The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership in Nigeria (CACOL) on behalf of members in various gamut of the country and all progressive minded Nigerians, we salute the courage President Muhammadu Buhari in not attending the African Continental Free Trade Agreement session in Kigali between 20th and 22nd of March, 2018 and the resolve not also sign the agreement until all necessary consultations have been carried out.
It would be recalled that the President was billed to attend the session in Kigali, even the advanced delegates have travelled out for the conference but on the strength of opposition by some critical stakeholders like the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), the President had to cancel his trip for further consultations.
To any averagely patriotic person, the reasons adduced by the opposition are not only valid but really a huge cause for concern. The NLC and MAN alleged that the agreement would negatively slow down the pace of the nation’s industrial take-off and turn the country into a dumping ground for other nations’ industrial products. Nigeria along with ten other nations withdrew their consent for the Agreement while about Forty Four countries signed it. The issues are deeper than what it appears at the surface examination. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) since its inauguration in 1995 has been making overt and covert pressures for countries to adopt the African version of its agreement in the African continent. The lure is the combined gross domestic product of $3.4Trillion which is expected would generate $1.2Billion if fully explored. Interestingly, successive administrations have been active in several meeting since 2015 for the establishment of the AfCFTA, and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has endorsed the Agreement at its meeting of 14th March, 2018 but had to reverse itself to pull out of it on 18th March, 2018 due to social pressure. Most Presidents would have gone ahead to sign the Agreement without taking a second look despite social pressure, thus, the democratic credentials of Mr. President deserve encomiums.
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For us to properly situate what this Agreement would meant for the nation, we have to consider where opposition to the non-signing of came from. Ex=President Olusegun Obasanjo at the “When Leaders Make History” event of the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire came out flaming in condemning the refusal of President Buhari to sign the Agreement. He urged the President to reverse himself and sign the Agreement before it would be too late for the country. This dooms day alarm is just characteristic of the former President whenever he is on prowl to implement errands for his various overlords across the globe.
CACOL, on the contrary ask Mr. President to remain resolute on his decision and should not be cowed by forces that are intent at controlling Nigeria’s huge market without given considerations for bad consequences to the country. Nigeria is not just contending with economic stagnation but has been consciously de-industrialised by policies imposed by neo-liberal organisations like WTO and ACFTA that advocates trade liberalization policies. Many industries in the country folded up and relocated to neighbouring countries because of lack of relevant infrastructural facilities.
A vintage example of how these platforms manipulate member-states was the smuggling of the “ rule of origin” clause snare. This requires that when an African country that is cover by the Agreement sell some products in the Nigeria for example, the attendant tariffs would go to the originating country. Therefore, a member state like Burundi can get cheap products from China or Europe and, package same in its name and bring to Nigeria without any hindrances. This does not only rob the country of potential revenues but would be harmful to the nation’s industries and economic plans.
We urge all Nigerians to stand behind Mr. President in rejecting this harmful Agreement to sell the country into second slavery and retard our industrial development in perpetuity.
. Olawale Omotaje Media Coordinator, CACOL