The Common External Tariff unifies all tariff structures within the ECOWAS sub-region, which means they will now fall within the same rates in the region. But I don’t think Nigeria is going to benefit from it because we don’t have the enabling environment and our energy is not productive. So we need to rejig our system to be able to face these challenges because infrastructure provision is one key area. Apart from that, the government should have also given some grace period because most people are not aware of this policy and there are people who must have negotiated their transaction using the last rates. The problem with the government is that most of these things are not communicated to the importers and this is where the country is lagging behind. Even the customs officers have not been trained on it and that is in contravention of the WTO.
This is good news. It is a step in the right direction because the approval will go a long way to soften the way we do business especially for the shippers. The Nigerian government has been shying away from giving approval because of Customs drive for maximum duty collection. With the approval, I think it will knock off a whole lot of corrupt tendencies because the duty bound rates has been dropped to about 20 percent. Nigeria has been having disparity in rates regime because of customs position to derive more maximum revenue from an average importer and that has caused so many people to go across border to bring in their goods through unapproved routes. Nigeria Customs focus is of collection of maximum revenue not trade facilitation, so this ECOWAS CET implementation will help to enhance trade facilitation which Customs administrations ought to be doing.
It is welcome development. This idea was muted as far back as 2007, then in 2013, the ECOWAS community agreed that by 1st of January 2015, it will be implemented but the question is why did the government defer it up to this moment? Even before now, we have been hearing rumour that the implementation is pending the outcome of the elections. Well, now that it has been approved, I believe it will open up investment opportunities and the economy of the region. I believe Nigeria will also benefit from this policy because no country can operate as an island but time will determine that because the only problem Nigeria has is lack of power supply and that is going to be a disadvantage to our economy. If we have sufficient power supply, Nigeria will be able to produce enough to take care of the region. The problem is that countries that will benefit from this policy will have to make some sacrifices to cushion the effect on the counties that will be disadvantaged by the policy.
The common external tariff is applicable to all imports within the ECOWAS sub-region. It is the same rate of duty you pay anywhere you choose to bring in your consignment from so long it is within the region, so it is a welcome development. We expected that the implementation of the ECOWAS CET will have taken off since January but it is all right now that government is ready for its implementation. The development will not increase cost of doing business but rather it will make clearance very easy because it will unify all the tariffs and you can pay duty on your consignment from any entry point within the sub region. If your goods are coming in from Ghana, it means you can pay duty at Ghana. All you need is evidence of payment when you get to the Nigerian border.
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