Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has called for a proper explanation of its clear-cut roles in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The NCS said as the policy implementers, clear and non-conflicting roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in the programme should be spelt out for seamless implementation of AfCTA.
The AfCTA is a free trade area founded in 2018, and commenced on January 1, 2021. It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation. Accra, Ghana serves as the Secretariat of AfCFTA and was commissioned and handed over to the AU by the President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo on August 17, 2020 in Accra.
The agreement was brokered by the African Union (AU) and was signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018. The agreement initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90 per cent of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 per cent by 2022.
The proposal was set to come into force 30 days after ratification by 22 of the signatory states. On April 2, 2019, The Gambia became the 22nd state to ratify the agreement, and on April 29 the Saharawi Republic made the 22nd deposit of instruments of ratification; the agreement went into force on May 30 and entered its operational phase following a summit on July 7, 2019.
Meanwhile, the NCS said it is important to spell out the roles and responsibilities of all parties in the agreement and the conditions attendant to its implementation in order to avoid a chaos.
"Also, it is pertinent to inform the public about steps which must be taken to enable its smooth and full implementation," the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joseph Attah said in a statement issued on behalf of the Comptroller-General of the NCS, Col Hameed Ali (Rtd.)
He said: "Our functions are highly automated and primarily systems-driven, hence the need to methodically harvest and integrate all data associated with AfCFTA into our system for easy deployment, access and use by the trading public.
"We therefore await the National Action Committee (NAC) on the list of duties and charges waived for liberalised goods under AfCFTA. The list of the 90 per cent liberalised national trade offers (NTOs); list of the 70 per cent non-liberalised exclusive goods at the regional level; and list of the 3 per cent non-liberalised sensitive goods.
"The appointment of a competent authority responsible for issuing and authenticating certificates of origin and registering enterprises and products within the region."
The NCS in the statement said it acknowledges the transformational impact this agreement portends for businesses within the continent in general and Nigeria in particular, and is fully committed to its success.
To that end, it recommended that each member-country should have a representative in the continental chamber of commerce to ensure transparency within the body and generate confidence in the system.
"This, in our view, should be complementary to the activities of the various chambers of commerce of each country in the region. While awaiting clear directives concerning tariffs for all goods covered by this agreement, we want to assure the public of our preparedness to fully deploy our services at the shortest notice.
"Our desire is to imbue trust in the system while guaranteeing the economic safety and wellbeing of businesses within the country," NCS noted.