By Yinka Kolawole & Naomi Uzor
LAGOS—A remark by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigeria needed a president that will sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, has elicited mixed reactions from Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN.
Obasanjo was reported to have said at the just concluded World Bank/IMF Meeting in Indonesia that “Nigeria will hopefully soon have a president that will sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, not a president that is too weak to sign.”
Reacting to the statement, yesterday, LCCI said President Muhammadu Buhari seemed not to be keen on signing the AfCFTA, while MAN asserted that the cautious move on the trade deal by the Federal Government was in the overall interest of Nigeria.
Buhari not keen on the deal — LCCI
Director-General, LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, stated: “From all indications, President Buhari is not keen about the AfCFTA. It is a pointer to the fact that the value of economic integration is yet to be fully appreciated by this administration.
“What is important in my view is to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the vulnerable sectors of the economy, something similar to the ECOWAS model.
“It is not a good idea to jettison the AfCFTA altogether. The truth is that at the informal level, a great deal of economic integration is taking place on the continent; trade is taking place freely across the borders of many African countries.”
FG’s cautious move in interest of Nigeria —MAN
In his reaction, Director-General, MAN, Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, noted that MAN is an apolitical business organisation that does not take sides or comment on political issues, and so not best placed to comment on the purported statement made by the former president.
He said: “MAN has consistently maintained that it is not against intra-African trade, especially one that boosts the market reach of Nigerian businesses, including manufacturers.
“However, when the agreement was being signed, we cautioned against signing an agreement without fully engaging the relevant stakeholders and adequately comprehending its implications for the Nigerian economy in general and the manufacturing sector in particular.
“We counselled that a country specific study should be carried out to ascertain its implications for the Nigeria economy, particularly the productive sector.
“It is gratifying to note that the Federal Government embarked on the needed nationwide consultation and is doing the needful in reconstituting the presidential committee dealing with the matter and the private sector is called to join the process.
“At the end of the day, Nigeria will take an informed decision as to what type of AfCFTA it should sign and when to sign. Certainly the one to sign should be the one that puts the national interest first; protects the productive sector; guarantees the well-being of our citizenry and at the same time promotes intra-African trade.”