President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria is too big and too diverse to blindly sign agreements without understanding the consequences of such actions.
The president said this when he received representatives of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), led by its president, Babatunde Ruwase, at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Friday.
Buhari used the occasion of his audience with members of the LCCI to explain his decision to inaugurate a presidential committee to assess the potential costs and impact of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area for Nigeria (AfCTA).
Nigeria was absent in March as leaders from 44 African countries signed the agreement to form a $2.5 trillion continental free-trade zone.
The free-trade zone is the largest in the world since the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995.
But Buhari said Nigeria is still assessing the impact of this agreement on its backward integration and import substitution policies.
“Specifically, the provisions on rules of origin and trans shipment were matters of concern to us,” he said.
“Already, some of the treaties we are party to have been significantly abused, resulting in massive smuggling which has crippled many of our local industries and destroyed millions of jobs.
“To avoid these past mistakes, we conducted vast consultations across the country in which the LCCI participated. The responses have been mixed.’’
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had said Buhari’s hands were too weak to sign the AfCTA.
He made the statement while speaking at the Babacar Ndiaye lecture series in Bali, Indonesia, two weeks ago.
Taunting Buhari, Obasanjo had said he hoped Nigeria would soon have a president who will sign the agreement.
“Africa cannot overcome fears of trade wars till it achieves 50 percent intra-Africa trade,” he had said.
“We now have the continental free trade agreement which is a good idea and I can assure that Nigeria will soon sign. Hopefully, we will soon have a president who will be able to sign because the president that is there now, his hands are too weak to sign.”
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