A key member of the Organized Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN), the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), has disclosed that the inability of the Federal Government and the private sector operators to tackle the Non-Tariffs Barriers (NTBs) in ECOWAS is already threatening Nigeria’s $47.3 billion market share in the regional trade.
President of National Association of Nigerian Traders, Dr. Ken Ukaoha, made this disclosure at the fourth Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria Export Promotion Group (MANEG) in Lagos.
He specifically said that the ongoing gang up by some ECOWAS countries in the region following the introduction of illicit tariffs of Non-Tariffs Barriers on Nigerian bound cargoes transiting to their countries is already weakening Nigeria’s strength in the ECOWAS region, in terms of its trade volume and market share control in the ECOWAS sub region and Sub Saharan Africa (SSA).
Ukaoha, who spoke as a guest speaker at the occasion, while delivering a speech titled: ‘The Implication of Impository and Retaliatory Tariffs and Non-Tariffs Barriers on Trade in ECOWAS Sub-Region,’ said Nigeria currently controlled $47.3 billion out of the $58.4 billion region’s trade surplus in ECOWAS, with only Cote D’ Ivoire having $3.4 billion, when all other countries in the region have a deficit in trade balance. Ukaoha noted that total trade of the region averaged $208.1 billion.
In addition, he said, export projection in the region is approximately $137.3 billion, while imports total about $80.4 billion.
The NANTS president disclosed that the main active countries in ECOWAS sub region in terms of trade are: Nigeria, which alone accounts for approximately 76 per cent of trade, followed by Ghana (9.2 per cent ) and Cote D’ Ivoire (8.64 per cent) respectively.
He, however, pointed out that currently, some ECOWAS countries in the region are beginning to frustrate Nigeria’s economic interests in the Sub-Region, mentioning Ghana and Benin Republic via the introduction of illicit tariffs or non-tariffs barriers to trade in order to check Nigeria’s growing strength, which is not in tandem with the ETLS (ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme).
For instance, Ukaoha pointed out that the recent stalemate between Nigeria and Benin Republic, whereby Republic of Benin imposed new import duty of CFA9 million (N6.5 million) per transit truck on Nigeriabound cargoes transiting through the country, which were exempted from all forms of duty under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocols on transit goods is one of the NTBs plans to checkmate Nigeria’s largest control of volume of trade in the sub-region.
According to him, the situation resulted into Nigerian manufacturers suffering huge losses as their cargoes remained within the Benin Republic borders for about 46 days, while those with deep pockets have had to pay more to transit the goods via the sea link to Republic of Benin government.
The renowned industrialist pinpointed that it was a wake-up call for the Federal Government, private sector operators, local manufacturers, exporters and importers of goods in this country.
He emphasized that if Nigeria as the largest economy in the ECOWAS subregion did not stand up firmly for its right as the biggest trader in this region, these smaller countries will continue to bring up more NTBs that will pose threats to Nigeria’s economic interests in the region.
He said growth of an average of 18 per cent was achieved between 2005 and 2014, adding that the region’s trade is dominated by extractive commodities and agriculture.
These include oil resources, iron, bauxite, manganese, gold, among others for the extractive commodities, while Cocoa, Coffee, Cotton, Rubber, fruits and vegetables and other products are marketed in the agricultural space.
He said: “Tariff is the key instrument of cross border exchange of goods.
Tariff is tax imposed by a government of a country or supernational union (like ECOWAS) on imports or exports of goods.”
Speaking on the litany of NTBs and Retaliatory measures in ECOWAS, Ukaoha said this brings about delays in processing documentations by Customs Administration in many ECOWAS countries even for the ETLS goods; the practice of issuance of Residence permit to ECOWAS businessmen (e.g Liberia Immigration), contrary to the treaty’s recognition as community citizens, issuance of non-citizens ID card to Nigeria/ECOWAS community citizens by Ghana for $120 per year and $60 annual renewal fee thereafter.