We are fully prepared – SON
By Adegboyega Oni
Mindful of a gap in quality control for goods and finished products, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has warned that Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) may pose a danger to the Nigerian economy as the country may become a dumping ground for all manners of substandard goods very much like the ECOWA Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
Africa is speedily inching towards economic integration with the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) by various countries including Nigeria. According to a group of freight forwarders, Nigeria may be worse off as it may become a dumping ground to all manner of substandard goods just as it was the case with the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) because of a lack of a quality standard metrology control of goods in place.
Rather than jumping headlong into signing of the AfCFTA agreement, the freight forwarders under the auspice of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) averred that Nigeria should have waited till the drafting of the AfCFTA protocols, studied them and thereafter signed the agreement to avoid the ETLS economic blunder.
They noted that under the ETLS a lot of goods, substandard and many not produced in many West African countries but in Europe particularly in France and labeled as ‘made in Africa’ were erroneously shipped into Nigeria mostly by French speaking countries.
The freight forwarders also expressed fear that with inadequate provision of major infrastructure such as electricity and transportation Nigerian manufactured goods may not compete competitively with goods coming from countries such as South Africa, Egypt and others who have steady electricity, good transportation mode and effective goods quality measurement and control.
”Signing the AfCFTA by Nigeria without considering metrological shortcomings in our local manufacturing content shall be like opening our economy to further danger of dumping substandard, fake and life endangering products. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is a large market for African countries in particular and the world economy, in general. It is unthinkable to note that we signed into this agreement without ensuring that Nigerian made products can compete effectively with other manufacturers outside the country.
”And for the avoidance of doubt, we do know that metrology is the science of measurement. It is the component of the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) that ensures accuracy of measurements to the international system of units (SI). We do also know that the institution that provides and ensures this accuracy and traceability of measurement in every country is the national metrology institution (NMI) which is domiciled in Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and located in Enugu state.
”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,” noted Dr. Boniface Aniebonam while speaking to PortNews.
We are prepared for AfCFTA – SON
However, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) says it is fully prepared for the imminent implications of Nigeria’s signature to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement recently accented to by the President.
Speaking with PortNews, Mr. Bola Fashina, the Head of Public Relations of SON, noted that the Organisation is working in close collaboration with other ministries, agencies and departments of government as well as development partners to develop the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) to cater for the free movement of goods and services in Africa.
Fashina said that some of the NQI projects already delivered by SON include a National Metrology Institute nearing completion in Enugu, international accreditation of SON laboratories, training and management systems certification services as well as ongoing automation of all services to stakeholders. He added that all these are aimed at promoting the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
According to him, ”SON has been championing the harmonization of Standards within the ECOWAS region and the African continent through the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO). Nigeria through SON holds the Chairmanship and Secretary of many of the Technical Harmonization Committees of ARSO in addition to promoting the participation of many stakeholders in Nigeria in the standards harmonization process.
”Other preparatory steps towards the free movement of goods and services include the development of Standards for artisanship such as carpentry, masonry, fashion design, painting among many others to ensure free exchange of the services particularly within West Africa.”
Fashina maintained that the Director General of SON, Osita Aboloma acknowledged the imminent challenge of combating the possible dumping of substandard and life-endangering products through the seaports since the agency is not present to carry out quality verification of products on arrival.
Fashina assured Nigerian not to exercise fear as SON will continue to deploy all strategies including the use of automation, intelligence gathering and compliance monitoring to protect Nigerian Consumers from the menace of substandard and life-endangering products within available resources.
According to SON image maker, the SON Chief Executive extolled the existing robust collaboration among sister regulatory and security agencies in the fight against substandard products but called for greater synergy as no efforts should be spared in trying to protect the Nation’s economy and the welfare of its people.
AfCFTA will transform export potentials – Yemi Osinbajo
However, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has assured Nigerians that AfCFTA will boost Nigeria’s economic development and raise her export potentials by eight percent. He noted that beyond signing the agreement, the federal government has moved ahead to check issues that are likely to affect the country’s growth.
According to Osinbajo, “the AfCFTA can transform Nigeria from a target economy to the gateway economy by boosting job creation through increased intra African trade and spurring growth through enhanced economic welfare with an estimated eight per cent increase of Nigeria’s total export.
“In spite of the fact that Nigeria only just signed the AfCFTA, in terms of readiness, we are not at ground zero. At $35.45billion, Nigeria’s manufacturing value-added, a measure of a productive capacity to produce and export semi and fully finished goods, is about seven times more than the current average for the top 20 African countries. This suggests Nigeria’s productive capacity is at a higher level than that of most African countries. However, as an administration, we are well aware that there remains a lot to be done.
“The concerns raised by some Nigerian stakeholders about the risks with the AfCFTA are not without merit. Even prior to the agreement, the policy thrust of this administration had identified and focused on many of these priority areas in the competitiveness pillar of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020) directly speaks to the hard infrastructure challenges as well as the reforms required to deliver an enabling business environment for businesses operating in Nigeria to thrive under its competitiveness pillar initiatives since 2016.”
Part of Nigeria’s preparation for the AfCFTA, said Osinbajo, was the plan for the provision of adequate and uninterrupted power for businesses which include the implementation of the Power Sector Recovery Plan (PSRP), recalling that only last week the President signed a power agreement with Siemens that will significantly ramp up Nigeria’s power generation to 25,000MW by 2025.
The Vice President also said that the federal government was working hard to accelerate other infrastructure gaps in the areas of sea and airports, railways and broadband.
“The completion of the various transport infrastructure projects will continue to receive adequate priority from this administration. For example, the Lagos-Ibadan section of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge line is nearing completion; the Abuja-Kaduna section has been in operation for the last two years.
“We are committed to the construction and rehabilitation of the Lakaji and the Port Harcourt to Ngala corridors, as well as their connecting and feeder roads. We have also taken steps to revitalise the decades old Inter State Road Transit Scheme (ISRTS) by releasing some of the required counterpart funding to Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank in 2017.
“Our ports must, as a matter of urgency and necessity, become more efficient in expectation of increasing trade volume. With the National Trading Platform, we are implementing a single window portal and installing scanners at the seaports in a view to limiting physical examination of containers that has lengthened cargo clearance time,” said Osinbajo.
To save Nigerian ports from becoming dumping ground from substandard goods, the freight forwarders advised the federal government to delay the implementation for the next one year, equip SON effectively to discharge its statutory functions, engage critical stakeholders like their association – NAGAFF, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding of Nigeria and other associations in the nation’s port industry to make inputs on the free trade agreement.
They also recommended that the Nigerian Customs as the lead agency of the government in the nation’s entry points should engage SON, Nigeria Shippers Council and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control to educate and enlighten the informal sector groups on matters of compliance to Customs regulations and quality assurance and standards of products entering Nigeria.