Senate urges FG to leave ECOWAS

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The Senate on Tuesday urged the Federal Government (FG) to suspend forthwith, the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and ECOWAS Common External Tariffs (CET) that Nigeria entered into in year 2000.

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The Senate wants Nigeria to pull out of the two economic treaties as a result of what it considers to be a “breach of ECOWAS Protocols and Economic sabotage.”

This resolution followed a motion moved by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Senator Hope Uzodinnma.

Uzodinnma noted with serious concern, the abuse of customs tariff as well as other nefarious fiscal policies by other member states to the detriment of the Nigerian economy.

He also noted that Nigeria’s economy was better off before it joined the ECOWAS arrangement that has now left it in bad shape.

“I’m aware that prior to training of the ECOWAS Trade Integration Protocols, the Nigerian economy was boomining with the manufacturing sector having at least 70-75% capacity utilization with oil prices going for between $80-$120 per barrel”, he said.

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Uzodinma said the two ECOWAS Protocols, CET and ETLS had damaged the real and manufacturing sectors, causing the exit of manufacturing firms like Dunlop, Michelin and Lever Brothers from Nigeria to neighbouring ECOWAS States, to manufacture and ship same products back to Nigerian market at zero duty.

Apart from the huge revenue loss, the situation compounded unemployment in Nigeria; two factors Uzodinna said Nigeria should no longer tolerate.

The protocols were predicated on free movement of goods and services as well as strategic economic convergence criteria of member states.

The criterion includes harmonizing all customs duties across the board for all imports from a third party country and a “rule of origin” which allows goods manufactured in members state to be imported into any member state at zero percent duty.

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The Senate, however, observed that the concept has led to the collapse of manufacturing sector in Nigeria, with members State deploying sharp practices to repackage products from Asia into Nigeria at zero percent duty.

It specifically noted how vegetable oil from Asia found its way into Nigeria from huge tank farms built in Cote d’ Ivoire, where ship from Malaysia and other Asian countries dump their vegetable oil before repackaging it for export to Nigeria.

The Senate was worried about what it considered as, “economic sabotage” and “breach of protocol especially from Nigeria’s closest neighbour, Benin Republic, which has been a smuggling depot for rice and vehicle imports for the Nigerian market.

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The Senate also expressed worries that the two protocols would make it difficult for Nigeria’s fiscal policies on rice, vehicle imports as well as agriculture and solid minerals to achieve desired purpose.

It, therefore, resolved that the FG should suspend the two ECOWAS Protocols, an arrangement many believed means “technical” exit of Nigeria from the regional body.

It also urged Federal Government to review the process of enacting the tariff handbook to identify all abuses and revenue leakages.

The Senate also resolved that it must approve all tariff regimes before they are implemented.

It could be recalled that the ECOWAS was established in 1975 with Nigeria playing a pivotal role in the establishment of the economic regional body.

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