By Musa Adamu and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senators yesterday in the plenary urged the federal government to be the main driver of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) for the country to derive maximum benefits from the document.
This followed a motion sponsored by Sen Barau Jibril and 44 others.
Nigeria had declined to sign the agreement earlier on in Kigali, Rwanda, after the private sector opposed the idea and only signed it after a committee set up to look into the agreement came up with recommendations urging the government to sign it.
In the motion, Sen Jibril and others commended President Muhammadu Buhari for mustering the needed political will to sign the document, adding that government must enlighten Nigeria business community to leverage on the immense benefits in the agreement.
It urged government to continue its current policy of improving the infrastructure and other basic necessities to bring about reduction in the cost of production.
It further urged the federal government to be the main driver for the success of Nigeria’s membership by ensuring that policies and programmes were in large part consistent with the mission and vision of the agreement.
In his contribution to the motion, Sen Orji Uzor Kalu, said having signed the agreement Nigeria must move swiftly to strengthen its local manufacturers to produce at reduce cost.
He said: “Unless this is done I am afraid we may end up becoming the dumping ground if other African country.”
Sen Ibikunle Amosun on his part, said the membership of Nigeria in agreement meant the country now had access to about 1.2 billion population market, adding however, that “except we get our acts together we will become a dumping ground.”
To avoid this, added, “we must strengthen our Small Medium Entrepreneur (SMEs) so as to compete favourably. We must agreement to lessen the cost of production. It is good that we finally sign the law. This means we will not fail to take advantage of the act as we did with AGOA.”
Sen James Manager said he was sure the entire Africa was happy when Nigeria finally signed the Agreement.
He said: “We call therefore call on Mr President to appoint the next minister of trade who is smart enough to lead the way we can fully take advantage of this Agreement.”
Also contributing, Sen Albert Bassey Akpan, said: “Nigeria must now be serious about industrialising the country because as it is there is no way we can have an trade balance. Unless we do this China is coming.
“We want to also call in the President to forward the list of the ministerial nominees with their portfolio so that we interrogate them and know what we they know about this act and others.”
Sen Kola Balogun said: “initially, the private sector opposed the signing of the agreement because they feared Nigeria would become a dumping ground. Why did they change their mind? For any nation to do well three things must be in place: labour, land and capital, all of these we have but capital. We must know that unless we get our infrastructure right no foreign direct investment will flow into Nigeria.
“Therefore, we must work on our infrastructure in order to be competitive enough and created employment for our youth.”
Gabriel Suswam: for us to meaningfully contribute to the discussion on this agreement, it is important we avail with this document. Unless, we get I am afraid we may not be able to critically interrogate the documents.