The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is canvassing for mechanisms to check the inflow of products of non-participating countries into Africa through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali (retd), made the call when he featured at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.
Ali said that implementation of AfCFTA must abide by the rules of origin policy, to forestall the challenges that might arise in its operations.
He, however, disclosed that customs had yet to receive the instruments that would enable it to facilitate the AfCFTA goods movements.
“The success of AfCFTA is dependent on what Customs does and the success of customs is dependent on rules of origin.
“Unless we are able to establish a strong and veritable rules-of-origin, the AfCFTA will encounter problems.
“I will give you an example. Morocco today has a bilateral trade agreement with the EU.
“Morocco is highly industrialised by African standards. Our fear is that EU goods can now come to the country based on the bilateral agreements they have.
“And such products can find their way into Nigeria on zero-duty because all you need to do is to tear off the bag and put made in Morocco and then we accept it.
“The good thing about rules of origin is that we can negotiate with countries like asking Morocco for instance, what are the goods you are bringing under the list.
“This is because we have 90 per cent of zero duty list, we have 70 per cent and we have three per cent, we can find out under the list which goods are you bringing.
“If you are bringing ABC and D, the most common thing to do is to verify the original manufacturers of the goods in your own country.
“If you are manufacturing a bottle of drink and bringing it here, we should be able to establish that yes, this company exists in your country.”
According to Ali, customs has what it takes to facilitate the trade to ensure that rules of origin are complied with.
“We have put everything in place for now. For us in customs we are ready to implement the AfCFTA,” said the customs chief.
NAN reports that the AfCFTA, founded in 2018, with 54 participating African countries commenced trade officially on Jan. 1 this year.
The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.