Federal government has been advised to always engage consumers in trade policy processes in Nigeria, especially by making provision for consumer representation in policy formulation and implementation processes.
This was part of the resolutions of participants as contained in a communique issued at the end of a two-day public policy dialogue organised by the Consumer Unity & Trust Society, CUTS, International on “Integrating the Consumer’s Voice Into the Trade Policy Process In Nigeria” held in Abuja, recently.
It was the first-of-its-kind dialogue organised by CUTS International with the support of European Union and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ, a German organisation that specialises in international development.
According to the communiqué, “The consumers’ voice is the missing link in the trade policy discourse in Nigeria. There is need for more engagement of consumers in trade policy processes in Nigeria.”
It explained that the rationale behind trade is the exchange of goods and services for the purpose of maximising consumers’ welfare in the form of better access, choice, quality goods, and affordable prices, which it said must be pursued always.
“That trade policy is not just about protecting businesses, but about consumer welfare as every stakeholder including the producers were first consumers before they became producers and as such the consumer welfare is paramount.
“There is a need to strike a balance between consumer and producer welfare in our trade policy formulation process by making the consumers fully involved,” it stated.
The participants also stressed on the need for all stakeholders, especially the government and the private sector to focus more on issues that directly impact on the competitiveness of businesses such as infrastructure, corruption, policy inconsistency, etc. which would yield more benefit and less cost to the economy.
Similarly, they said there is a need to coalesce consumer voices by unifying consumer advocacy groups under one umbrella to give them a stronger voice and better coherence.
The participants agreed on the funding to finance the activities of consumer advocacy groups in the country.
To this end, they called on the Muhammadu Buhari administration to expedite action on the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, which has provided that at least one per cent of VAT revenues accruing to the government and which should be used to fund consumer protection activities through the proposed commission.
They also agreed that consumer welfare is the primary duty of the government and that even if donor agencies intervene it should only be complementary to what the government is already doing.
The participants equally stressed on the need to ensure that the voice of the consumers is reflected in the Nigeria Trade Policy and the National Trade Strategy.
“Government should refrain from the use of restrictive trade measures which could exert untold costs on consumers without corresponding benefit to the economy as a whole both in the immediate and long term, while appropriate monitoring and evaluative measures need to be put in place to ensure that policies when passed indeed deliver the right outcomes,” they further advised.
The workshop was attended by consumer organisations and private sector organisations as well as representatives of development partners.

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