AIRLINE Operators of Nigeria (AON) yesterday commended the Federal Government of Nigeria for listening to the concerns raised by airlines, manufacturers and the economic community by pausing with the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement that is due to be signed by African Heads of State in Kigali, Rwanda this week on March 21 -22, 2018.This is as the airline group has said that many treaties in the country have been signed hastily and are now difficult to renege on despite how detrimental they have now be me to Nigeria.
AON Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison who gave the commendation yesterday at the AON office in Lagos said the pause was important and will allow government consult with technocrats on the policies to give Nigeria a win-win and mutually benefiting position for Africa and Nigeria and that it will position Nigeria to take full advantage of the AfCFTA.
According to him, rushing to sign the treaty would have given other African nations and possibly some foreign nations unfair advantage into the Nigerian market which would likely erode the good work Government has so far put in place to diversify the economy.
Captain Meggison said,”I would like to on behalf of AON and other well-meaning investors, entrepreneurs and other professional bodies that believe in Nigeria and have invested and continue to invest in Nigeria, to thank the President for taking a bold step to make a difference by not only taking on board our recommendations but also taking a strong decision to pause with the signing of the AfCFTA Treaty.”
“We are happy that President Buhari postponed his trip to give us an opportunity to put our house in order before signing the Treaty and to put Nigeria first,” Capt. Meggison stressed.
The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of the African Union Agenda 2063 and is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments and one currency.
On how the treaty would have negatively impacted, he stated that a foreign company can easily bring in a shipload of rice to a Nigerian neighboring country and re-bag as produced in Africa.
“History has shown that rushed Treaties have put us in a disadvantageous position. That is why we have over 600 unemployed pilots roaming our streets; not to mention the numerous unemployed university graduates.”
“While we think the AU 2063 Agenda is a good idea, we are however against the immediate signing of the AfCFTA. We must pause and carry along the numerous professionals, technocrats and investors in order to position Nigeria not to make the mistakes of the past.”
He said the AON is calling for caution in government signing the AfCFTA and suspension of implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) until the country comes up with a clear agenda to position Nigeria to take full advantage of the Treaties; highlighting several concerns including Unresolved Challenges Associated With Visa Free Movement (Nigerians need 34 visas to move around Africa); Uneven Taxation & Levies across Africa; restricted currency repatriation policies; and Unrealistic Competition & Unfair Trade; Unemployment of our youths.
He noted also that in spite of the globally recognized importance of Nigeria in the global stage as an economic driver for Africa, which is the most populous nation, and indeed largest economy in Africa with its abundant young and educated human workforce (60% below Age 27), a naturally blessed geographical position at the middle of Africa (a natural hub 4 hours flight from most parts of Africa), and material resources and large market (200 Million people), Nigeria aviation and manufacturing industry has remained seemingly in the doldrums.
He added that it is even more disturbing that in the 21st Century, when the rest of the world is strategizing and re-aligning for strong and sustainable economic expansion, the Giant of Africa is still battling with corruption, inadequate infrastructure, poor electricity, bad roads, inter-tribal and religious wars, among others.
Capt. Nogie Meggison therefore urged that government needs to use this opportunity to immediately call for consultations with the Nigerian Business Community of Entrepreneurs and Experts on Trade Policies to review the SAATM/AfCFTA Treaties to make an economic impact on Nigeria and create jobs for our ailing youths.