AfCFTA’ll turn Nigeria to dumping ground without border checks, FG agencies warn

Following the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, two Federal Government agencies have warned that Nigeria will become a dumping ground for agro products from other African nations if the country fails to introduce quarantine checks at all its airports.

The AfCFTA Nigeria office and the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, both agencies of the Federal Government, warned that the seeming absence of quarantine checks at some points of entry into the country would lead to the infiltration of unwholesome products.

In separate interviews with our correspondent, senior officials of both agencies noted that for the AfCFTA to succeed in Nigeria, the adequate screening of agro-produce, which formed the bulk of the imports and exports, must be taken seriously.

The AfCFTA came into force on January 1, 2021 and Nigeria has been making moves to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the continental trade programme.

The Director-General, NAQS, Vincent Isegbe, said, “For AfCFTA to be successful, the quarantine service must necessarily be at all the entry and exit points across the country.

“Nigeria has about 205 million people, that market is massive and is going to attract the entire African nations because they want to sell. So if the quarantine service is not there to checkmate what is coming in, Nigeria will become a dumping ground for those commodities.”

He described quarantine officers as specialists in identifying, sensing and certifying agricultural produce coming into the country.

On whether quarantine checks were not at all Nigerian borders, Isegbe said, “We’ve been delineated from some locations at the airports and seaports and we can’t operate.

“And that is the reason why those two consignments of beans that resulted in the ban on Nigeria; first a ban for one year and the second, a three-year ban, which was supposed to end in 2019, happened.

“The people who did those exports confirmed that they did not pass through quarantine. So it is a very serious issue that the government is looking at.”

Also speaking on the essence of quarantine checks at Nigerian borders following the AfCFTA implementation, the Lead Expert, Trade Enablement, AfCFTA Nigeria, Olusegun Olutayo, stated that bulk of the agro-produce from parties in the agreement would be coming into Nigeria.

He said, “The largest export or import that will be coming into any of the parties in the AfCFTA, narrow it down to Nigeria, is agricultural export or import. Why? Every African country has landmass and the development of the economy of African countries always focuses on agriculture.

“South Africa wants to export its watermelon, Nigeria wants to export its cassava and so it means we have to get our quarantine service right. The reason is that agricultural imports are going to be coming from Africa under the AfCFTA.

“That is why the quarantine service needs to be on guard because you don’t know the process which those agricultural products had gone through in their countries before bringing it into our own economy.”

Olutayo added, “So the quarantine agency needs to inspect and certify, because that product you are bringing in might have a little pest or disease and once it is in the country, it contaminates others and spreads.”

Meanwhile, Isegbe told our correspondent that the NAQS had been speaking with the necessary authorities on the need to enforce quarantine checks at all of the nation’s borders.

“We have taken it to the level that it is receiving attention because it is quite a very serious matter. This is an industry that we are hoping will help in reviving the economy of the country,” he stated.

Isegbe added, “The quarantine service is strategic and the quarantine service of every nation plays a statutory role in the survival of their economy.

“You have heard that it took Namibia about 20 years to allow meat into their country. And for now, no meat from Nigeria or animal product is going outside of the country because there are issues of health involved.

“And the people who will check that are those in the quarantine service. Therefore we are supposed to be at the borders. It is not a matter of we pleading or begging.”

The NAQS boss expressed optimism that proper quarantine checks would be deployed across the country’s borders to further help in the successful implementation of the African free trade programme in Nigeria.

Article first published on the Punch Website

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