Hon. Tony Iju Nwabunike, President, Association Of Nigeria License Customs Agent ( ANLCA) has advised his members to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement ((AfCFTA)) by eyeing exports of agricultural produce to some of the countries involved in the trade agreement..
He said it has become imperative for them to get ready to trade with these countries taking advantage of the window of opportunities to be provided by AfCFTA.
Iju Nwabunike gave this advice while delivering his welcome address at the election of officers into chapters in the Eastern zone of the association which comprises of Portharcourt Port Chapter/Portharcourt International Airport, Onne Port Chapter, Warri Chapter, Calabar Chapter and Enugu Chapter.
He said that as the government and maritime business community explore possibilities of decongesting Lagos ports and create emerging ports in Lekki, Badagry, Ibaka, and others, the existing Eastern Ports are the low hanging fruits to actualise getting alternatives to Lagos.
He then task his members to enhance their capacities to handle higher volume of cargoes and prove their capacity in contributing to the non oil revenue source for the Nigerian government.
He recalled 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
“Our Strategic Research and Planning unit of the ANLCA headquarters have discovered 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.
“I am convinced that 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 quipped.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement , he added that the position of 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), hence he advised members to take advantage of export trade while looking beyond importation alone.
According to a 2020 world bank publication ,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 trillion..
As customs brokers, he hinted that they have roles to play in deepening intra African trade and ensuring seamless cargo movement within and outside the continent. “Therefore, I urge you all to approach this emerging basket of opportunities with optimism and positive minds towards making the best of it.
“While you sharpen your ICT capacities for trade purpose, I also urge us to embrace the learning of international languages like French, Mandarin (Chinese) Arabic and other means of international communication for business transactions .
“Don’t forget that our profession brings us in sync with national economy, security and social well being of all Nigerians. For this reasons I urge you all to raise your degree of compliance, continue to avoid anything unlawful and promote International best practice in all you do.
“I enjoin you to promote compliance and sincerity with importers at all times in your dealings while replicating the overall good rapport we have built at the national level with various government agencies at the chapters and zonal levels.
“Our calls for total compliance with the law and zero tolerance for corruption remains uncompromised now and always.
“I am pleased with the very peaceful, interactive and robustly engaging methods all the contestants have applied before, during and after the campaigns leading to the elections today.
“As a body, accept the congratulations of the National Executive Committee (NECOM) for your orderly and brotherly conducts. We are proud of you .
“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” Nwabunike says.
He however urge all leaders at various levels in ANLCA- chapter, zonal and national to have listening ears and be willing at all times to solve all operational problems brought before them by members
He as well advice them not to lower their guard on compliance with Covid19 protocols. “The second wave is on and real. ANLCA is at the vanguard to flatten the curve in our ports and within the total logistics chain. Continue to be part of our Covid19 compliance drive for we all to survive it with our families” he says.