Nigeria’s being meticulous about African free trade treaty, says president

President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that Nigeria would be guided by “national interest” in taking any decision on the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Receiving the national council of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) led by its president, Mansur Ahmed yesterday in Abuja, Buhari said he was expecting the report of a committee set up to assess the potential cost and impact of signing the pact.

The Nigerian leader recalled that the Presidential Steering Committee on the AfCFTA Impact and Readiness Assessment Committee was inaugurated on October 22, 2018 with the mandate to assess the extent to which the nation was ready to participate in the project and advise government accordingly.

The panel was initially given 12 weeks to conclude its assignment after holding wide consultations with industry groups and stakeholders, including the manufacturers.

According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the president told MAN that the AfCFTA was on the agenda of next month’s African Union (AU) summit in Niamey, Niger Republic.

‘’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,’’ Buhari asserted.

He promised to look into the presentation by MAN highlighting issues of concern to the manufacturing sector namely the AfCFTA, Export Expansion Grant, incentives as well as challenges with the 2019 fiscal policy measures, recent increase in NAFDAC charges and the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Act 2019.

Earlier, the MAN president outlined some credible policies that had driven the economy in the first term of the current administration.

He lauded government for consistent efforts to sustain the growth trajectory anchored on improving the business environment, especially the Ease of Doing Business project, anti-graft fight, poverty reduction, job creation as well as inclusive growth and launch of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

Ahmed, however, noted that despite the successes of the last four years, ‘’it is clear that our economy is still fragile.’’

He added: “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.

“But Your Excellency, we are encouraged by the very strong commitment you expressed only last week in your Democracy Day address.

“You did say that in your second term, your administration will do, even more, not only to continue to drive the economy on the path of sustained growth, but indeed, to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”