12 June 2014, Lagos – DIRECTOR-General, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA Dr John Osemede, said Nigeria was yet to maximise opportunities in the African Growth Opportunity Act AGOA.
Osemede, who said this in Lagos, added that Nigeria had not benefitted from existing trade agreements with other countries due to its infrastructural deficit and lack of protection for local industries.
According to him, majority of Nigerian non-oil exports have been rejected because they have failed to meet required standards. “What is the agreement on the WTO agreement? What is the agreement on ECOWAS? Why are countries using VAT – 5 per cent, 10 per cent, 20 per cent – to protect their infant industries? Who is protecting the infant industries? That was when the problem started. So people can now take our produce, they determine what to take, the quantity to take, the price to pay, but in the first republic it was not like that because we had laboratories.
“Cocoa laboratory was in Lagos, cocoa laboratory was in Akure, but today those things are not there, even the labs and all that we have here are only certified for import; that is why we are now working for other people.“
Osemede urged the Federal Government to establish laboratories that would ensure that exportable goods met the required international standards. He also called for the establishment of a functional commodity board and commodity exchanges, to moderate the demand and supply of commodities.
“One, is to have a sampling laboratory that if there is any issue, even if you have to go to the International Court of Justice or anywhere, that lab will be the first port of call. Two, we need a commodity board, which will now regulate supply and demand, price, quantity and quality; there’s what we call compliance; there’s what we call standardisation.
Then we have commodity exchanges, so that the demand and supply, and we now know where to maintain the equilibrium. Failure to do that, whether AGOA is extended for 20 years, we will continue to work for other people.
“We are the number one producer of cassava in the world, why are we importing starch? We were producing 27 per cent of the world’s total palm oil requirement in the first republic, today we produce 1 per cent of the world requirement.“
Osemede said that Nigeria would benefit more from AGOA if the programme was expanded to include more agricultural products for which Nigeria had comparative advantage.