Nigeria at the weekend in Niamey, Niger Republic, officially joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as President Muhammadu Buhari finally signed the agreement at the opening of the African Union (AU) Summit.
The phase one of the agreement was adopted by African Union (AU) Heads of State and Governments at its 10th Extraordinary Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018.
But Nigeria pulled out of the agreement signing ceremony at the last minute, following agitations from the private sector that the agreement would make Nigeria a dumping ground for goods and services in Africa.
Consequently, the president set up a committee to make wider consultations on the agreement with a view to coming up with recommendations on whether Nigeria should join AfCFTA or not.
The committee, while submitting its report on June 27, advised Buhari to sign the agreement, listing a number of factors, which aided the committee’s recommendations and the benefits accruable from it.
Shortly after signing the agreement yesterday, the president, according to the statement, declared that Nigeria’s commitment to trade and African integration had never been in doubt neither had it ever been under any threat.
The statement added that Buhari told the summit that Nigeria would build on yesterday’s signing of the treaty by proceeding expeditiously with the ratification of the AfCFTA.
‘‘Nigeria wishes to emphasise that free trade must also be fair trade. As African leaders, our attention should now focus on implementing the AfCFTA in a way that develops our economies and creates jobs for our young, dynamic and hardworking population,” Buhari said, adding: “I wish to assure you that Nigeria shall sustain its strong leadership role in Africa, in the implementation of the AfCFTA. We shall also continue to engage, constructively with all African countries to build the Africa that we want.”
The statement, which copiously quoted the president on his observations on the agreement, also said the president congratulated Ghana on its selection to host the Secretariat of the AfCFTA, while describing the signing of the agreement on behalf of Nigeria as an honour.
The president recalled his hesitation to sign last year, explaining it was due to reservations at home.
He said he subsequently extensively consulted and sensitized the stakeholders, adding that the outcome was a buy in by all concerned.
“Our consultations and assessments reaffirmed that the AfCFTA can be a platform for African manufacturers of goods and providers of service to construct regional value chains for made in Africa goods and services,” Buhari said, adding: “It was also obvious that we have a lot of work to do to prepare our nation to achieve our vision for intra-African trade, which is the free movement of ‘made in Africa goods.’
According to him, “Some of the critical challenges that we identified will require our collective action as a union and we will be presenting them for consideration at the appropriate AfCFTA fora.
“Examples are tackling injurious trade practices by third parties and attracting the investment we need to grow local manufacturing and service capacities.”
Adesina also quoted Buhari as saying that Nigeria’s signing of the AfCFTA and its operational launch at the 12th Extra