ECOWAS trade scheme boosts Nigeria’s SME market

President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), Mr Ken Ukaoha, says Nigeria’s involvement in the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) has brought improved market access to locally produced goods.

Ukaoha, in an interview in  Abuja, noted that it had also increased productivity in the private sector.

He said that the scheme was the main tool for promoting West Africa as a free trade area.

According to him, the scheme protects West African economic operators from undue competition and strengthens intra-regional trade.

He said that Nigeria was the greatest beneficiary of the scheme both in terms of number of companies and products, adding that it represented 39 per cent of the entire benefits.

Ukaoha called on the National Assembly to seek ways to consolidate these benefits and do everything within their legislative powers to protect its continuity and full implementation.

“Arising from the above facts, Nigeria may not therefore contemplate withdrawing from the scheme.

Rather, efforts must be made at identifying and addressing the challenges and strengthening the implementation of the scheme.

The parliament should also put in place credible and viable domestic economic policies that will foster the realization and maximization of ETLS benefits to Nigeria,’’ he said.

Ukaoha said there was the need to sensitize Nigerians about the scheme and related protocols in order to facilitate informed monitoring and oversight as part of their constitutional responsibility.

He also noted that there was the need to relocate the National Approval Committee (NAC) of ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) to the Ministry of Industry from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ukaoha said ETLS was a highly technical trade matter and must be domiciled in the appropriate ministry as was obtainable in many other ECOWAS countries.

He also called on ECOWAS to develop and set up a dedicated portal for ETLS and CET to facilitate access to information.