President Muhammadu Buhari has charged members of the newly inaugurated National Action Committee for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) to protect Nigeria’s economy against hurt.
The President, who gave the charge on Friday during the inauguration ceremony of the committee, held at the State House, Abuja, said he eventually signed the agreement after all necessary due diligence had been done.
He charged all the parties representing Nigeria’s interest in the agreement to work together, block all loopholes that could result in losses for the country, reminding them that the country took measured steps before signing the agreement.
While assuring the committee of cooperation from all government officials, including ministers and other senior functionaries, he said he expects quarterly reports from it on its progresses, the first of which must be March 2020.
“As a government, we must ensure that Nigeria’s position remains that, such integration must be rules-based with built-in safeguards, against injurious practices.
“Nigeria’s approach to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement has been very measured and consistent. Our logic was simple, as Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation, we cannot afford to get it wrong.
“We consulted all key stakeholders. We also conducted a rigorous impact and readiness evaluation. It was after these consultations and studies, and satisfactory reports that I signed the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement on behalf of Nigeria in July this year.
“We know the benefits and understand the challenges. It is clear that for us to fully benefit from this agreement, we must have an implementation programme that reflects our national trade objectives and development plans.
“This, therefore, requires aligning, restructuring existing development projects, programme and initiatives. Where there are gaps, we must address them. Accordingly, we have established the National Action Committee on AfCFTA.
“As a Committee, your mandate is to support the efforts of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, stakeholder associations and businesses to realize the benefits of the AfCFTA, while putting measures to address any threats that may arise. All parties must work together and not allow any loopholes that might prove injurious to the Nigerian economy.
“I have directed all key Ministers and Senior Government officials to provide maximum support to your Committee.
“For us as a government, our expectation from this agreement is job creation for our youth, increased production of our local raw materials and ultimately, exporting quality Made in Africa goods.
“You are to submit quarterly reports on your progress, and I look forward to receiving your first report in March 2020”, the President said.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, said the committee, during its engagement with stakeholders, had come to conclude that the AfCFTA can enhance economic growth for the country.
The Minister, who is the Chairman of the committee, said that it had also been realised that for Nigeria to benefit from the agreement, a lot of structural readjustments have to be made.
“From the stakeholder engagements and technical studies, we established that the AFCFTA can facilitate economic growth and diversification through preferential access to Africa’s market.
“We also established that in order to get the full benefits of the Agreement, Nigeria needs to: increase her production and service capacities; implement adjustment measures such as retooling and upscaling of existing businesses; resolve bottlenecks in energy, logistics and quality infrastructure; improve public service delivery, education and health.
“With the above readiness requirements in mind, Your Excellency in August 2019, approved the strategy for the implementation of AfCFTA and directed the establishment of a National Action Committee on AfCFTA, to undertake a wide range of actions to prepare Nigerian businesses for trade under the AFCFTA regime”, he said.
Other members of the committee are the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, who is the Alternate Chairman; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters, Office of the Chief of Staff, who is Secretary.
Others are Director General Budget Office of the Federation; Permanent Secretary Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment; Director General, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations; Senior Special Assistant to the President on Development Policy, Office of the Chief of Staff; Director, Technical Services, Federal Ministry of Finance; Director level representatives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Others are representatives from Federal Ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment; Transportation, Aviation Agriculture and Rural Development; Petroleum Resources, Mines and Steel Development, Power; Communications and Digital Economy, Works and Housing and many others.