Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council has thrown its weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to consult widely before Nigeria signs the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
President Buhari had, in March, cancelled a trip to Kigali, Rwanda, where an extra-ordinary summit of African Union was scheduled to sign the agreement.
President Buhari said the cancellation was to allow for more consultations with stakeholders in Nigeria over the trade agreement.
Stakeholders, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the organised private sector, had raised concerns over the implications of the agreement for the Nigerian economy, arguing that government ought to have consulted more widely.
The NLC had, in a statement issued, said that the agreement would lead to a collapse of the Nigerian manufacturing sector and loss of jobs.
However, the Federal Executive Council headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had, on Wednesday, March 13, approved that Nigeria signs the agreement with fellow African countries.
The Industrial Council at its meeting, on Friday presided over by Osinbajo, received a status report on the Continental Trade Agreement and supported the need for more consultations before Nigeria ratifies the agreement.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, told State House Correspondents after the meeting that “council reinforced the importance of consultation which was what the president said.”
He said “the meeting agreed with the president and concurred that more consultation is the way to go because the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement will have implications for us, which we hope will be positive.”
Enelamah said the private sector was critical to the implementation of the agreement, making it imperative that they be consulted before Nigeria signs the agreement.
Enelamah said Friday’s meeting of the Industrial Council took stock of the work being done on 49 interventions that have been identified and the progress made.
“A lot of progress was reported,” adding that the council discussed four areas where critical intervention was needed and where progress had been made.
He said the four areas included anti-smuggling and what was being done; partnering with the states on infrastructure and broadband expansion; financing; and the involvement of the private sector in roads construction and rehabilitation under a trust scheme.
“In these areas, progress was reported, work is not finished, and as you can imagine a lot of work has been done and the idea is to keep the momentum going,” the minister said.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Segun Awolowo, said the Council discussed key industrial roads such as the ones in Aba, South East Nigeria and Apapa, South West Nigeria.