Premium Times | 21 Aug 2016
Ignore European Union, don’t sign EPA, group tells Nigerian government
By Bassey Udo
Social Action, an economic and social rights group, has asked the federal government to not to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA, with the European Union, EU.
The EPA is purportedly to eliminate trade restrictions between it and member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Promoters of the agreement say signing it will give the 16-member ECOWAS states ECOWAS better access to EU markets and ensure their integration into the global economy.
Although about 13 members of the regional body have since signed the draft agreement, Nigeria has consistently resisted the pressure to do so.
Ghana and Ivory Coast have also resisted the EPA.
At the 49th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS in Dakar, Senegal in June 2016, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo reiterated Nigeria’s fears about the agreement.
Apart from fear of the agreement exposing Nigeria to become dumping ground for European goods and services, Mr. Osinbajo said some of its terms were capable of restricting Nigerian manufacturers and trading activities.
But, at the end of a roundtable organized by Social Action on the EU/ECOWAS EPA in Abuja, participants urged the Nigerian government to unequivocally reject the deal.
The group said it was worried by the enormous pressure by EU on Nigeria, saying government risked ratifying an EPA Nigerian manufacturers, civil society actors and trade experts have raised red flags against.
A12-page "briefing" document discussed during the roundtable revealed a high level of ignorance among Nigerians on the implications of the proposed agreement.
The head of Social Action, Vivian-Bellonwu Okafor, said the group was shocked that signing the EPA resurfaced this year after several rejections by successive governments.
"Nigerians need to analyze and understand how the EPA would affect the national economy," Mrs. Okafor said.
The group said it doubted whether the Nigerian economy was strong or prepared enough to take advantage of the European markets as proposed under the EPA.
Besides, the group said Nigeria did not have a readily available comparative advantage to explore EU markets, while most African countries, particularly Nigeria, do not have finished goods to sell to EU markets.
"Considering the mismatch of the two regions, in terms of technological advancement and manufacturing experience, is Nigeria advantageously placed in this agreement?" the group asked.
Lead speaker, Jaiye Gaskiya, opposed the EPA, describing it as "premature and counter-productive, as Nigeria’s industrial revolution plan will never see the light of the day."
A trade lawyer, Ken Ukoha, who represented the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), said "judging the outcome against objectives, it would be ill-advised for Nigeria to sign an agreement that would weaken her economy through capital flight."
The coordinator, African Media and Information Literacy, Chido Onumah, said signing the agreement with the EU would be tantamount to further subjecting Nigeria to the dictates of Western financial capital.
"This certainly is a neo-colonialist attempt to render Nigerians and Africans permanently dependent on the Europeans," Mr. Onumah said.
In the communiqué at the end of the meeting, the group said rather than sign the EPA, government should pursue and implement the National Industrial Revolution Plan to strengthen the Nigeria industrial sector.
Besides, it urged government to engage Nigerians and get inputs towards the efficient implementation of the industrial development policy.
Other recommendations included diversification of the economy by maintaining a paradigm shift from mono to multi-products, for opportunity to cash in on the proposed open EU markets.
The group also urged government to encourage extraction activities and utilization of local raw materials through the development of local content policy and enforcement.
"Government must embark on infrastructural development revolution policy to restore effectiveness and capacity to support industrialization.
"Government must maintain the culture of development sustainability through objective formulation and implementation of sustainable development policies framework," it said.