Poverty, Trade Imbalance Led to Failure of AGOA, Says FG

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• US tasks Nigeria on inclusive growth

Paul Obi in Abuja with agency report

The federal government said the prevalence of poverty and trade imbalance between United States and Nigeria led to the failure of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a situation that has rendered the agreement and act moribund.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige stated this yesterday at an AGOA Ministerial roundtable forum taking place at the Department of Labour Building, Washington D.C, United States.
AGOA was first initiated by former US President, Bill Clinton’s administration to promote trade between the US and African countries.

Speaking on the theme, ‘‘Trade and Worker Rights: Inclusive Economic Growth in Africa Through Trade’ on the day one of the roundtable, Ngige said: “The capacity of Nigeria to tackle anti-labour practices such as child labour, cheap labour and human trafficking was being hampered by dwindling resources, which the stoppage of the import of the Nigerian crude by the US has accentuated”, adding that, “poverty at the low income levels make the fight against anti-labour practices at the base difficult.”

He urged the US to assist African countries in the entire agricultural value food chain of production, processing and preservation as well as give increased educational assistance to farmers.

“The founding ideal of AGOA is to foster a symbiotic economic cooperation between Africa and the United States. However, the capacity of the Africa nations such as Nigeria to effectively tap into the full potentials of the body is being checkmated by limited resources. The need therefore is for America to rethink initiatives that once made AGOA attractive to African countries.”

According to Ngige, “rescinding her decision on Nigerian crude is one of such steps that could be taken to buoy up our economy and regain enough capacity to protect workers’ rights and promote decent work in an inclusive economic growth. The US must do more to assist junior partners by extending some labour projects and technical aid being executed in some African countries such Madagascar, Zambia and Kenya to Nigeria.”

Speaking on Nigeria’s initiatives for improving globally recognised workers’ right, the minister said Nigeria has ratified and domesticated eight core conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) dealing with child rights and fair labour practices, drawing the attention of the international community to the strong backing for fundamental freedoms and labour rights enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, especially in section 40.

He said the administration of President Buhari has championed and deepened more than any administration, the cause of social dialogue and unabridged rights of workers to unionise, citing the intervention in the banking sector as one.

Ngige urged the US to demonstrate stronger commitment to improved economic ties with African nations through balanced trade relations.

The minister argued that the sudden stoppage of import of the Nigeria’s crude by the US was antithetical to the flourish of trade and economic cooperation upon which the AGOA act was founded, saying that the action has led to low foreign exchange receipts and consequent technical recession in some of the African countries.

US Secretary of Labour, Hon. Tom Perez pledged the commitment of the United States to the growth of AGOA and urged African countries to strive towards the recognition of workers’ rights as an essential element of inclusive economic growth.
Perez argued that only through inclusive economic growth would the main objective of good governance of providing efficient and quality services to citizenry be attained.