Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Business stakeholders from South-east geo-political zone have appealed to the federal government to set up, operationalise dry docks and implement the eastern gas master plan .
The request was one of the several demands they presented at the Stakeholders Sensitisation and Consultations Forum held in Owerri, Imo State on Nigeria’s participation in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
The stakeholders comprised representatives of South East Traders Associations; Micro- Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA); Owerri Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (OCCIMA), Piggery Association of Nigeria; Aba Traders Association, Nigerian Trade Experts Forum (NTEF), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and National Economic Summit Group (NESG).
They endorsed the AfCFTA pact seeking reduction in tariffs on 90% of trade lines for all trade among African countries as a necessary step for trade facilitation.
They also contended that AfCFTA would support Nigeria’s economic policy and its leadership in the African Union, through improving competitiveness in trade in goods and services.
The Forum underlined the necessity for accelerated implementation action in the areas including, reducing the cost of money, improving access to credit, countervailing measures against transhipment, dumping and other injurious trade practices against Nigerian manufacturers and service providers and provision of predictable, cost effective power supply and parity in tariff charges in the South-east.
The zone also called for the modernisation of Nigerian logistics in the supply chains and railway transport systems.
The Traders Associations in the zone emphasised the importance of open markets and underscored their right to import and export goods including, textiles and clothing, pharmaceuticals, automobile spare parts, and agricultural products.
While addressing the forum, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, stated that trade Integration is critical for growth, job creation and poverty reduction, not only in the South East region, but throughout the country.
He stressed that the establishment of AfCFTA is a wise course of action for Nigeria and Africa, stating it will boost intra-African trade, expand investment and promote industrialisation.
Okorocha noted that the principal economic activity for livelihood in south -east zone is trade and industry.
“We are traders, industrialists, creators and innovators and cannot be separated from our trade and industry. Through trade and industry, we have fostered the integration of this zone. We have improved livelihood conditions and have created jobs.
Igbos can be found all across Nigeria, Africa and beyond. Trade, industry and investments are engines for growth, in the absence of which no economy can survive and prosper. These are the areas of economic activity for which we are known and we are proud of it.
The economy of the South East Zone of Nigeria was driven by trading activities, as its principal mainstay,” Okorocha said.
The consultation was organised by DG Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), Chiedu Osakwe to address the concerns raised by stakeholders after Nigeria refused to endorse the AfCFTA pact in Kigali on March 21.