The Nation | 14 July 2018
Buhari gives condition to sign Africa Free Trade Agreement
By Wale Odunsi
President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria will only be signatory to the Continental Free Trade Agreement if the nation’s national interests as well as regional and international obligations are balanced.
The President reiterated this position at the 2018 Annual General Meeting/25th Anniversary of the African Export-Import Bank held in Abuja on Saturday.
President Buhari stated that he had already directed relevant agencies to conduct intensive and extensive consultations on the free trade agreement in view of the fact that Nigeria was a trading nation and no nation could survive on its own.
He said: ”Therefore, there is a need to ensure our national interests as well as our regional and international obligations are balanced.
“Accordingly, I directed the relevant agencies to conduct intensive and extensive consultations across the nation on the Continental Free Trade Agreement.
“Nigeria is a federation of 36 states plus FCT Abuja, 774 local governments and millions of interested stakeholders who must be consulted with and listened to, inorder to ensure an optimum outcome.
“Significant progress has been made in these consultations. The team has met key stakeholders across six geo-political zones.
“The responses have been diverse as would be expected. However, one clear message has emerged which is that any trade agreement must be both ‘free and fair’. This fairness is achievable and we will work towards it”.
The President noted with delight the positive impact Afrexim bank had made to date, saying he was encouraged by the bank’s plans for inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa’s economies.
According to him, Africa’s journey to prosperity can only be achieved by supporting inclusive and sustainable projects, and called on member states to support the AFREXIM bank to deliver on its mandate.
He stated that his administration had adopted a policy of inclusive economic growth and was determined to attain this by reducing the nation’s over reliance on crude oil.
“To date, we have invested aggressively in infrastructure to support our growth potential in agriculture and solid minerals.
”We are also empowering many Nigerian entrepreneurs in the entertainment and digital economies to mention a few,” he said.