By Paul Ajayi
He made this assertion to oppose the trade liberalisation policy of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Stating this position in a statement he personally signed, the senior lawyer noted that while he admired Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, her take on allowing the free flow of foreign products into the country should not be fully implemented.
Instead, he argued that the federal government must strike a balance between open borders and the creation of jobs for the millions of Nigeria’s unemployed.
“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 the over 25 million unemployed,” Agbakoba maintained.
According to him, while Nigeria must balance its import policy with local production policy, it must heed the warning of wise economists that the country could not develop unless its trade policy was designed to promote local industries.
He added that although he would hesitate to compliment Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ trade policy, the former American president understood the need to protect the US by discouraging over-dependence on imports.
Agbakoba lamented that Nigeria currently produces crude oil, but imports petrol, produces cocoa, but imports cocoa powder and has a lot of tin, gold, and iron, but still imports the finished products in billions of dollars.
His words: “We closed our Benin border to imports and made 12 billion a day internally. It was a strong trade policy to produce rice locally that has made us near self-sufficiency. Now, we are growing tomatoes, corn, 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.”