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UNILAG Dons Decry Lack of Political Will, Bureaucracy in AfCFTA Implementation

For Nigeria to explore the many deliverables of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, the Federal Government, relevant agencies and all stakeholders must summon the political will to eliminate all bureaucratic bottlenecks plaguing the implementation process.

This formed part of recommendations made by Professors Diran Akinleye and Risikat Dauda, both of the Department of Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos alongside three (3) other collaborators, at the end of a research project.

Titled: Learning from Regional History: A Study of Nigeria’s Economic Development, the research work which kicked off in the year 2020 headlined the Faculty’s Seminar series which held on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. It featured a review of the Regional Integration Performance ranking based on Trade, Productivity, Infrastructure, Macroeconomics and Free Movement of Persons.

The research project highlighted a comparison of the regional integration process as well as the many potential benefits of the AfCFTA Agreement if well understood, appreciated and implemented.

The study also exposed the ills in the government’s negotiation process, drew attention to contradictions with existing domestic institutions and the absence of requisite legal or economic expertise among officials as well as regulators to translate international trade obligations into domestic regulatory regimes.

As part of contributions to knowledge, the study drew attention to the outsize role of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in trade policy implementation, exposed the overlap of trade policy negotiations across and between Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), exposed the tension between the formal and informal trade infrastructure as well as produced new insights into different stages of the trade negotiation process in Nigeria.

Addressing the gathering of participants who converged on the F.S.S. Board Room II for the Faculty’s seminar, Professors Dauda and Akinleye blamed successive Nigerian governments for refusing to implement the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiated between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and European Union (EU).

The researchers accused governments under the ECOWAS of selective implementation of the Common External Tariff (CET) just as they blamed African countries for unilaterally refusing to implement trade agreements while consistently imposing domestic policies such as border closures and trade taxes, acts which they noted were frustrating the AfCFTA agreement.

The researchers also expressed grievous concerns over the setbacks being experienced in the implementation of trade/institutional agreements in Nigeria often caused by infighting and power tussling between and among agencies, poor coordination among stakeholders and lack of alignment between policies and existing structures, institutional weakness as well as corruption within government hierarchy.

While responding to posers raised by participants especially Faculty members, the Principal Investigator, Professor Oludiran Akinleye stressed the need for human capacity development, promotion of merit as against nepotism, attitudinal reorientation and increased interest in international trade studies.

Professors Akinleye and Dauda charged students of the Department of Economics to explore internship opportunities beyond the Nigerian borders.

The Discussant, Dr Martins Oke also spoke exhaustively on the theme, urging the Nigerian government to take pragmatic steps towards proper implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement with a view to consolidating the place of Nigeria as the giant of Africa.

Earlier in her remarks, the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor Olufunlayo Bammeke adjudged the seminar series an avenue to showcase scholarly works in the faculty as well as offer recommendations to identified national challenges.

Similarly, in his remarks, the Chairman Faculty of Social Sciences Seminar Series Committee, Professor John Oyefara gave thumbs up to the researchers for the extensive research work.

Here is a pictorial highlight of the event:

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