Buhari gives assurance AfCFTA treaty won’t affect manufacturers’ interest

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Manufacturers got an assurance on Wednesday from President Muhammadu Buhari that the African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaty would not affect their interests.

He assured the manufacturing and business community that proper safeguards would be put in place to block adverse malpractices.

The President gave the reassurance when he hosted the leadership of the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), led by its President Babatunde Ruwase, at the State House in Abuja.

According to him, this will be done in the next phase of AfCFTA negotiations
He said: “The consultative approach Nigeria took on the AfCFTA is just another example of our desire for sustainable and inclusive growth.

“The team visited all the geopolitical zones. We met farmers, commodity traders, manufacturers, bankers and stock brokers. And we listened and made note of their views.

“Our studies revealed that although the services sector was doing ok, other key job creating sectors such as manufacturing and processing were still lagging behind.

“This is evident by the fact that intra-African trade only accounts for 14 per cent of Africa’s total trade. As a continent, our consumption is mostly of goods imported from outside the continent.

“We viewed this as both an opportunity and a threat. It is an opportunity as Nigerian manufacturers can aggressively expand to meet the huge demand across the continent.

“It is a threat as one can abuse the rules of origin to flood the market with imports from outside the continent thereby destroying jobs here at home.

“Nigeria’s engagement in the next phase of the negotiations is to ensure proper safeguards are put in place to support African manufacturers. We shall continue to count on your support to ensure this goal is achieved.”

Admitting that the Apapa gridlock still remains a challenge, he said that he was saddened that businesses have had to suffer as a result of it.

The President said that the Federal Government was doing its best and working with the Lagos State Government to bring an end to the problem.

He also assured the group of his administration’s continued commitment to supporting the private sector to flourish and create jobs across the country.

He added: “In the last four years, we have invested heavily in infrastructure development. We supported our development banks to provide loans to traders and small enterprises.

“We signed executive orders to support local content consumption. We also focused on enhancing ease of doing business to facilitate investment.
“Thankfully, there was alignment with the monetary authorities and this significantly contributed to the successes we are seeing today.”

Ruwase listed the importance of the CAMA bill and the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) as he urged the President to sign them into law.

On Apapa gridlock, the LCCI chief commended Federal Government’s effort in decongesting the gridlock, saying the move had brought a partial relief.

He pleaded with the President to sustain the effort, stressing that the challenge is not over yet.

Ruwase said: “We commended your intervention to resolve the traffic gridlock around the Lagos ports in Apapa. We have experienced partial decongestion of the roads but the problem is still not over. We urge you to please sustain your interest in this matter to ensure that it is fully resolved.”

He also urged the President to prevail on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to deepen its consultations with stakeholders before major monetary policy decisions are taken.

He commended the President on the signing of AfCFTA, saying it will promote continental economic integration as well as the growth of member countries.

He also commended the constitution of the National Action Committee (NAC) on the implementation of the agreement, pointing out that the group would be looking forward to speedy execution of programmes and projects that will foster the atmosphere for competitiveness among Nigerian businesses.

“We commend Your Excellency for signing the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). We believe it would promote continental economic integration and economic growth of member countries.

“We appreciate in particular the extensive consultation with the private sector which preceded the signing of the agreement.

“We also commend the recent setting up of National Action Committee on the implementation of the AfCFTA. We look forward to speedy execution of programmes and projects that will create the environment to enhance the competitiveness of Nigerian businesses within the context of the AfCFTA.”

Ruwase had during his visit to President Buhari on the October 26, last year, sought for expeditious consideration of the PIB.
 He also drew his attention to some abandoned Federal Government properties in Lagos, among other issues.

The LCCI had also visited Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his office on many occasions in the past four years.
The Nation.