President Muhammadu Buhari has said Nigeria would be guided by ‘‘national interest’’ in taking any decision on the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The president stated this when he received the National Council of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), led by its President, Alhaji Mansur Ahmed, at the State House, Abuja, yesterday.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the president expressed readiness to receive the report of a committee set up to assess the potential costs and impact of signing the agreement establishing AfCFTA for Nigeria.
The Presidential Steering Committee on AfCFTA Impact and Readiness Assessment Committee was inaugurated on October 22, 2018, with the mandate to assess the extent to which Nigeria was ready to sign the agreement, and what the impact of doing so would be.
The committee was initially given 12 weeks to conclude its assignment, after holding wide consultations with industry groups and stakeholders, including MAN.
President Buhari told MAN’s National Council that the AfCFTA is on the agenda for the upcoming African Union Summit in Niamey, Niger Republic, in July.
He said: ‘‘I don’t think Nigeria has the capacity to effectively supervise and to ensure that our colleagues in AU don’t allow their countries to be used to dump goods on us, to the detriment of our young industries and our capacity to utilise foreign exchange for imported goods.’’
The issues included the AfCFTA, Export Expansion Grant and other incentives, challenges with the 2019 fiscal policy measures, recent increase in NAFDAC charges, the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Act, 2019, among others.
In his remarks, the MAN president outlined some credible policies that have driven the economy forward; in Buhari’s first term.
He commended the Buhari administration for consistent efforts to sustain the growth trajectory anchored on improving the business environment in the country.
Ahmed also acknowledged the federal government’s efforts at improving the Ease-of-Doing-Business project, fight against corruption, focus on poverty reduction, job creation and inclusive growth as well as the launch of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
He, however, noted that in spite of the significant progress recorded in the last four years, ‘‘it is clear that our economy is still fragile. With the GDP at 2.0 per cent and below the population growth rate, the clouds are still threatening and the task of driving the economy upwards is still enormous.
The AU started talks in 2015, to establish a 55-nation bloc that would be the biggest in the world by member states, in a bid to increase intra-regional trade, which sits at only 15 per cent of Africa’s total commerce.
Countries that signed the AfCFTA Consolidated Text are Niger, Rwanda, Angola, C.A.R., Chad, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, The Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Cote’d’Ivoire, Seychelles, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea.
Others are Morocco, Swaziland, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, D.R.C, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, South Sudan, Uganda, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sao Tome and Principle, Togo and Tunisia.