The Organised Private Sector (OPS), has cautioned the Nigerian Government over signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), to prevent another disastrous policy blunder.
The OPS, under the Nigerian Employers' Consultative Association (NECA), argued that the agreement, although a good idea on paper, has a potential for negative consequences for local businesses and the national economy.
The President of NECA, Dr. Mohammed Yinusa, who said the current pressure to sign the agreement is very dangerous, disclosed that the association rejects the ratification of the AfCFTA until issues around market access and enforcement of rules of origin, among other concerns are addressed.
Yinusa, at a news conference explained that Nigeria, with its huge population cannot allow itself to be used to create import-duty havens for the regional and global businesses, noting that it will spell doom for local businesses.
"The AfCFTA will, no doubt, further drag the comatose real sector into extinction. For Nigeria, our attention at a time like this when our economy is just coming out of the woods, is to focus on solving the intertwined fiscal and growth-crippling problems by massively investing in the real sector that is presently less than 10% of GDP.
"The once thriving textile industries in Nigeria have become ghosts of their former self. The pharmaceuticals, footwear and tyre companies are now competing with global brands from a disadvantaged position of operating in an environment with numerous structural problems and poor socio-economic infrastructures," Yinusa said.
He urged government to intensify the thrust to diversify the economy from crude oil, especially as other emerging countries are becoming a better destination for Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).
This is due to the current downward slide of crude oil price fuelled by high supplies, alliance between some producers, and uncertain economic growth, which may hamper current economic prospects in the country, particularly if the development refuses to abate.
He also advised the federal and state governments to remain focused on ensuring broad-based economic policies that would ensure improved economic activities across most sectors and develop business-friendly laws.
He equally counselled the continuous existence of businesses by avoiding inconsistencies in policies, boosting employment, improving corporate and firm performance, and reducing poverty and unemployment, all of which can truly impact Nigerians positively.