By Victor Ahiuma-Young
ORGANISED Labour yesterday, praised the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to allow for more consultations and deliberations on the controversial African Union Continental Free Trade, CFTA, billed to be ratified today in Kigali, Rwanda.
President Buhari had on Monday cancelled his planned trip to Kigali for the ratification event amidst protest by concerned Nigerians and groups.
Labour, however insisted that Nigeria should not sign the agreement as it would turn the nation into a dumping ground for repackaged and re-bagged foreign goods from Europe and other developed countries.
Speaking through United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, and National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, Labour contended that there could not be a common African market without 200 million Nigeria market.
While commending President Buhari for putting a halt to its hurried signing and berating Presidential aides who wanted to rail road Nigeria into the agreement that would have kill the fragile industrial sector, ULC in a statement by its General Secretary, Didi Adodo, said: “Nigeria is not only an importer nation but also an economy with weak infrastructural base thereby increasing the cost of the products produced in Nigeria.
If signed, the CFTA will only encourage industrialized countries to use other African Nations to push their products to the Nigerian market thereby killing locally produced goods. We are shocked when at a time when other countries of the world including America are resorting to protectionism in defence of their local manufacturers ours is trying to open the economy to be finally killed. We reject it in its entirety.”
Similarly, NUTGTWN in a statement by its General Secretary, Issa Aremu, also lauded “the vigilance of all stakeholders such as manufacturers, NLC and business in calling for caution on international trade agreements that could undermine Nigerian development aspirations.
Aremu, who is a National Executive Council, NEC, member of NLC and Vice President, IndustriAll Global Union, argued that while intra-African Trade could bring economic benefits to member states, there should be broad consultations and participations in the CFTA negotiations to avoid “pit-falls of past trade agreements which have turned to be more devastating and negative”.
He recalled the uncritical Nigeria membership of World Trade Organizacion, WTO, in the 1990s with attendant lowering of tariffs and that trade liberalization was the singular factor that led to the collapse of labour intensive industries like textile and automobile.
According to him: “Trade is the means to development, not the end itself therefore any trade pact must foster growth, create mass decent jobs and development, falling which is counterproductive. For Nigeria to further reduce import duties, as envisaged by CFTA will fuel cheaper imports smuggled goods that would overrun domestic markets of local products which because of high production costs are unable to compete, thus perpetuating deindustrialisation, unemployment and poverty.
Rather than Nigerians agonizing over non-ratification, it’s time for Okechukwu Enelamah Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, to do “first thing first” – prepare to engage all stakeholders on the trade pact, answer critical questions on the implications of the ACFTA, for ECOWAS treaty, and Common External tariff (CET) and the contentious Economic Partnership for Africa (EPA). Whatever the outcome of the deliberations, CFTA should allow Nigeria the domestic policy space such that the policy objectives of job creation and industrialization as contained in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EPRG) and Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) are not jeopardized.”