The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has said the country has implemented about 70 per cent of the requirements of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET).
The Comptroller-General of NCS, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) said this at the opening of the meeting of ECOWAS Directors-General of Customs in Abuja on Thursday.
The CET for ECOWAS sub-region was adopted at a Heads of State Summit in Oct. 2013 in Dakar.
A common external tariff is introduced when a group of countries forms a customs union.
It implies that the same customs duties, import quotas, preferences or other non-tariff barriers to trade apply to all goods entering the area, regardless of which country within the area they are entering.
The CET which came into force in Jan. 2015, is expected to foster a common market and remove trade obstacles to free movement of persons and goods within West African countries.
Ali, thus, said that Nigeria was presently on a test run of the CET and had based all its tariff lines on the CET model.
“Nigeria has fared very well in the implementation of the Common External Tariff as we have implemented about 60 to 70 per cent.
“All our tariff lines are now based on the CET model and it is on a test run and I hope that when it comes to full implementation, we would have reached the maximum percentage.
“We are doing very well in terms of the codes and regulatory aspect of the CET; we receive goods from member countries with zero duty and have transit measures we are adhering to.”
He further called for increased cooperation of border officials in “an efficient and transparent manner” and urged member countries to strengthen security at the borders to promote a more business friendly sub-region.
“Our borders are getting increasingly assaulted and weakened by the criminal activities of smugglers, drug trafficking, armed bandits and insurgents.
These elements can only thrive when there are gaps in our operations.
“It is time that we explore platforms to work together, simplify our procedure and instill transparency in order to encourage our small and medium enterprises to take full advantage of ECOWAS free trade protocols.”
In his address, Mr Laouali Chaibou, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement said 13-member states had begun the implementation of the CET.
“Implementation is necessary to put in place an institutional framework for the implementation of the CET.”
Chaibou also reiterated the commitment of member states to promoting economic integration within the sub-region.
“ECOWAS is working hard for a community custom code ensuring the implementation of tariff measures that would fight against illicit financial crimes.”
Ms. Nadal Cannata, Head of Section, Economic Integration and Energy, European Union in Nigeria, said intra-regional trade within the sub-region was below expectations, in spite of efforts being made.
Cannata emphasised that inadequate mechanisms to monitor, evaluate and follow up on the implementation of required policies hampered trade integration and facilitation within ECOWAS.
She further said that the EU in collaboration with ECOWAS and other development partners had designed a new programme to facilitate trade and reinforce relevant policies within the sub-region.
“Some of the key elements that have really been put on the forefront of this new programme are technical and strategic dialogue involving all stakeholders; capacity building for regional organisations, the private sector and the business community.”
She added that sensitisation and public awareness on policy regulations were also part of the programme.
The EU representative, however, did not give a time frame for the inauguration of the programme.