Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council has thrown its weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to consult widely before Nigeria signs the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
President Buhari, in March, cancelled a trip to Kigali, Rwanda, where an extra-ordinary summit of African Union was scheduled to sign the agreement Buhari said the cancellation was to allow for more consultations with stakeholders iin the country, over the trade agreement.
Stakeholders, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the organised private sector, raised concerns over the implications of the agreement for the country’s economy and argued that government ought to have consulted more widely. The NLC had, in a statement, said the agreement will lead to a collapse of the country’s manufacturing sector and loss of jobs.
However, the Federal Executive Council, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had, on Wednesday, March 13, approved that Nigeria signs the agreement with fellow African countries. The Industrial Council, at its meeting, on Friday, presided over by Osinbajo, received a status report on the continental trade agreement and supported the need for more consultations before Nigeria ratifies the agreement.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, told State House Correspondents, after the meeting, that “council reinforced the importance of consultation, which was what the president said.”
He said: “The meeting agreed with the president and concurred that more consultation is the way to go, because the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement will have implications for us, which, we hope, will be positive.”
Enelamah said the private sector was critical to the implementation of the agreement, making it imperative that they be consulted before Nigeria signs the agreement.
Enelamah said Friday’s meeting of the industrial council took stock of the work being done on 49 interventions that have been identified and the progress made.