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Forum urges government to tackle illicit trade


NACCIMA President, Iyalode Alaba Lawson

Participants at a business forum in Lagos have admonished the Federal Government to move against illicit trade to boost its revenue and protect local firms against unhealthy competition.

At a roundtable to discuss factors responsible for illicit trade and the associated dangers, the stakeholders said effective steps should be taken to tackle the menace due to its negative impact on government revenue drive and survival of local investments.

The event themed ‘Business Environment: Maximising Economic Opportunities through Effective Anti-Illicit Trade Enforcement’ was organized by Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) in Ikeja, yesterday.

It was attended by government officials, private business operators and experts across professions.

In his presentation titled ‘Business Environment and Illicit Trade: Linkages and Evidence’, Dr. Olajide Damilola of the University of Aberdeen (U.K) dwelt extensively on how certain government policies, conditions within local market and weak enforcement of the law drive local producers underground, giving rise to illegal trade.

“Illicit trade revolves around consumers, producers and the government.

It thrives mostly because consumers want lower priced goods, have limited knowledge about the items and socially accept the products.

“In the business environment, the menace is driven by high excise taxes, among others.

Failure on the part of relevant government agencies to effectively check activities of smugglers and other saboteurs make the crime to flourish to the detriment of national economic development.”

Olajide, a research fellow with IPPA, who noted that illicit trade may never be eradicated but can be protected against because it is complementary to legal trade, advocated a holistic approach that transcends national borders in dealing with the problem.

“There may be no single framework to tackle the menace. A case-by-case approach for each product will be more effective.

The problem is global in nature, there is need for international cooperation and harmonization of laws and regulations beyond national borders.”

Former Director General, National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Dr. John Isemede, said Nigeria should adequately engage the organized private sector in every economic agreement it signs because the operators are the drivers of the economy who know whether or not such pact will serve national interest.

Isemede, who spoke on ‘Maximising Economic Opportunities in Export and Trade’ advised the Federal Government to put the private sector in the forefront and be sure Nigeria had many things to put on the table before signing the Africa free trade agreement.

Earlier, Mr. Olusegun Sotola, a research fellow with IPPA, who stood in for the Executive Director, Mr. Ayodele Thompson, said government must live up to expectation on its actions to checkmate unintended impact of its policies.

“Recently there was a duty hike for excisable goods in Nigeria.

Agreed that taxation is a primary means of generating revenue, it is conventional wisdom that it should be stable, predictable and progressive when appropriate to serve as catalyst for achieving government’s socio-economic objectives.”

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