By Busayo Onijala
Ikeja – Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has lauded ECOWAS for its initiative in promoting integration in the West African sub-region.
Sanwo-Olu gave the commendation in a message he sent to a sensitisation workshop on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) in Ikeja on Wednesday.
The message was read by his Special Adviser on Commerce and Industry, Mr Oladele Ajayi.
According to the governor, a common market as created by ECOWAS will not only encourage entrepreneurial development but also increase intra-regional trade among member states.
“Going by the theme, this workshop is aimed at achieving economic development through duty free trades.
“I hereby implore micro, small, medium and large enterprise owners to seize the opportunity towards enhancing their enterprise competitiveness and profitability.
“Our state and the country at large will benefit when these indigenous businesses thrive,” Sanwo-Olu stated.
The Head of National Unit of ECOWAS, Amb. Musa Nuhu, said he was hopeful that the forum would enlighten the private sector on how to apply and enjoy the scheme.
“The level of trade between African countries is quite low. Part of the response was for us to come out here to inform entrepreneurs of the benefits of trading within ECOWAS.
“It does not matter whether it is a big or small company. All that matters is the good being produced by the company,” he said.
Also speaking, Mrs Toki Mabogunje, representing the President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr Babatunde Ruwase, said that recent global developments in trade had made it necessary for stakeholders to come together to discuss.
“Since the establishment of ECOWAS in 1975 with the purpose of promoting regional cooperation and economic integration, the commission has been making concerted efforts, aimed at enabling free trade areas and common market.
“The commencement of ETLS in 1979 and its expansion in 1990 to cover industrial goods in addition to agriculture and handcrafted products has shown the desire of member states to share a common market and remove barriers to trade within the region.”
Mabogunje said that ETLS remained the main operational tool of promoting a free trade area and ensuring the free movement of goods without the payment of custom duties.
She described the workshop as timely and necessary for stakeholders to discuss the challenges facing the implementation of ETLS within the sub-region.
“This forum provides an opportunity for stakeholders to assess the scheme and proffer possible solutions to make it better and to benefit Nigeria and other member states.
“The Lagos Chamber of Commerce believes that Nigeria stands to benefit from the ETLS if member states work towards a successful implementation,” she said.
The workshop with theme: “Increasing Intra-regional Trade through ETLS,” was held at the LCCI House, Ikeja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the aim of the ETLS is to establish a free trade area where enterprises of member states will move goods within the ECOWAS bloc without paying duties and levies.
Officials drawn from the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria Customs Service, NAFDAC, SON and captains of industry attended the workshop.