President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said his administration will not be in a hurry to enter into any agreement that would make the country a dumping ground and jeopardise the security of the nation.
Consequently, the President has set up a committee to review the Continental Free Trade Area, CFTA, framework agreement, which was signed in Kigali, Rwanda, yesterday, by some African countries.
The President's declaration came as 44 African countries agreed to form a $3 trillion continental free-trade zone encompassing 1.2 billion people, even as the continent's two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, were among countries that withheld their consent.
This is even as President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Dr. Frank Jacobs, said at a media briefing, yesterday, that the agreement, in its present form, would put Nigeria's manufacturing sector and the economy in general at a gross disadvantage against other countries.
Briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by the President at the Council Chambers, Presidential Villa, Abuja, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, said it was expected that Minister of Labour would call for a stakeholders' meeting with the labour movement to brainstorm on the implications of the CFTA framework agreement.
He said: "The explanation from the President, which the FEC bought, was that he would not want to agree to anything that would hinder local entrepreneurs, and on the surface, except if proven wrong, is that that agreement has the capacity to affect local entrepreneurship.
"Then he also said anything that could encourage the dumping of finished goods in Nigeria was going to be contrary to our interest. So, it is one of the reasons he declined. Then he said the country is yet to fully understand the economic and security implications of the agreement."
44 countries agree on $3trn African trade bloc
Meanwhile, 44 African countries, yesterday, agreed to form a $3 trillion continental free-trade zone encompassing 1.2 billion people, even as the continent's two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, were among countries that withheld their consent.
The African Union, AU, in 2015 moved to establish a 55-nation bloc, African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, expected to be the biggest in the world by member states, in a bid to increase intra-regional trade.
Nigeria, S/Africa lead boycott
Nigeria pulled out at the last minute due to pressure on government from stakeholders that they were not adequately consulted on the agreement.
Others staying out of the bloc were Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. It was not immediately clear why South Africa stayed on the sidelines.
MAN calls for review of draft agreement
At a press briefing, yesterday, in Lagos, President of MAN, Dr. Frank Jacobs, said the agreement, in its current form, will put Nigeria's manufacturing sector and the economy in general at a gross disadvantage against other countries.
MAN called on government to convene a special meeting of relevant stakeholders, including experts on trade policy, to quickly review the text of the draft agreement to reflect Nigeria's national interest.
He said: "We are at a great disadvantage to many countries in the continent in terms of infrastructure such as inadequate power, bad roads, and inefficient rail services.
"Though, we acknowledge that government has scaled up intervention in infrastructural development, as evidenced in devoting more funds to capital projects in 2018 budget, until we achieve appreciable progress in this regard, we would be competing at an unfair advantage. 'We recommended that government should back out because there was no adequate and proper consultation."
"Ideally, we had expected that we would be carried along, because some critical concerns that would have been addressed during negotiations were not adequately addressed. It is important to address the concern of the private sector during the negotiations," Jacobs said.
Rwandan president Paul Kagame, host of an African Union (AU) summit, called to conclude the initial negotiations, and declared the meeting a success after 44 African nations signed up to establish the free trade bloc within 18 months.
The project needed a minimum of 22 countries signing up to get off the ground and Kagame hailed the effort so far.
"It would have been great if the two biggest economies on the continent, Nigeria and South Africa, had signed, but the most important is that the rest of the continent is sending a right message to these two biggest economies that we are moving ahead without you. What is at stake is the dignity and well-being of Africa's farmers, workers and entrepreneurs," said Michael Kottoh, an analyst at Confidential Strategies in Ghana.