By Busayo Onijala
Lagos, Nov. 16, 2023
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) says the African Continental Free Trade Agreement(AfCFTA) stands as a golden opportunity for Nigeria to significantly enhance its foreign exchange earnings.
The Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Comptroller Adewale Adeniyi, said this at the Distinguished Lecture Series organised by the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), on Thursday, in Lagos.
The lecture had the theme: “Nigeria’s Economic Growth and Development: Reforming and Positioning the Nigeria Customs Service for the AfCFTA and other Emerging Challenges.”
According to Adeniyi, the expansive marketplace created by AfCFTA can serve as a catalyst for increased trade, attracting diverse businesses and stimulating economic growth.
He said Nigeria, with her rich array of sectors from agriculture to technology, had the potential to capitalise on this opportunity by strategically positioning herself within the continental trade framework.
The CG said that Nigeria should focus on targeted sector-specific initiatives, invest in infrastructure to facilitate seamless trade, and actively engage in cross-border collaborations to solidify its position as a key player in the African trade landscape.
He said this could be worked on by establishing task forces or committees dedicated to each key sector to identify opportunities, address challenges, and formulate tailored plans for growth within the AfCFTA framework.
Adeniyi also stressed that the success of AfCFTA is hinged on the crucial factor of policy alignment, necessitating Nigeria’s commitment to crafting policies that synergised with continental objectives.
“This policy harmony must extend to infrastructure development, balancing the trade facilitation mandate of the NCS with revenue generation expectations.
“In navigating this balancing act, the NCS must engage Africans at the heart of its operations, fostering a collaborative dialogue through transparent communication channels.
“The crescendo towards economic brilliance requires prioritising infrastructure development, continuous policy adaptation, and stakeholder engagement.
“As we delve into the intricacies of Nigeria’s economic growth, development, and the dance of trade, remember that behind every policy and every customs checkpoint, there’s a story,” he said.
According to Adeniyi, while the delay in ratifying AfCFTA may be considered a setback, it provides Nigeria with a crucial moment for strategic recalibration.
This, he said involves meticulous planning and implementation of measures that align with AfCFTA objectives.
“Nigeria should view this delay as an opportunity to strengthen its readiness, focusing on resolving challenges, streamlining regulatory processes, and enhancing the ease of doing business.
“To kickstart this recalibration, it is recommended that Nigeria conducts a comprehensive review of existing policies, identifying areas that require adjustment to align with AfCFTA standards,” he said.
Speaking on the importance of policy alignment, Adeniyi said the success of AfCFTA intricately depended on the alignment of Nigeria’s fiscal policies with its foreign policies.
He said that a harmonised policy framework would create an environment conducive to trade, attracting investments and facilitating the seamless flow of goods and services.
“To accomplish this, Nigeria should establish a continuous feedback mechanism between fiscal policy makers, foreign affairs representatives, and NCS,” he said.
He, however, said the inadequacy in infrastructure posed a substantial threat to the seamless and timely movement of goods, potentially resulting in detrimental trade delays.
“The focus should be on the modernisation of entry points, the implementation of cutting- edge technology infrastructure, and the creation of an environment conducive to expeditious trade operations,” Adeniyi noted.
Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, Director- General, NIIA, said the institute was set up to promote the understanding of international affairs, especially complexities that made those affairs not easily intelligible to the ordinary people.
“Beginning today, the NIIA will have as part of its repertoire and its intellectual foundations, the Bashir Adeniyi Centre for International Trade and Investment.
“Together with the NCS, the NIIA will now establish a senior executive force for senior officers of the NCS to ensure that they provide the leadership that Africa is waiting for to drive the AfCFTA,” he said.
Chairperson of the lecture, Erelu Dosumu Abiola, said the AfCFTA was a game changer, noting that to position the NCS as a catalyst for economic development, a journey of reforms must be embarked on.
She said this included embracing technology for streamline processes, investing in human capital and enhancing collaboration with other stakeholders, adding that challenges of corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and others cannot be overlooked.
“Each hurdle demands strategic and immediate response by fostering a culture of integrity and unity, investing in infrastructure, supporting mainstream sectors and collaborating with international partners.”