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Latest conditions rolled out by the Federal Government on the opening of land borders linking Benin, Niger and Cameroon ahead of a tripartite meeting with ECOWAS Member States within next two weeks, have continued to elicit mixed reactions.
Minister of Foreign Affair, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, had at an Inter-Ministerial meeting Preparatory to the Tripartite Anti-Smuggling Committee Meeting on Monday said whereas Nigeria will only open borders for West African good produced and packaged 100 per cent in the region, it will only allow entry for none African goods imported by its neighbor after a confirmed input of not less 30 per cent.
Analysts, who barred their minds on these two key conditions, say the target of the Federal Government is to permanently discourage using neighbouring ports to import rice and other goods that are Nigeria-bound.
They argued that no ECOWAS economy can has the needed infrastructure to add any kind of inputs to foreign rice that can amount to 30 per cent. They explained further that in rice production, only planting and maintaining rice farms to maturity are more than 30 per cent input and the condition means that Nigerian neighbours must stop importing Nigeria bond rice.
According to the Minister, member countries of ECOWAS, must as a matter of necessity, respect the Rules of Origin.
He revealed that “Within the next two weeks, a tripartite committee is to be convened and hosted here in Nigeria comprising a delegation, a committee of Benin Republic, from Niger, and from Nigeria.
“Each country will come with the heads of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance, the Customs, Immigration and NIA, the security segment.
“The Nigeria committee has met to look at the situation and we have agreed on a set of conditions and these conditions are as follows.
“That it is an absolute requirement of the Government of Nigeria that any imports coming through our land borders, when those imports are transit in goods.
“That is to say, when they are coming outside the ECOWAS region and imported into an ECOWAS member state, that those goods should retain their original packaging.
“There should be no modification whatsoever to the packaging on those goods imported into an ECOWAS member state destined for Nigeria. So, the original packaging and they must be escorted from the port directly.
“To the entry point, designated entry point on Nigerian borders, so presented to Nigeria Customs, with the packaging intact and those goods escorted. This is an absolute precondition that will not be compromised.
“For goods predominantly produced in ECOWAS Member States, the rules of origin must be certified, so we have to avoid any possibilities of dumping.,
“So, if goods are produced in ECOWAS member states, those goods must be in majority produced in those countries or if they are coming from outside ECOWAS.
“The value addition made by an ECOWAS country must be over 30 percent for it to be accepted within the framework of the Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme that ECOWAS countries have to promote trade amongst ourselves.”
Onyeama explained that the value addition of 30 per cent was to avoid situations where countries outside the ECOWAS region will merely export goods into ECOWAS member states, repackage as coming from ECOWAS member states with little value addition and exported to Nigeria.
However, the Minister averred that the Nigerian government will absolutely insist on the respect of the ECOWAS Rules of Origin, ensuring that they actually do come from within an ECOWAS member state in large part.
On the controversial issue of boder closure terminal date, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr Hameed Ali said that January 2020 reopening of the land borders as reported in some media remains tentative as only the weight of agreements reached at the planned tripartite meeting can give a clear view.
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