The COMMUNIQUÉ team for the roundtable press conference of Maritime journalists’ Association of Nigeria held on Thursday, February 18, 2021, at Apapa, Lagos on African Continental Free Trade Agreement has come up with comprehensive COMMUNIQUÉ.
This time around, the topic of MAJAN’s news discussion event was “African Continental Free Trade Agreement: How Ready Are Maritime Stakeholders to Key into the Concept?”

The Speakers at the programme applauded MAJAN, for taking the initiative to hold a roundtable discussion on AfCFTA, which is an important issue in the country presently. They called on regulatory agencies, stakeholders, and corporate organisations in the maritime Industry’ to give MAJAN adequate support to continue in its enlightenment programme.

COMRADE Emeka E. Enwelu, the MD/CEO, Mac-Manuel Global Logistics, and also the Vice President of NCMDLCA

According to the released communique duly signed by Udeme Clement and Dili Utomi, the Managing Director/CEO of Mac-Manuel Global Logistics, and also the Vice President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Mr Emeka Enwelu, who attended as a Guest Speaker, stressed:
“I’m really impressed by the level of reportage and enlightenment MAJAN is giving the Industry. It is quite beneficial for the growth of the sector.

“I commend your President for his visionary leadership. Stakeholders are very happy with what MAJAN is doing in the maritime industry. We received your Communique on the programme you did recently on Apapa traffic gridlock and its toll on businesses. Only last week, we saw another programme you did on Investigative Journalism, and today, you are discussing AfCFTA; your effort is highly appreciated”.

On the readiness of maritime stakeholders to key into the AfCFTA concept, Mac-Manuel Global Logistics boss explained, “I believe the government is not ready because the level of enlightenment is very low.

“Government has not done much in educating those concerned about this concept. Look at an important sector like maritime, nobody has reached out to licensed customs agents and other Industry players.

“Government signed AfCFTA yet our land borders are still closed. It shows that we are not prepared. We
just entered into an important trade agreement without adequate preparation.

Registrar, NAGAFF Academy, Fwdr Francis Omotosho

“The only things we have are the population and a large market.”
Enwelu wondered why such a huge business continental deal should be shrouded in secrecy, noting that it “ought to have been on the lips of everybody like Covid-19 is”.

On his part, the Guest Lecturer, who is the Registrar, NAGAFF Academy, Fwdr Francis Omotosho, informed:”Regional trade agreements vary depending on the level of commitment and arrangement among member countries. It comes with internal rules that member countries must follow.

“These include removal of trade barriers; free movement of goods and services across the region; Customs Union of Member countries must reduce trade barriers to enhance seamless cargo clearance; free import and export of resources must be allowed; member countries have to adopt a set of economic policies and use of one currency; regional integration must be encouraged. Investors who want to put money in developing countries must be protected against political risk”.
He added:
“AfCFTA has economic benefits, which include an increase in foreign direct investments (FDI) and reduction in trade tariff. The agreement helps to remove trade barriers. It boosts economic growth, creates jobs and paves the way for market expansion.
“AfCFTA is a flagship project of African Union Agenda 2063, a blueprint for attaining inclusive and sustainable growth.
On 20th December 2019, in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the National Action Committee for Implementation of AfCFTA. The Federal Executive Council ratified Nigeria’s membership of AfCFTA on November 11, 2020, and it started in January 2021 as scheduled.

According to Omotosho, “The objectives are to create a single continental market for Made in African goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, paving the way for the establishment of Continental Customs Union.

“When fully implemented, AfCFTA will eliminate tariffs on intra- businesses to trade within the continent and cater for the growing African market. AfCFTA is to create a liberalized market for goods and services through successive rounds of negotiation and lay the foundation for the establishment of a continental customs union.

“AfCFTA is to be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and consolidate Africa into one trade area for entrepreneurs, businesses and consumers across the continent”.

In his remarks, the MAJAN President, Comrade Ray Ugochukwu, said the pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$ 3.4 trillion and has the tendency to increase over the years.
He assured that MAJAN would continue to discuss with relevant stakeholders and enlighten the public through responsible reportage.

His words: “As journalists, our duty is to enlighten the masses through our reports. This is what MAJAN is doing as a group. Our maiden national Maritime Summit on ‘Apapa traffic gridlock’ is slated for next month, March 2021. We’re optimistic that our modest contribution towards addressing the nightmare of Apapa gridlock will yield good results”.

“The summit will provide a good platform for stakeholders, regulatory agencies, and government departments involved, to proffer lasting solutions to the perennial gridlock at Apapa ports access roads.”

The MAJAN President thanked all the resource persons, who graced the occasion, including Dr Emeka Enebili, the Chief Host, among others. He said that MAJAN Roundtable is going to be a regular exercise going forward.

To benefit equitably, the government, maritime stakeholders and freight forwarders need to understand the concept of digital Payments System; access to information communication technology facilities, space satellite hosting for adequate internet connections; adequate training and re-training; access to capital/loan, financial empowerment; access to multimodal transport system; provision of adequate security measures; provision of infrastructure; paperless port operation processes; seamless cargo clearance, 24 hours operations at the land border, airports, and seaports; reduction in Customs tariff; and
24 hours bank services.