…As NLC kicks
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has approved the framework agreement for establishing African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).
The ACFTA is meant to promote commerce among African countries, even though the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), is opposed to the idea.
Buhari is billed to append his signature to the deal on behalf of Nigeria next week during the Extraordinary meeting of African Union (AU) leaders’ summit in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21.
But the NLC has accused government of not consulting widely on the issue, which it believes would be detrimental to Nigeria’s economic interests.
President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, declared: “We at the NLC 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 local businesses and attendant effects on jobs.
“We have no doubt this policy initiative will sound the death knell on 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 it.”
But FEC members said that the benefits of signing the ACFTA for Nigeria outweighs the concerns raised by critics.
The Minister of Trade and Investments, Okechukwu Enelamah, who briefed State House Correspondents at the end of its nearly five hours meeting, said that Nigeria is even bidding to host the headquarters/secretariat of the ACFTA.
Enelamah disclosed 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).
On whether Nigeria’s interests could be protected against dumping and the likes, he said, “this was also a question that the executive council members applied their minds to. The conclusion we reached was that it is very important that in going into the agreement, we are clear we are doing what is good for Nigeria. We want it to generate more exports. African market is 1.2 billion and we are 180 million. We have an ambitious economic agenda, and we are going into this wanting to clearly improve market access for our products and our people.
“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 make 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 they should be addressed.
The ACFTA is the first step in the implementation of AU’s Agenda 2063, for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, and when in force, the ACFTA shall be the largest Free Trade Area (FTA) in the global economy by number.
For Nigeria, the gains include expanding market access for the country’s exporters of goods and services, as it will spur growth and boost job creation.