… seeks consultations with Entrepreneurs, experts on trade policies to review the SAATM/AfCFTA
Posted by Sade Williams
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), has commended the Federal Government for listening to the concerns raised by airlines, manufacturers and the economic community by pausing with the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement that is due to be signed by African Heads of State in Kigali, Rwanda this week on March 21 -22, 2018.
Speaking on behalf of airline operators and others, Capt. Nogie Meggison, AON Chairman said : “I would like to on behalf of AON and other well-meaning investors, entrepreneurs and other professional bodies that believe in Nigeria and have invested and continue to invest in Nigeria, to thank the President for taking a bold step to make a difference by not only taking on board our recommendations but also taking a strong decision to pause with the signing of the AfCFTA Treaty,”
He noted that the pause will allow government consult with technocrats on the policies to give Nigeria a win-win and mutually benefiting position for Africa and Nigeria and that it will position Nigeria to take full advantage of the AfCFTA.
“We are happy that President Buhari postponed his trip to give us an opportunity to put our house in order before signing the Treaty and to put Nigeria first,” Capt. Meggison stressed.
The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of the African Union Agenda 2063 and is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments and one currency.
According to him, rushing to sign the Treaty would have given other African nations and possibly some foreign nations’ unfair advantage into the Nigerian market and is likely to erode the good work Government has so far put in place to diversify the economy and reverse the gains of the present administration in reviving the economy out of recession.
For instance, a foreign company can easily bring in a shipload of rice to a Nigerian neighbouring country and re-bag as produced in Africa.
History, he said has shown that rushed Treaties have put us in a disadvantageous position, adding;
‘that is why we have over 600 unemployed pilots roaming our streets; not to mention the numerous unemployed university graduates.
“While we think the AU 2063 Agenda is a good idea, we are however against the immediate signing of the AfCFTA. We must pause and carry along the numerous professionals, technocrats and investors in order to position Nigeria not to make the mistakes of the past, he added.
As mentioned in an earlier brief by AON calling for caution in government signing the AfCFTA and suspension of implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) until we come up with a clear agenda to position Nigeria to take full advantage of the Treaties; the AON highlighted several concerns including Unresolved Challenges Associated With Visa Free Movement (Nigerians need 34 visas to move around Africa); Uneven Taxation & Levies across Africa; restricted currency repatriation policies; and Unrealistic Competition & Unfair Trade; Unemployment of our youths.
He noted also that in spite of the globally recognized importance of Nigeria in the global stage as an economic driver for Africa, which is the most populous nation, and indeed largest economy in Africa with its abundant young and educated human workforce (60% below Age 27), a naturally blessed geographical position at the middle of Africa (a natural hub 4 hours flight from most parts of Africa), and material resources and large market (200 Million people), Nigeria aviation and manufacturing industry has remained seemingly in the doldrums.
He added that it is even more disturbing that in the 21stCentury, when the rest of the world is strategizing and re-aligning for strong and sustainable economic expansion, the Giant of Africa is still battling with corruption, inadequate infrastructure, poor electricity, bad roads, inter-tribal and religious wars, among others.
Meggison therefore urged that government needs to use this opportunity to immediately call for consultations with the Nigerian Business Community of Entrepreneurs and Experts on Trade Policies to review the SAATM/AfCFTA Treaties to make an economic impact on Nigeria and create jobs for our ailing youths.
Making an analogy, he said: jumping to sign the AfCFTA Treaty is like putting a swimming pool in a house. It is nice to put a swimming pool in a house with children, but you must first teach the children how to swim before putting them in the swimming pool otherwise the swimming pool will become a hazard and kill the children.
“We therefore once again thank President Buhari for pausing in the signing of the Treaty and putting Nigeria first so that we can go back to the drawing board to effectively learn how to swim in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Treaty before getting into the swimming pool”.