By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu Buhari insists on Nigeria signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) meant to promote commerce among African countries, despite opposition to it by industry groups like the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Buhari is billed to append his signature to the deal on behalf of Nigeria during an African leaders’ summit in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, this year.
However, the NLC accused the government of not consulting widely on the issue, which it believes is detrimental to Nigeria’s economic interests.
President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, just a couple of days ago, declared that “we at the Nigeria Labour Congress are shocked by the sheer impunity or blatant lack of consultation in the process that has led to this. We are more worried by the probable outcome of this policy initiative if it is given life because of its crippling effect on the local businesses and attendant effects on jobs.
“We have no doubt this policy initiative will spell the death knell of the Nigerian economy. Accordingly, we urge Mr. President not to sign this agreement either in Kigali or anywhere. We believe our national interest is at stake and nothing should be done to compromise this.”
This has not deterred the government, as it has insisted that the benefits of hr CFTA for Nigeria outweighs the concerns raised by critics.
The matter was discussed at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, after which Minister of Trade and Investments, Okechukwu Enelamah, informed State House correspondents that Nigeria is even bidding to host the Headquarters/Secretariat of the CFTA.
Enelamah disclosed though that his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, had been mandated to widen consultations with stakeholders, including National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).
His words: “The conclusion we reached was that it is very important in going with the agreement and that we are clear we are doing what is good for Nigeria. We want it to generate more exports for African market.
“We are also going into it wanting to protect our markets from unfair trade practices – dumping, smuggling and all the other things that can go wrong. FEC directed that we should makes sure that those things are built into the detailed paper work that will follow. And more importantly, in the implementation, whatever ways and means are needed, that they should be addressed.
“The president also gave a set of objectives for negotiations in February 2017 and those points were also in those negotiations and those points have been met in terms of the framework. Now we have to deal with the entails and ensure that the implementation will be good enough.”
On whether enough consultations were carried out with Nigerians to ensure they are carried along, Enlameh said, a�?the president in his directive in February 2017, constituted a negotiating committee that included organised private sector and business – like MAN and NACCIMA they have been working with us.
The CFTA is the first step in the implementation of African Union’s Agenda 2063, for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, and when in force, the CFTA shall be the largest Free Trade Area (FTA) in the global economy, by number.
For Nigeria, the gains include expanding market access for the countrya��s exporters of goods and services, spur growth and boost job creation;
*Eliminate barriers against Nigeriaa��s products and provide a Dispute Settlement Mechanism for stopping the hostile and discriminatory treatment directed against Nigerian natural and corporate business persons in other African countries;
* Establish rules-based trade governance in intra-African trade to invoke trade remedies, such as safeguards, anti-dumping, and countervailing duties against unfair trade practices, including dumping, trans-shipment of concealed origin of products;
*Support the industrial policy of Nigeria through the negotiated and agreed a�?Exclusion and Sensitive category listsa�? to provide space for Nigeriaa��s infant industries;
*Improve competitiveness, the enabling environment for business, consolidate and expand Nigeriaa��s position as the number one economy in Africa.
By Chesa Chesa