By Ayo Ajayi
A renowned professor of International Economic Relations at Covenant University, Professor Jonathan Aremu, yesterday decried the apathy of the Federal Government to the country’s international relations as well as trade and investment.
Aremu expressed his displeasure in his Lecture titled, “Sequencing and Negotiating Nigeria’s Regional and International Trade Agreements,” at the University’s 20th Inaugural Lecture, which took place on its campus.
He also lamented the lack of policy on investment adding that “You don’t practise Autarky under globalisation, it is wrong. Autarky means you don’t want to assume with other countries when they are practising globalisation. At the touch of buttons, our children are contacting many countries and you say no, you don’t want things to happen.”
The Lecturer noted that Nigeria would be in a serious situation if the government did not do anything about it. “This is going to affect the common man because if our international trade is not in order, how will products be able to come in, how will there be an improvement, how will they be able to have investment because investors want to come in, produce and sell to other parts of the world.
“If they come, they will generate employment, but many of them now prefer to site their factories in other ECOWAS countries and sell to Nigeria because we have ETLS (ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme) that allow them to enter, but Nigeria cannot go and invest there because we did not have the right of establishment in Africa.
“The African Continental Free Trade Area that was sign has what we call the Right of Establishment. Member states can put investment in another member state but right now we cannot. Professionals cannot go out. Is that what we want for the country?” He queried.
He stated that the leadership lacked the capacity to perform due to lack of knowledge, “That’s the problem, we are in a serious situation. And I believe that if the leadership of this country, that is, Buhari knows the implication, I think he will do something. But I don’t think he knows. Those people who should let him know did not let him know. He has advisers around him but those people got there not on merit.
“They don’t understand, because they got there based on party or other affiliations and so they cannot perform. That is the problem, it is terrible. We are not doing well. It is only oil that is covering up for us and right now we are indebted to so many countries and individuals in the country. So I am not happy about it. There must be a change,” he emphasised.
He, therefore, made the following recommendations, “With increasing regional agreements in the multilateral trading system facing Nigeria, the country must, as a matter of urgency do the following 10 items:
- Establish an appropriate “Trade Policy Development Strategy” that agrees with the ERGP (the Current Development Plan) of the country;
- Use the strategy to formulate an acceptable Trade Policy by engaging the Executive Trade Policy Formulation Organogram;
- Review the existing the Enlarged National Focal Point on Trade Matters (ENFP) of the country in line with the “Trade Policy Dialogue and Consultation Process;”
- Put in place an effective/efficient trade negotiation strategy and sequence within the multiplicity of trading agreements;
- Finalize the establishment of NOTN, and (i) put in place technically competent negotiators in the Office, as well as (ii) develop their trade negotiations capacity;
- Synchronize the sequence of negotiating the numerous trading agreements facing the country with the country’s development strategy under the ERGP or future National Development Plans;
- Carry out an extensive sensitization on future trade negotiations to secure the buy-in of the relevant stakeholders;
- Engage in appropriate coalition with other countries in future trade negotiations;
- Review the country’s position in the existing economic integrations such as ECOWAS, EPA, AGOA; AfCFTA for a better possible outcome; and
- Without further delay sign the AfCFTA Treaty and use the Readiness Study the President constituted to ratify Nigeria position if it is still possible.
“In Business as in life, you don’t get what you deserve; you only get what you negotiate. Nigeria must, therefore, be ready to sequence and negotiate her positions on trade issues, instead of ‘unending consultation excuses,’ so as to get what she deserves from the regional and international trade agreements.”