Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, ANLCA president .
Story by Dili Utomi.
An exclusive interview with Honourable Iju Tony Nwabunike the president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents.
Question : May we get to know you sir?
Answer: My name is Iju Tony Nwabunike the president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents.
Question : The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is about to come on board with its full effect, what do you think about its relationship with your business and the effects on the interest you have on it?
Answer : First of all, you have to understand that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is an agreement that has been signed by about 55 African Countries that they are going to have a very common business circle, that means that all African countries are going to open its businesses to one another, all African countries’ products are going to trade within the countries that have signed the agreement, what it means is that trade, services and logistics are going to be of a very high level and this has actually started with its headquarters in Ghana. This means that West Africa is going to play a very vital role in this agreement. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is just a borderless arrangement for the free movement of goods and services within the African continent and it is going to have all the freight forwarders and customs licensed agents and brokers working assiduously and sagaciously towards making sure that it is a success and making sure that things are done right. Again, it is incumbent on the Federal Government of Nigeria that we have the goods to sell because we are going to be opened to open market, open market in the sense that what you have (products) is what you will sell, what you give is what you have.
Question : What effects would you think that the agreement will have positively or negatively on the maritime sector?
Answer : First of all, the effect is that it is going to expose some underdeveloped economies, it is going to expose people who are not hardworking, who believe so much in importation, people who we may think have high level of productivity, but in reality do not have it, just like our country Nigeria, it is going to expose us. Some countries like, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Angola are set to showcase and sell their products. Now, the question is are we ready to do that, do we have the product to sell, do we have have the manpower capacity to challenge the level of production that we are going to face? We are going to have our country receiving all manner of products from other countries, do we leave the country at the mercy of other countries using our country as a dumping ground for imported products? Do we have the human resources and capacity to challenge the principles of buying and selling?
Question : An aspect of the agreement stipulates that only goods made within Africa are allowed to circulate and not those imported from other Continents, don’t you think that it might become a double edged sword whereby it may make some economies more reliable, but again make the bigger economies to swallow the smaller one?
Answer : You know, it is all about challenges like competition and I tell that it will bring out the best in you, what it means is that if you do not have the capacity to challenge, your thinking faculties would now be made to start working at a higher pace and you begin to ask yourself what is it that you really need to do because Africa is so well endowed with a lot of natural resources, can we now begin to harness them. I remember when Nigeria was number one in Palm products, rubber , groundnuts and doing so well in some other products, now we need to go back to the drawing board to know what we need to bring to the table. You see if you begin to have inferiority complex over this issue, you have started lacking in the knowledge of what to benefit from the whole system, so I do think that it is going to bring out the best in most of us. It is going to bring out the best from any country that really wants to compete and those who really want to salvage the economy of the individual country.
Question : Sir, what do you think we should do to exploit all the potentialities inherent in the agreement in terms of transportation, networking within the populace in terms of general movements using it for the development of the economy.
Answer: In relation to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, you know that we started the ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme which was a smaller scale of AfCFTA, it would have given us the proper impetus to take the lead in terms of economic activities in the West African sub-region, but we have not been very thorough in its application. We lack the proper road network, we have not opened the border as it is, we have not taken the lead in the area of products of import and export.
These are the major things we have to look into, firstly the logistics and secondly we need to extremely work to put in line the proper road network, we need to know our relationship with other nations most importantly those around us, our immediate neighbours and we need to interface very seriously with others on our ICT compliance.
Iju Tony Nwabunike, ANLCA president.
Question : How do you think it is going to boost our economy, we know that the covid-19 pandemic has wrecked havoc on economies, and this has brought out challenges that if you live up to it, it might propel your personal economy higher, but what advice do you have for the individual Nigerian on this matter.
Answer : My first advice for us all is that we should begin to look inwards for export products, we need to begin to encourage local manufacturers, we need to look into agricultural products which we can export, we should begin to look into the natural resources that God has endowed Nigeria with , these are some of the areas I think we should focus on and begin to look at and exploit. Nigeria should no more be seen as an importing nation, but should be focused more on exportation. That is number one, number two is reducing the level of visibility of government agencies at the ports and border posts. You see the issue of government agencies, some are very necessary, what we should not accept is a situation where some government agencies will segment themselves into units. An example is that a particular agency has segmented itself into multiple units thereby impeding the process of 24 hours of cargo clearance and transfer .These are areas that breed corruption and Nigerians should downplay the idea of breeding corruption because every African country is looking at us as a big nation and so we need to prove to them that we are not about all the things they are talking about Nigeria concerning corruption and insecurity- these should be checkmated of course.
The Federal Government of Nigeria must raise its antenna to detect and remove insecurity in our coastal areas, because when we talk about borderless trade, we are talking about all manners of trade around the coasts, borders and air and so every strata of importation and exportation must be checked and of course reduce the level of appearance of people who segment themselves into units in order to make things difficult for Practitioners and businesses.