sector is headed by Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemi Saraki. The duty of the committee is to mobilize stakeholders to prepare for AfCFTA implementation.
This Committee which was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, was also mandated to coordinate public and private sector actors to undertake a wide range of readiness interventions to prepare Nigerian businesses to benefit from the AfCFTA Agreement while mitigating its threats.
Speaking however, Dr. Farinto said the awareness on AfCFTA implementation is very low, he lamented that since the Saraki committee was inaugurated, it has never visited the port to speak with Transporters or even interact with the freight forwarders.
He predicted that AfCFTA would affect the Naria negatively by the time it kick-starts fully in first quarter of 2021, and that Nigeria would end up being a dumping ground for goods produced in other African countries.
“Government at the federal level are always wrong, how can you set up a committee and the freight forwarders are not involved? The important person in the logistics chain is the customs brokers and freight forwarders”
“I am aware they set up a committee, but all the committee has been doing is collect estacodes for themselves, when was the last time they visited the port or even organise a symposium or a townhall meeting to sensitize the operators that this agreement would kick-start by January”
“They should subject this AfCFTA to constructive criticism with stakeholders and they would get good ideas from the stakeholders”
“Before you know it now, the AfCFTA Committee would submit one proposal to the Federal Government, at the end of the day, it would not be implemented and government would continue to lose money”
“This is why I am afraid that this AfCFTA would continue to make Nigeria a dumping ground, except something is done urgently, we are signatory to it, so we can no longer say No”
“The policy would kick-start in few days but we are not prepared, the level of awareness is too low, if we are prepared it would have been a song on everybody’s lips” he said
The ANLCA Vice President predicted that very soon, commodities from African countries would start flooding Nigerian markets without any indices on ground to show that Nigerian commodities can equally enter other African markets.
“I am thinking that by now, government should have created a department to look at the AfCFTA and to examine what positive impact it would have on our economy and the Naira, if care is not taken, AfCFTA would affect the Naria negatively. Africa would now be like what is happening in Europe, from Amsterdam, you can drive your cargo into London and Germany because it is borderless”
“There are no indices on ground to show that this government is prepared? Government must make use of the opportunity to make the Naira stronger and making the economy better and create more jobs”
“The government must also talk to the various agencies like Customs and others, there must be attitudinal change if we want to achieve desired results. If there is no attitudinal change, we would continue to roll out policies that other countries would cash-in on, and our naira would continue to weaken”
Dr. Farinto, a customs broker and activist, also called on the Federal Government to create the Ministry of Maritime in order to tap the huge resources inherent in the maritime sector.
He said if the government has a port developmental plan and good infrastructures are put in place, the maritime industry alone is enough to finance the federal government budget.
Speaking, he said “It is high time the government creates a maritime ministry and stop lumping maritime together with the transportation ministry, if we dont do this, government would not be able to monitor all its supposed to do”
“We have a transport minister who does not know anything more than the railway sector, ask him how ready are we on the AfCFTA now, he would be saying gibberish, and you can never blame him because the transportation sector is very wide”
“Aviation was tactically removed from transportation ministry, so also should the maritime ministry be set up because we have too many grey areas that has not been harnessed but which can generate revenue for the government”