In the wake of discordant tunes over Nigeria’s government willingness to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which manufacturers and business concerns in the country have kicked against, the government has moved to assure manufacturers and other business concerns that their interest would be protected in the new agreement.
Goeffrey Onyeama, foreign affairs minister, told journalists after a meeting with a cross-section of members of Organised Private Sector on AfCFTA in Abuja.
Onyeama said he convened the meeting to address some issues concerning AfCFTA before being signed at the meeting of Africa heads of states on March 21 in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Federal Executive Council, on Wednesday, gave President Muhammadu Buhari the nod to sign the agreement on behalf of Nigeria.
He said Nigeria was mindful of the need to protect the productive sector while signing the agreement and would guard against anything to the contrary.
The proposed launch of AfCFTA is part of the African Union’s initiative to promote greater integration in Africa and create a continental Free Trade Area, Onyeama said.
Nigeria had been very much involved in it and Chiedu Osakwe, the chief trade negotiator for Nigeria, had been the driving force of the initiative and had been working on the agreement, he assured.
“At the same time we must not kill the industry here in Nigeria. We know there are lots of malpractices going on, possibility of dumping and other acts that could be detrimental to the country,” the minister said.
“Now certain sector of Nigeria (economy), especially MAN, has some questions about how much this agreement would be in the interest of Nigeria and I was very keen in bringing them together so that there will be total involvement and inclusive process where all the stakeholders would be included. It was also clear that there was information gap and I was very keen to address the gap,” he explained.
According to him a lot of information about what Nigeria is doing, what positions it is negotiating in the agreement are not apparent to MAN and other companies in the country.
He said it was important that the stakeholders see the details of the negotiation.
The minister said it would enable them to see that the interest of the country’s manufacturing sector was fully protected and to appreciate that this was an opportunity for Nigeria to have greater market access across the continent.
Onyeama said the meeting was also an opportunity for Osakwe to show clearly all the provisions in the agreement for the stakeholders to see that their interests were fully protected.
MAN, NACCIMA, and other sectoral organisations have kicked against Nigeria’s willingness to go ahead with the agreement, asserting that it would kill local industries and turn the country into a dumping ground as it was a ploy for developed economies to kill off the gains of local manufacturers.