By Nuel Suji – The Federal Government has said it is in the process of negotiating 21st century Nigerian free trade agreements, to expand market opportunities for Nigerian companies as well as looking into the ECOWAS Common External Tariff that has been quite controversial.
Even as it planned to resume the Export Expansion Grant that was put o hold two years ago.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, made this known at a press briefing Thursday in Abuja, where he gave a status report on the implementation of MITI’s objectives.
Mr. Enelamah said the Export Expansion Grant (EEG), which was suspended in 2014 following allegations of widespread abuse and the accumulation of significant liability on the Negotiable Duty Credit Certificate (NDCCs), is also expected to resume in 2017.
According to the minister, the ministry is currently running a feasibility study for the development of 6 Special Economic Zones (SEZ’s) and securing funding in the Nigerian budget for the first development phase to be launched in 2017.
Mr. Enelamah, in a statement by his Strategic Communications Adviser, Constance C. Ikokwu, said the Ministry is updating Nigeria’s trade policy priorities by working to correct imbalances in the country’s trade relationships and reversing negotiating failures. One of those items it is examining at the moment is the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) CET.
CET is a regional tariff structure for West Africa on the basis of which products are imported within the region. It came into effect in 2015 with a transitional period of implementation to 2020.
“The challenge for the Nigerian economy is that manufacturers and industrialists have taken a strong position that the negotiation that resulted in the CET did not take into account the sensititives of the Nigerian industrial and manufacturing sector,” the minister noted.
Adding that “the pre-existing sensitivities have now been compounded with the onset of the recession and other vulnerabilities. Stakeholders have taken the position that the Nigerian economy would be damaged if the CET is implemented in 2020 and that the situation would be compounded if Nigeria signs the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.
“As a consequence therefore, producers, manufacturers, industrialists and others have requested for the postponement and negotiation of the CET and for the EPA not to be signed. The government is thus, seriously working on these concerns.
“On the EEG, government intends to resume the scheme in 2017 because of its determination to expand the volume and value of Nigeria’s exports, diversifying export products and improving global competiveness of Nigerian exporters. The scheme will be included in the budget in order to manage the impact on government revenue and promote transparency,” Mr. Enelamah said.
“The Minister said that approved liability on the Scheme for unused certificates which are either in the custody of exporters or awaiting issuance in the Federal Ministry of Finance, will be settled after the conduct of an audit to verify the actual amount due.
“Following EEG suspension, Dr. Enelamah had set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee to access the scheme holistically and make recommendations on its continued operation or otherwise and the framework for its continued operation.
“The committee came up with far reaching recommendations and also made a presentation at the Economic Management Team (EMT) meeting of October 17, 2016, presided over by His Excellency, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo, in which its recommendations were approved.
“MITI had a meeting a couple of weeks ago with exporters and other stakeholders to discuss and exchange ideas once again on the matter.
The Minister explained that MITI is facilitating the setup of special economic zones throughout Nigeria. Specific goals include to help overcome the infrastructure disadvantages faced by local manufacturers, and promote the cluster effects gained by locating similar manufacturing businesses together.
“Apart from the funding secured in the Budget for SEZs, other financial partners such as Afreximbank and EXIM bank of China have committed $1bn to the project.
He stated that the MITI is working with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to enhance investments and reverse the overall decline of FDI inflows. Key achievements include important Investment Promotion and Protection agreements signed with Singapore and UAE and Investment roadshows undertaken in China, Germany, Singapore, Turkey, UAE, UK, and US. Also investors such as GE, Nissan, Coca-cola among others, have continued to express interest to expand investment in Nigeria.
He stated that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has also been created and monthly meetings have commenced to monitor results achieved.
“On Industry, the aim is to broaden the scope and accelerate the growth of the Nigerian manufacturing & industrial businesses, with a special focus on agribusiness and agro allied industries. This includes for example auto assembly and component manufacturing, mining, sugar, food processing, textile and garments, palm oil, and leather.
He said the MITI initiatives currently underway within the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) include the approval of the Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP). and a roadmap implementation has begun with sugar, tomato, textile and garments.
“Also, in order to keep up with the rapidly transforming global economy, Nigeria’s digitalization has to be accelerated. MITI digitalization initiatives currently underway include: The establishment of the Smart Digital Nigeria Economy Project, as the baseline strategy for the digital-led growth of the Nigerian Economy.
“MITI is working in partnership with the Bank of Industry (BoI) and other relevant government departments to support MSME’s through funding.
“Specific MITI initiatives currently underway include: The GEM (Growth and Employment) initiative in collaboration with the World Bank. More specifically, The GEM initiative has identified 23 IDAs (Industrial Cluster Areas) to support MSME’s with capacity development and launch the ‘BIG platform’ funding initiative to provide funding and training for MSME’s,” the statement added.
Giving an overview of the MITI vision, Enelamah explained that there are three core pillars (our major strategic programs) and five foundational enablers which are necessary conditions to realise our plans.
Constance C. Ikokwu
Strategic Communications Adviser to HM