Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Some state governors have stressed that necessary measures must be in place to ensure that the country reaps the maximum benefits from the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), signed by President Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend.
Related: Buhari signs AfCFTA Agreement
They also noted that with capacity building, Nigerians will benefit immensely from joining what has been described as the world’s largest free-trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, across all 55 member states of the African Union.
Governors Aminu Masari (Katsina), Babagana Zulum (Borno) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) who were part of the President’s delegation to the 12th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the African Union on the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger Republic, spoke to reporters on Monday.
According to them, the deal will increase the volume of trade and boost the economy.
Governor Masari stressed the need for capacity building to enable manufacturers to produce high-quality goods that can compete favourably with other countries.
He said: “I think it is very important because Africa is a big market of 1.2 billion consumers.
“So, I do believe for Nigeria, it’s a big opportunity. The market is here; the opportunities are here and with the level of entrepreneurship in Nigeria, I believe we will take advantage of that.”
He added: “I think there is a need to invest more in human development that can raise the level of competency in Nigerians in terms of having quality production that can compete because there will be competition, especially from South Africa and some others that may use other technologies to come through.
“I think there is a need to emphasise more on training, bringing up the level especially of technicians, artisans in terms of having enough to compete.
Masari hoped that with the signing of the agreement, Jibiya town in Katsina State can be turned to a land border for export and import activities.
He further stated: “I think for us, it will you make Jibiya a land border so that all import and export activities can take place. I think it will go a long way in boosting the economy of the area. Already, we are developing an economic zone consisting of over 800 hectares and this year, we are going to set up over 100 hectares along Jibiya border coming into Niger and other West African countries.
“We will take advantage of whatever is there to make sure Nigeria and Katsina in particular get their share of the fallout of the agreement.”
Zulum on his part observed that the agreement would boost economic activities in Borno State and help the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to improve their lives.
“Borno state is bordering about three countries – Niger, Cameroon and Chad. It is my sincere belief that Borno will have some of the free-trade zone in our own place and this will now improve the means of livelihood of the displaced communities of Borno State; trade volume within the state will also increase and this will further improve the socio-economic well-being of the citizens of Borno State.”
He added: “I think this singular act will ease trade among African nations and it was established that prices of commodities will come down, access to some of the commodities that we are lacking in the region in Nigeria in particular could be obtained and some of the bureaucratic bottlenecks with respect to customs and others will also be reduced.
“As far as I’m concerned, I think this is something that is very important. Nigeria declined last year, 2018, but purposely to understudy the effects of signing the agreement.
“I think by now, the president has made serious consultations and this will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of Nigerians.”
Governor Bagudu, who described President Buhari’s signing of AfCFTA as a momentous occasion, dispelled fears that it would lead to dumping of goods in Nigeria.
According to him, “the consultations with the organised private sector and relevant agencies and individuals have brought out the kind of work and synergy we need to put together so that as a country, we can do better under the trade deal, so that we can ensure that the tariff agreement, whatever tariff agreement we enter into is such that it will prohibit dumping and it does not discriminate against us especially for a country like Nigeria which has suffered the brunt of dumping – from rice to poultry to milk – that has threatened our industry.
“So, we have got wiser and the consultations no doubt have provided clues and avenues of what we are going to do in order to ensure that there will be responsible trade so that Nigeria can benefit as well as other countries in Africa.”
Bagudu affirmed that the deal would be good for Kebbi State which shares international borders with Niger Republic, saying: “Our ambition is big. Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has given us a boost, we want Kebbi rice to be eaten across Africa.
“We want Kebbi soya beans and tomatoes, clothing and processed goods from Kebbi exported to other parts of Africa and the world.”