Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari saturday abruptly cancelled his scheduled trip to Kigali, Rwanda on Monday where he had been billed to join other African leaders to sign the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement on Wednesday in pursuit of the African Union (AU) 2063 vision.
There was no official information on the reason for the cancellation saturday as some members of the presidentâ€™s advance team had already arrived Kigali before the cancellation while others were yet at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport when information on the cancellation got to them.
Confirming the cancellation last night, a member of the second team told THISDAY that he was just alighting in his house from the vehicle which conveyed him from the airport. According to him, they were suddenly recalled from the airport without any reason.
â€œIâ€™m just coming down from the vehicle that brought me from the airport.
No reason was given yet for the cancellation,â€ he said.
The sudden cancellation looked shocking in view of the celebration of the planned trip by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, while briefing journalists in the State House, had said FEC approved in its meeting of Wednesday that Nigeria should sign the agreement, pointing out that the president would be in Kigali on Wednesday to sign the agreement. He also said FEC resolved that Nigeria should bid for the location of the secretariat of CFTA in view of Nigeriaâ€™s outstanding roles during the negotiation process.
â€œIn terms of what was approved in council today, the council approved for Nigeria to sign that agreement establishing CFTA in Kigali on March 21 which will be signed by our president at an extraordinary session of the AU. It also approved for Nigeria to express an interest in preparing a bid to host the secretariat where the work will be done.
â€œNigeria has played a leadership role in the negotiations. Our chief negotiator and director-general of the Nigerian office for trade negotiations was the chairperson of the negotiating technical team.
â€œAlso the African Ministers for Trade and Group was chaired by myself and so, if they played a leading role in this negotiation, we feel that it is better to lead than to follow. Therefore, we also got an approval to express an interest in the secretariat of CFTA, that the headquarters be located in Nigeria. Obviously, we are expecting it to be a competitive process but Nigeria will be interested.
â€œWe also got an approval for the Nigerian office for trade negotiations along ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and the private sector to work together and continue with the next stage of the negotiation. The first stage is the overall framework establishing CFTA. The next is the protocol on trade in goods and associated annexes; also a protocol on trade in services and finally, the protocol on rules and procedures for the settlement of disputes,â€ Enelamah said.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari thursday in Abuja congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on his re-election as the President of the Peoples Republic of China.
The president, according to his media adviser, personally signed a letter addressed to the Chinese president, praising him for his wisdom and vision.
â€œOn behalf of the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I congratulate you most sincerely on your re-election as the President of the Peoples Republic of China.
â€œYour re-election is an indication of the trust and confidence reposed in you by the people of China on your ability to bring your vision and wisdom to bear in the conduct of national and global affairs,â€ he said in the letter.
The statement also said Buhari stated that he looked forward to increased cooperation between China and Nigeria on one hand and China and Africa on the other hand.
â€œIt is my firm belief that your re-election will also bolster the existing mutually benefiting partnership between the Peoples Republic of China and Nigeria.
â€œI look forward to meeting Your Excellency at the forthcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit in September 2018. I am confident that it will be a great success and good opportunity to draw up new levels of partnership between Africa and China,â€ he added.