By Adedayo Akinwale ín Abuja
The National Assembly has said that it is yet to receive any communication relating to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) from the executive, despite having the constitutional mandate to domesticate government treaties, protocols and agreements.
The Chairman, House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, Hon. Nicholas Ossai, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja while delivering a goodwill message at a public lecture series on “African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA): Issues and Implication for Nigeria”, organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).
He revealed that in the coming weeks, his committee would host a special public hearing on review of all Nigeria’s treaties, protocols and agreements and a roundtable to initiate a National Policy on Arbitration to enable Nigerians benefit optimally from government bilateral engagements.
Ossai stated: “Of greater concern is the fact that the National Assembly whose constitutional mandate in line with section 12(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to ratify/domesticate government treaties, protocols and agreements, are usually completely sidelined by the executive in the processes leading to negotiations, consultations and signing of some of these agreements.
“As I speak now, the National Assembly is yet to receive any official documents or communication relating to the AFCTA. The implication is that Nigeria will be expending tax payers’ money on issues that doesn’t have force of law in the country, especially with the full knowledge that under the international law, Nigeria cannot renege on her state obligation on account of none ratification of her treaties/agreements by the National Parliament.”
Ossai noted that on the strength of the foregoing, and the fact that several bilateral treaties, protocols and agreements signed by successive governments, including this present administration that clearly borders on how Nigeria relates, and cooperates with other countries to protect the country’s economic national interest are yet to be domesticated.
Earlier, the Director General of NILDS, Abubakar Sulaiman, said it was important to note that
prior to and after the adoption of the AfCFTA, several concerns and issues have been raised by policy makers, stakeholders and members of parliament, among others.
He stressed that while some stakeholders and analysts believed AfCFTA would enhance the general standard of living in all participating countries, others, including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) argued that it would undermine the development of the manufacturing sector in Nigeria, while also making the country a dumping ground.
Sulaiman said that it was against this background that NILDS, in fulfilling its mandate of providing technical support to the legislature, organised the public lecture to bare the key issues, challenges and implications of the AfCFTA for Nigeria and also explore ways to harness the agreement for diversification, economic development and poverty reduction.
On his part, a member of the Economic Advisory Council to the President, Dr. Sheu Yahaya, said that the assumption that since Nigeria is the largest economy in the continent and the most populous, it would automatically be in the position to benefit maximally from the AfCFTA is not the case, adding that Nigeria has to work for it to gain maximum benefit from the agreement.
He stressed that for Nigeria to have a maximum benefit of the agreement, it must boost its competitive advantage and address the issue of productivity; while also maintaining a relatively stable exchange rates over time and avoid the problems of multiple exchange rates.
Yahaya explained that avoiding multiple exchange rates would provide a long term signal to both foreign and domestics investors, as well as the manufacturing sector to plan ahead.
He stressed that it was crucial for the federal government to manage the economy to avoid excessive inflation by achieving a relatively low domestic interest rates to enable the expansion of domestic investment, especially by the small and medium enterprises.
Yahaya alleged that there are many industrialised countries that are planning to use some of the African countries has a conduit to fully expand their export to Nigeria, hiding under the cover of domestic production of many of the West African countries.
“To avoid that, Nigeria has to have the capacity to monitor imports, which is its borders, to ensure that the ‘Rules of Origin’ are respected, otherwise Nigeria will become a dumping ground for subsidised products from the industrialised countries, which will undermine domestic manufacturing capacity in Nigeria. The capacity to police this and to follow it up is not simply a question of changing or agreement, it’s also the capacity for Nigeria to enforce its own regulations,” he said.