President of the National Association of Nigerian Traders, trade lawyer and Nigeria’s AfCFTA champion, Dr. Ken Ukaoha, has indicated that the Nigerian business community remains committed and ready to trade under the single African market because the agreement, if well implemented, is to their benefit.
“The state of play in Nigeria is just like it is in every other African country; the National Action Committee is working day and night looking at all the instruments and preparing with Customs and other state agencies in terms of standardization and ensuring that there is harmony between regional agreements such as the ETLS and the AfCFTA to ensure that there are no gaps in implementation,” he told Single African Market in an interview.
He however called for prudent and extensive deliberations on the implementation of the AfCFTA to ensure that the African business community becomes beneficiaries of what he described as a magnificent and development-oriented instrument.
He added: “In terms of practical takeoff of the AfCFTA, it’s almost like a zero tap; the instruments that are required for the comprehensive implementation such as rules of origin are still under negotiation.
The next stage will be how to get the nine protocols to all the implementing agencies including Customs who are the gatekeepers, build their knowledge and capacity so that there will be seamless implementation.”
Dr. Ukaoha was also of the opinion that the kinds of deadlines that were proposed for the takeoff of the AfCFTA were not feasible.
“For the over 6,000 tariff lines that are involving the AfCFTA, almost about 5,512 or thereabout, which is almost 90percent are under liberalization. If we look back today to see that a year and some months, we are still not out of the woods in terms of implementation,” he noted.
The AfCFTA champion further called for a robust and tough sanction regime for the implementation of the single continental market, adding that the current penalties and sanctions are too porous and could easily be manipulated.
“The sanction mechanisms under the AfCFTA is poor and porous that anybody can just take the dive and damn the consequences. There are not strong sanctions as it were under the ETLS and that’s why we are saying we have to learn our lessons,” he said.