Obasanjo calls on Nigerian government to sign the AfCFTA agreement
The former president said the country has no justifiable reason for not signing the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has said the country has no other choice than to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. He made the statement while speaking at the 2019 Annual Meetings of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), taking in place in Moscow, Russia.
The former Head of State said Nigeria has no tenable reason for not signing the AfCFTA agreement, which West African countries such as Ghana, Niger and Gambia have signed. In April, the AfCFTA came into force following its approval by the Gambian parliament. The country became the 22nd nation to do so, effectively meeting the minimum threshold for the agreement to come into force based on Article 23 of the AfCFTA agreement.
Apart from Nigeria, Eritrea and Benin are also yet to sign the agreement. Obasanjo expressed his hope that Nigeria would sign the agreement before it is operationalised at the African Union (AU) summit, scheduled on July 7-8 in Niamey, Niger.
“I believe we have enjoyed the time of delay but we have no [other] choice than to sign it [the AfCFTA agreement],” Obasanjo said. Ironically, Nigeria was at the forefront during the negotiation phase of the AfCFTA. But the government failed to consult with the private sector operators such as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Chambers of Commerce, as well as civil societies.
The aim of the AfCFTA is to create the world’s largest free trade zone, increase intra-African trade by 52 per cent by 2022 and remove tariffs on 90 per cent of goods.
Obasanjo, however, noted that the stakeholders in the private sector now endorse the trade agreement. “I was in Addis Ababa recently and the trade unions, MAN and chambers of commerce representatives were also there. They all said they are now fully informed and fully onboard. It is now left for the government to do the needful by signing the [AfCFTA] agreement.”
In October 2018, President Buhari inaugurated a presidential committee to carry out an impact and readiness assessment of the AfCFTA to address its potential risks for the country. Earlier this year, the committee submitted its report to the president but a decision is yet to be taken.
Hosted by the Russian government as part of the 2019 Russia-Africa Events, the Afreximbank’s Annual Meetings are taking place on June 20-22. It is the second time the bank’s Annual Meetings will be held outside Africa. The first time was in 2012 when they held in Beijing.
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