By Jerry Aguigbo
The national president, Association Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike has challenged all Customs brokers to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities presented by the African Continental free trade agreement (AfCFTA), which has been launched into operation.
Speaking at the elections of the zonal and chapters election in Phort Harcourt, Nwabunike said “the position of our Eastern ports and chapters holds strategic interface opportunities with proximate Central African countries like Cameroun, Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, Equitorial Guinea, Angola , Central African Republic(CAR) and Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC).”
Continuing he said, “it has become imperative that you get ready to trade with these countries taking advantage of the window of opportunities to be provided by AfCFTA. Let’s look beyond handling import cargoes alone because Nigeria will be eyeing exports of agricultural produce to some of these countries too.”
Quoting a 2020 world bank publication , the ANLCA boss enthused “the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement will create the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. The agreement brings together 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillions.”
According to him, as the government and maritime business community explore possibilities of decongesting Lagos ports by creating emerging ports in Lekki, Badagry, Ibaka, and others, the existing Eastern Ports are the low hanging fruits to actualise getting alternatives to Lagos. He urged all members to enhance their to enhance their capability to handle freights of higher capacities when AfCFTA is fully operational.
“Recall that last year, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Onne Port complex successfully berthed one of the biggest gearless Maerskline vessel with capacity of 9,971 TEUs at the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT), Onne .
This shows the capacity of ports in this part of the country to take higher volume of trade. As customs brokers, I know we are ready on our part. In reality , we have become ready ahead of the government.”
The ANLCA president also revealed that not less than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs will be provided in the South South and South East regions of the country if these ports are maximally utilised.
“As you all know the terminal with the highest capacity of cargo handling machines in this country is in Onne at the West African Container Terminal (WACT) . It had value of US$2.5 million added to existing equipment as at 2 years ago.”
According to him, states with viable ports and strong maritime economic background have no business with poverty. I hereby enjoin the Federal and state governments ( especially the ones where ports are already situated) to consult our expert inputs on how best to utilise their maritime assets for increased productivity,” he stated.
Going further, he charged all brokers to get ready to trade with these countries taking advantage of the window of opportunities to be provided by AfCFTA. ” Let’s look beyond handling import cargoes alone because Nigeria will be eyeing exports of agricultural produce to some of these countries too.
We as customs brokers, have roles to play in deepening intra African trade and ensuring seamless cargo movement within and outside our continent. Therefore, I urge you all to approach this emerging basket of opportunities with optimism and positive minds towards making the best of it” he advised.
On the elections, he said, “ANLCA is one strong and indivisible group. Don’t be distracted. Our strength is in the collective unity we all profess and uphold irrespective of tribal, lingual and religious differences.
These elections are pivots for our ever strong unity. It’s a routine among distinguished practitioners and I must reiterate that you all are ambassadors of the great ANLCA. We all are Victors. No one is a loser in this association
Those to be elected through this meeting should take a cue from the national body and keep abreast of developments like training and retraining programmes we shall be doing directly and virtually later in the year.
I urge all leaders at various levels in ANLCA- chaper, zonal and national to have listening ears and be willing at all times to solve all operational problems brought before them by our members.”
Elections are as at the time of this report being g conducted into chapters in the Eastern Zone of the association comprising of Portharcourt Port Chapter/Portharcourt International Airport, Onne Port Chapter, Warri Chapter, Calabar Chapter and Enugu Chapter.