From left: Managing Director/CEO, Inland Containers Nigeria Ltd., Ismail Yusuf, National President of ANLCA, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, President of MARAN, Anya Njoku and National Secretary of ANLCA, Babatunde Mukaila during the roundtable held Thursday, in Lagos.

The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA has expressed reservations over Nigeria’s level of preparedness for the expected implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement AfCFTA, less than two months after the country signed on to the agreement.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had about two months ago signed the continent-wide trade agreement after more than one year of delay; a pact that experts believe could transform business across the country if the right measures were put in place. The agreement seeks to remove 90 per cent of tariffs to create a single market with free movement of goods and services within the continent.

National President of the association, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, who spoke to newsmen during a round table session organised in Lagos by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria MARAN, observed that such agreements, which promote borderless trade transactions may not favour import-dependent nations that produce almost nothing.

He noted that Nigeria is currently grappling with the dumping of all manner of cheap and substandard products manufactured in Europe, America and Asia, especially China and warned that if adequate care was not taken, the agreement would unnecessarily further expose the country to other more developed and industrialised African nations and thus make her a dumping ground also within the continent, which might be double-jeopardy.

Going forward, he insists that Nigeria must do all she can to invest in agriculture, especially processing and packaging of agro-allied products to meet global standards, arguing that the export of crude oil alone would not give her the much needed prominence and mileage in the emerging borderless continental trade.

He also made a strong case for the development of an infrastructural base that supports industrialisation, arguing that the current level of infrastructure, especially power, transport and others does not encourage manufacturing, which accounts for why goods manufactured in the country are not competitive with their peers in the global or continental market because of high cost of production.

“Nigeria, which is touted as the giant of the continent should not expose herself in the process of implementing this agreement. Many other African countries are prepared. South Africa for instance manufactures most biscuits and red wine consumed in Europe and America and when we open our borders; such products will flood Nigeria’s huge market effortlessly.

“I also know that many other north African countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and even Angola in the eastern part of the continent are all gearing towards the agreement and their target is the Nigerian market, which they know has the capacity and depth to take in many of their goods and services and so Nigeria should also prepare for something to give in exchange”

Nwabunike, who doubles as the Managing Director/CEO of Mac-Tonnel Nigeria Limited, a freight forwarding, Customs Licensed agency and logistic firm, also said that the need to secure the country against such influx of all manners of products including arms and ammunitions justifies the closure of the borders to checkmate the gross abuse of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme ETLS.

While fielding questions on the misgiving within some aggrieved members of the national executive of the association, he insisted that there is no faction in the association, saying that some members misbehaved and were suspended.

He however assured that measures are underway to resolve all the issues, arguing that disagreements occur in any human relation and so that of the association should not be misinterpreted as factions, which is not the case.

“But the most important thing here is that we are coming back better and stronger since plans are underway to resolve all the issues and make the association speak with one voice again because we are looking into the suspension”, he said.