By Aduragbemi Omiyale
A legal luminary in Nigeria, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, has advised the Nigerian government to come up with a trade policy specifically designed to promote local industries.
He said this policy, if formulated and implemented, would encourage domestic manufacturers to thrive to compete at the global level, adding that it would beneficial to the nation.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) of the Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL) made this suggestion while reacting to comments attributed to the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Mr Agbakoba said Nigeria should not be seen as a dumping group for foreign products, emphasising that such would be dangerous to the economy.
He commended the federal government for its rice policy, which he said has made the country almost become self-sufficient in that regards.
According to him, when Nigeria closed its land borders in 2019, due to the importation of foreign rice, arms and others, Nigerians relied on locally produced rice for survival.
Last year, when COVID-19 forced many countries to shut down their borders to contain the spread of the virus, local rice was available for distribution to citizens as palliatives.
He, therefore, advised the government to take a cue from the immediate past President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump, who came up with a policy called America First.
According to him, this is one of the best approaches to achieve self-sufficiency and not the situation of exporting crude oil for petrol, exporting cocoa for cocoa powder, amongst others.
“My admiration for Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is huge but to advise us to continue to be import-dependent is not correct policy advice at this time.
“Nigeria has no current trade policy and Dr Okonjo Iweala seems to promote liberal and open borders.
“The problem is that we will remain consumers of imported products and cannot develop our economy to boost production and give jobs to over 25 million unemployed.
“While we must balance import policy with local production policy, we must heed the warning of wise economists that we cannot develop unless our trade policy is designed to promote local industries.
“I hesitate to compliment Trump’s America First trade policy but Trump understood the need to protect the US by discouraging over-dependence on imports. Nigeria produces crude but imports petrol. We produce cocoa but import cocoa powder.
“We have Tin, Gold and Iron but import the finished products in billions!
“We closed our Benin border to imports and made [N]12 billion a day internally. It was a strong trade policy to produce rice locally that has made us near self-sufficient.
“Now, we are growing tomato, beans, etc because we are discouraging imports.
“Nigerians be wise! We must support Made in Nigeria. I propose we adopt a new trade policy with strong trade laws to protect our ailing economy. Nigeria will be transformed by a Made in Nigeria Trade Policy!” the lawyer said.
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