By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that his administration would not enter into any treaty without assessing the impact it would have on the lives of Nigerians.
The President gave the assurance yesterday while inaugurating a committee for Impact and Readiness Assessment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at the Presidential Villa.
He said Nigeria will, henceforth, take its time to break away from the past where treaties were being entered with consideration for their consequences for the country.
“We are determined to break away from the past practice of committing Nigeria to treaties without a definite implementation plan to actualize the expected benefit while mitigating the risks. We cannot go back to the days of signing agreements without understanding and planning for the consequences of such actions and our country being the worst for it.
“Few months ago, I directed a nationwide stakeholders’ engagement on the Africa Free Trade Continental Area Agreement to understand the true impact of this agreement on Nigeria and Nigerians, considering the existing domestic and regional policies as it relates to trade.
“From the consultation, the key issues raised by stakeholders were abuse of rules of origin, smuggling arising from difficulties in border controls, unqualified impact of legacy preferential trade agreements, low capacity and capability of local businesses to conduct international trade, costly finance, insufficient energy and transport logistics infrastructure but our Economic recovery and Growth Plan is addressing these issues,” he said.
On the mandate to the committee, he said “Your task as members of the Impact and Readiness Assessment of the African Continental Free Trade Area Committee is to address the issues raised during the stakeholders’ consultations on the Africa Continental free trade Agreement. You are expected to develop short, medium and long term measures that will address any challenges arising there from.”
Buhari further noted that Nigeria’s vision for intra-African trade is for a free movement of made in Africa goods.
The Nigerian leader, who stressed that Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, regretted that for too long, the country’s domestic productive capabilities were neglected in favour of imports.
He noted that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) introduced by his administration would help revive key job creating and import substitution sectors like agriculture, mining and manufacturing.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah gave the terms of reference of the committee.
He said: “Following consultations, the terms of reference of the Presidential Committee on the Africa Continental free Trade Area Impact Assessment and Readiness are; Assess the potential cost and impact of the Africa Continental free Trade Area AFCTA for Nigeria in relation to the benefits, identify the short, medium and long term measure to prepare Nigerian businesses for the take off of AFCTA trading group and a backup plan that covers selected scenarios and view the trade remedy options to safeguard the Nigerian economy form predatory and failed trade practices.”
He said an updated trade policy was being prepared for Nigeria and the draft would be ready for review by the end of the year.
The Presidential Committee has the Minister of Industry as its Chairman, with the Chief of Staff to the President as Co-Chairman.
Ministers of Budget and National Planning, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice, Economic Adviser to the President, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, President Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and President, Nigeria Labour Congress among others, are members.