Background and Participation

On the 28th day of May 1975, the then leaders of the various West African countries consummated the philosophy of a united region with the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with the vision of a strong economic integration of member states anchored on the benefits of trade within the sub-region. Based on the foregoing, the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) was formulated in 1979 as one of the first and immediate instruments to galvanise the realization of development objective of the region. The ETLS was subsequently reviewed in 1995 as the framework for facilitating free trade among member states. Navigating the compass towards a Customs Union, the Authorities of Heads of States recently adopted the Common External Tariff (CET) as the legal framework that drives tariff for trade between the ECOWAS region and third party countries.

Nigeria and other ECOWAS member States have been implementing these trade instruments till date, and there have been testimonies to the effect that these have brought about, among others, (i) increased productivity on the part of the private sector, (ii) improved market access for locally produced goods, (iii) employment generation, (iv.) wealth creation, (v) poverty reduction, and (vi.) sustainable development. Courtesy of the free circulation of goods within the sub-region piloted by the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Goods and Services, attached to the Rights of Residence and Establishment, Nigerian companies are expanding and dominating the sub-regional market. In the financial sector for instance, Nigerian banks have literarily taken over the streets of many countries in West Africa. For the telecommunications sector, Nigeria’s local brand, GLO is speedily rolling in to many countries in West Africa. With regard to trading in goods, Nigerian brands such as UAC, PZ, Cadbury, and Dangote, etc are found along the border routes and on the streets of our neighbouring countries while agro products such as grains and tubers form major imports of countries across West Africa, and particularly, the Sahel area. The movement of these goods give rise to increased employment, higher productivity, revenue to the country as well as foreign currency earnings to the country.

Regrettably, in spite of the numerous and glaring benefits of the ETLS and the CET to the country, there are serious concerns that must be addressed to ensure that Nigeria continues on the foothold of positive impacts that can trigger the needed escape from the present doldrums called economic recession. These concerns raise important questions such as: (i) Does Nigeria really need these instruments? (ii) If yes, what kind of instruments are required for growth? (iii) Would these instruments stand alone to produce the maximum benefits the country requires? (iv.) Are there complimentary efforts that need to be put up? (v.) What is the role of the Executive arm of government in the implementation of these instruments and where do such roles terminate? (vi.) Are there roles for the Parliament in the entire process of implementation of these instruments?

Therefore, the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment in collaboration with the National Association of Nigerian Traders – NANTS organized a one-day stakeholders interactive session/briefing to provide answers and properly situate Nigeria’s place in the implementation of the ETLS and CET.


Download Full Publication : COMMUNIQUE – NANTS-Senate Cttee on Trade & Invst on ETLS-CET