Buhari: National Interest will Determine Nigeria’s Decision on AfCFTA

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Muhammadu Buhari

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari wednesday in Abuja said Nigeria would be guided by ‘‘national interest’’ in its decision on the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said Buhari made the promise while receiving the National Council of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN) led by its president, Mr. Mansur Ahmed.

According to Adesina, Buhari said he was prepared to receive the report of the committee set up to assess the potential costs and impact of signing the agreement establishing the AfCFTA on Nigeria.

According to him, the president recalled that the Presidential Steering Committee on AfCFTA Impact and Readiness Assessment Committee was inaugurated on October 22, 2018, with the mandate to assess the extent to which Nigeria was ready to join the agreement, and what the impact of doing so would be.

The statement said the committee was initially given 12 weeks to conclude its assignment, after holding wide consultations with industry groups and stakeholders, including MAN, adding that Buhari told the leadership of MAN that AfCFTA is on the agenda for the upcoming African Union (AU) Summit in Niamey, Niger Republic, in July.

‘‘I don’t think Nigeria has the capacity to effectively supervise and to ensure that our colleagues in AU don’t allow their countries to be used to dump goods on us to the detriment of our young industries and our capacity to utilise foreign exchange for imported goods,’’ Buhari said.

The statement added that Buhari promised to look into MAN’s presentation, highlighting issues of concern to the manufacturing sector, including the AfCFTA, Export Expansion Grant and other incentives as well as challenges with the 2019 fiscal policy measures, recent increase in NAFDAC charges, the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Act, 2019, among others.

‘‘I assure you that I know the enormity of our problems in terms of population growth rate and teeming young people.

‘‘We need to move very fast, and the government will try and encourage you as very much as possible so that the problem of unemployment and the provision of other services relative to our population and state of development can be tolerated,’’ Buhari was further quoted as saying.

According to the statement, earlier in his remarks, MAN’s president outlined some credible policies that have driven the economy forward in the first term of Buhari, commending the administration for what he described as consistent efforts to sustain the growth trajectory anchored on improving the business environment.

It also said Ahmed recognised government’s efforts at improving the Ease of Doing Business Project, fight against corruption, focus on poverty reduction, job creation, inclusive growth as well as the launch of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, adding that despite the significant progress recorded in the last four years, ‘‘it is clear that our economy is still fragile.’’

He quoted him as saying, “With the GDP at two per cent and below the population growth rate, the clouds are still threatening and the task of driving the economy upwards is still enormous.

‘‘But Your Excellency we are encouraged by the very strong commitment you expressed only last week in your Democracy Day address.

‘‘You did say that in your second term, your administration will do, even more, not only to continue to drive the economy on the path of sustained growth but indeed to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”