By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—THE Federal Government yesterday expressed reservations over the signing of the African Continental Trade Agreement, AfCTA, despite the promise by President Muhammadu Buhari that he would soon sign the agreement.
President Buhari when hosting the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa at the State House Abuja last week, assured that the Nigerian government would sign the agreement after studying its implications, though he said he was a slow reader.
But speaking at the Quarterly Presidential Business Forum in Abuja, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said although there were advantages for the country in the agreement, Nigeria must ensure it got the best possible terms in trade and commerce.
According to him, “With respect to the AfCTA, there are clearly huge advantages for us no question about it at all. The rest of Africa see the enormous advantages of Nigeria’s participation, everybody is waiting for us naturally and that is because they see a huge market, there are advantages of our being there. But we must ensure to get the best possible terms for Nigerian trade and commerce. Our experiences with dumping and other injurious practices make it obvious to us that our market could be a real target, our local manufacturing could become unprofitable, our agricultural advantage could be reversed.
“Consequently, we have embarked on an extensive consultations with trade groups, manufacturers and organized labour in all the six geo-political zones to get a clear sense of concerns as we navigate the process of signing the treaty. I think the general resolve favours engagement but the concerns remain around improving the domestic environment for greater competitiveness, concerns of power supply and investment in infrastructure. I have noted the various studies that MAN will like to see done, I think those background checks are important as to what works and what doesn’t work and what is going on with the industry and all that.
“I think those concerns are very crucial and I think many of them are being done already. But at the same time, we must be careful not to give the impression that these are minimum pre-conditions for engagement with the process because the question has been asked when will we be ready?
Also speaking, the Minister Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said Nigeria should consider the countries that have already signed the agreement.
He said, “But if the decision on whether to sign or not was mine, I will look at the countries that have signed. The interesting thing about the countries that have signed is that, unlike us where we have Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Lagos, Owerri, six different cities that can land an air plane and other cities like that, the countries that have signed are one-city countries – Rwanda – Kigali, Niger – Niamey, Ghana- Accra, those are the countries that have signed and we are afraid.
“How much power do we have and we say we are not ready? Just listen to me and you can fact-check this, as at 2016 Rwanda was trying to get to 106 megawatts of electricity, the suburbs of Rwanda are on generators. The only place that I saw that has dual carriage way when I visited last year was the GRA.”