Nigeria vows it will continue to deploy fiscal policies that will protect its industries and also encourage investments in critical sectors of the economy.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, gave the assurance at the opening of the fourth meeting of the ECOWAS Finance Ministers on the consolidation of Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), Customs Union on Friday in Abuja.
According to Mr Paul Abechi, the minister’s Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Ahmed is quoted as saying that the policies will also promote local production.
“This is with a view to achieving the effective implementation of the country’s Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) and the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) within the transitional period of five years of implementation of the CET (2015-2019).”
Ahmed said this was without prejudice to the spirit of regional integration and free trade protocols since Nigeria had been in the forefront of supported trade policies.
“Like every developing economy, Nigeria’s vision to industrialise is very strong.
“Accordingly, we believe ECOWAS Common External Tarrif (CET) should be designed to promote regional industrialisation in a manner that on the long term reduces dependence on imports.
“We will continue to work within ECOWAS to achieve these laudable objectives.
“Nigeria believes fervently that ECOWAS regional policies such as the CET, the Customs Union and other fiscal policies should aim seriously at achieving economic growth and industrialisation for member states, while reducing import dependency.”
According to her, the economies of scale that result from successful integration should serve as catalysts for economic development of the region.
Ahmed said that Nigeria believed that West Africa, while desiring integration into the global economy, should diversify its economy through manufacturing, processing of primary products and other forms of economic modernisation.
She also said that Nigeria undoubtedly supports a regional common tariff and a customs union for ECOWAS as major steps toward the achievement of the objective for which the commission itself was established.
The minister declared Nigeria’s unflinching commitment to the success of the ECOWAS project, particularly in the areas of trade liberalisation and economic integration.
“Nigeria’s current economic policies, in several aspects, seek to identify with and actively participate in the effort to achieve regional economic development through cooperation.
“In this regard, Nigeria effectively commenced the implementation of the ECOWAS CET in April 2015, with additional measures under the ECOWAS approved Supplementary Protection.”
She said that some of the measures taken include: an Import Adjustment Tax (IAT) list which involves additional taxes on 177 tariff lines of the CET 2015-2019.
Others are a national list consisting of items which import duty rates have been reviewed downwards to encourage rapid development in strategic sectors of the economy and an import prohibition list (Trade) applicable only to certain goods originating from Third World Countries.
The minister, however, advocated for more control on tobacco in the subregion to minimise the health hazzards associated with tobacco.
“In particular, we hold the belief that the establishment of a track and trace system for manufactured and imported tobacco products represents ECOWAS’ genuine desire to enthrone best practices in tobacco taxation and control the public health hazards of these products.”
On taxation, she said that the draft regulations on an ECOWAS Tax Treaty Model and Mutual Assistance in tax collection could potentially ease tax treaties negotiations among the member states.
She also said they could eliminate tax evasion/avoidance within the region, encourage tax audit and exchange of tax information and enhance regional integration.
“As a matter of fact, these regulations will also assist to deepen the integration of the region with the global strategies to improve public revenue through the elimination of tax malpractices.”
“I wish to assure you of Nigeria’s commitment to a sustainable, functional regional economic integration project that will, in the long run, facilitate economic growth and social prosperity for the people of West Africa.”