By Tony Obiechina, Abuja                          The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab S. Ahmed said Nigeria will continue to deploy fiscal policies that protect it’s industries and also encourage Investments in critical sectors of the economy.
The minister stated this on Friday at the opening session of the 4th Meeting of the ECOWAS Finance Ministers on the Consolidation of ECOWAS Customs Union held at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters Abuja.
“Nigeria will continue to deploy fiscal policies to support or protect emerging industries, encourage investment in critical sectors, and promote local production” she said.
According to her “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 5 years of implementation of the GET (2015-2019).”
The Minister noted that this is without prejudice to the spirit of regional integration and free trade protcols as Nigeria has been in forefront of supported trade trade policies.
Accordding to her, “like every developing economy, Nigeria’s vision to industrialize is very strong. Accordingly, we believe ECOWAS Common External Tarrif (CET) should be designed to promote regional industrialization 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 industrialization for member states, while reducing import dependency”, she noted.
 “The economies of scale that result from successful integration should serve as catalysts for economic development ’or the region.
“Nigeria therefore believes West Africa, while desiring integration into the global economy, should diversify its economy through manufacturing, processing of primary products and other forms of economic modernization” she added.
She reiterated 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 ECOWAS itself was established.”
“Let me reiterate Nigeria’s unflinching commitment to the success of the ECOWAS project, particularly in the areas of trade liberalization 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”, stressed.
“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 further explained.
According to her, some of the measures taken by Nigeria include; “an Import Adjustment Tax (IAT) List which involves additional taxes on 177 Tariff Lines of the CET 2015 2019; A National list consisting of items whose 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 Countries.”
Mrs Ahmed also used the occasion to advocate for more controls on tobacco in the subregion to minimise the health hazzards associated with it.
“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” she said.
On taxation she said “the draft regulations on an ECOWAS Tax Treaty Model and Mutual Assistance in Tax Collection can potentially ease tax treaties negotiations among the Member States, eliminate tax evasion/avoidance within the region, encourage tax audit and exchange of tax information as well as 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” she noted.
The minister assured that 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 peoples of West Africa.