Airline operators laud FG for stalling on AfCFTA treaty

Posted: March 30, 2018 in general
Tags: ,

Air PeaceUmbrella body of indigenous airline owners, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have thumbed up the Federal Government of Nigeria for heeding to the concerns raised by members of the organized private sector (OPS) by halting its planned move to endorse the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement which was due for signing at the just-concluded meeting of African Heads of State in Kigali, Rwanda, last week.

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari on March 18, canceled his scheduled visit to Rwanda to attend an Extra-Ordinary Summit of the African Union on March 21, where he was to sign the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area during the Summit that would host leaders of African countries.

According to a statement from the Presidency, the trip was canceled to allow for more consultations with stakeholders in Nigeria over the trade agreement.

It would be recalled that the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Organised Private Sector (OPS) including the Manufacturers of Nigeria (MAN) had kicked against AfCFTA.

The fifth meeting of the African Union Ministers of Trade (AMOT), which held penultimate week in Abuja, and incidentally chaired by Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, had already adopted the legal instruments constituting AfCFTA.

This is also as the Federal Executive Council (FEC), penultimate Wednesday approved that Nigeria should sign the framework agreement for the establishment of the initiative.

The instruments constituting AfCFTA include the Agreement Establishing the AfCFTA, the Protocol on Trade in Goods, the Protocol on Trade in Services and the Protocol on Rules and Procedures for the Settlement of Disputes.

It would also be recalled that the AMOT meeting adopted the Transitional Implementation Work Programme which also includes a built-in agenda for the finalization of some annexes to the Protocol on Trade in Goods and other arrangements for the operationalization of the AfCFTA.

However, commending the Federal Government for stalling on the agreement, AON Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison who spoke at the AON office in Lagos, Monday, said the pause was important and 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.

Meggison noted further that rushing to sign the treaty would have given other African nations and possibly some foreign nations unfair advantage into the Nigerian market which would likely erode the good work Government has so far put in place to diversify the economy.

”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.

“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.

On how the treaty would have negatively impacted, he stated that a foreign company can easily bring in a shipload of rice to a Nigerian neighboring country and re-bag as produced in Africa.

“History has shown that rushed Treaties have put us in a disadvantageous position. 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 said the AON is calling for caution in government signing the AfCFTA and suspension of implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) until the country comes up with a clear agenda to position Nigeria to take full advantage of the Treaties; highlighting 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 21st Century, when the rest of the world is strategizing and re-aligning for strong and sustainable economic expansion, the country is still battling with corruption, inadequate infrastructure, poor electricity, bad roads, inter-tribal and religious wars, among others.

Meggison therefore urged government 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 so as for it ‘to make an economic impact on Nigeria and create jobs for our ailing youths.’

Nigeria, South Africa as well nine other African nations are yet to pen their signatures to AfCFTA.

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