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Traders decry proliferation of agencies along ECOWAS borders

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Ken UkaohaThe National Association of Nigerian Traders has decried the presence of too many government agencies along the ECOWAS corridor.The traders stated this in Abuja yesterday during a one-day stakeholders’ consultation on movement of agro-commodities across ECOWAS borders.

They said if Nigeria was sincere about its intention to diversify its economy through agriculture produce, then revenue sources from the sector must be increased with proper monitoring.

The president of the association, Ken Ukaoha, maintained that if Nigeria was indeed a signatory to the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), then the implementation of the policy must be spearheaded by the country leveraging on its large population and huge GDP compared to other countries in the sub-region.

Ukaoha said allowing multiple government agencies and even those whose functions cannot be ascertained at the borders will not only inhibit legitimate trade but give room for illegal activities to thrive thereby surcharging Nigeria and other member-states. His words: ‘This scenario will result in closed-doors to ourselves. Dynamic exports that would have given income to nations and farmers would have been reduced.

What Nigeria requires is a sense of guidance from law enforcement agencies to forestall a kind of banana republic scenario. We need to distinguish between legal trade and trading by all means. Nigeria needs every kobo it can get from agriculture due to the dwindling oil price.”

Meanwhile, the ECOWAS Principal Programme Officer (Agriculture), Ernest Aubee, has restated the need for legal trade in the region. According to him, it is not enough to trade but it must be done with traders bearing in mind the rules of engagement.

Aubee stated that free trade in the region would complement food security as the existing protocols encourage free flow of agriculture produce. He said free movement in the sector would also take care of surplus and deficit challenges.

In another development, Chairman, Agriculture Group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Adeola Elliot, advocated for a one-stop shop where products would be inspected at the source of production. If this is in place, there would be no need for stop-and-search at borders, he said

He said government should consult and collaborate with the private sector before policies are formulated. The economic team of the Federal Government should include the real sector, he stated. Elliot also called for information sharing and synergy between security agencies without consideration of who will take the glory for their achievements.


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