Stakeholders’ interest threaten free trade agreement

Stakeholders in the various sectors of the Nigerian economy have vehemently kicked against the move by the government to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

They made their unanimous decision known to the government at the just concluded stakeholders’ forum on African Continental Free Trade Agreement organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) at Commerce House Victoria Island, Lagos.

According to them, the move by the government was faulty on the ground that they were not carried along at the inception, stressing that the country was not economically buoyant enough to become a signatory to such agreement.

The Founder and President of Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria (CAFON), Mrs. Sola Salako, called on the government to ensure that all the economic indices that would make the country more competitive were put in place.

Salako revealed that at the moment, consumer protection structures in the country are very weak, emphasizing that a lot of sub-standard goods  produced in other countries often find their way into Nigeria.

According to her, if the government goes ahead to become a signatory to the AfCFTA, Nigeria will automatically become a dumping ground for sub-standard goods and services from other parts of the world.

In her words: “Our focus right now should be, how we can make our local industries competitive so that they can compete at international level. Our business owners don’t have access to funds. We have the highest bank charges”

“Those structures that should adequately protect the consumers are not there. If we go ahead and sign this pact; we are setting ourselves at disintegration”

Speaking in the same vein, Chairman, Economic and Statistics Committee of LCCI, Dr. Ayo Teriba, affirmed that stakeholders were not carried along in the first instance.

Teriba, however, stressed that since the government has seen the need to sensitize experts in the industry on the need to sign the AfCFTA, it should, as a matter of urgency, tackle most of the economic challenges that are bedeviling the country.

According to him, we need to fix our infrastructural problems. We don’t have good roads; power is an issue as well as lack of funds to our people who want to engage in various businesses, noting that we have a lot of economic challenges in Nigeria.

While reacting to the submission of the stakeholders, The Chief Trade Negotiator for Nigeria and Director General of the Nigerian Office Trade Negotiations, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, pleaded with them, stressing that the government woke up late on sensitizing the stakeholders on such issue.

In Osakwe’s words: “We woke up late on the sensitization. We ought to have done this earlier. We should have consulted more deeply and widely”

He however assured Nigerians that signing the AfCFTA pack was necessary because its economic benefits out weights such problems.

It would be recalled that about 44 African countries had signed the AfCFTA agreement in Rwandan capital, Kigali on March 22, 2018. Nigeria and South Africa were conspicuously absent at the Kigali meeting.


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