The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari bowed to domestic pressure and cancelled his trip to Kigali where he was scheduled to join other African heads of States on the Wednesday 21st in signing the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
A statement from the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the President’s trip was cancelled to allow more time for consultations from stakeholders.
“President Muhamamdu Buhari has cancelled his trip to Kigali, Rwanda, to attend an Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on Tuesday, March 21, and to sign the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area”
“This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders,” said a statement released by Tope Elias-Fatile, The spokesman for the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Although the country still has up to 180 days to sign the agreement after the heads of states summit, the development is a win for domestic pressure groups against the pact.
This comes after government had earlier confirmed its attendance of the summit after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the signing of the AfCFTA pact in a meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
The move was overruled on grounds that it did not make enough consultations, with Buhari choosing not to rush the signing to create more time for consultations especially from parties that are against signing AfCFTA.
Various parties especially members of the country’s private sector like, The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, National Association of Small Scale Industrialists among others have come out openly and exerted pressure on the federal government not to sign the pact, which seems to have worked.
The Nigeria Labour Congress has also advised against the signing of the agreement.
The government had stated that the agreement would expand market access for Nigeria’s exporters of goods and services, spur growth and boost job creation, as well as eliminate barriers against Nigeria’s products and provide a dispute settlement mechanism for stopping the hostile and discriminatory treatment directed against Nigerian natural and corporate business persons in other African countries.
Economic experts in Nigeria have said the agreement if signed would open the Nigeria to economic abuse and put it at a disadvantage in many ways.
They said many African countries already rely on the Nigerian market for as destination for their goods, that any attempt to further open up the Nigerian market would jeopardize the country’s industrialisation efforts.
“The only time we can sign economic partnership with anybody is when we know that if we do so it’s to our benefit” said Odilim Enwagbara, a developmental Economist.
“We signed the World Trade Organization partnership in 1995 and China did not sign it until 2000 and so Russia did not sign it too until early 2000.
“We have to make sure our house is in order before we sign any economic partnership, if we open our borders under the CFTA, it will affect our industries.” He observed.
Analysts have given the country’s high costs of production implementation of AfCFTA will affect Nigeria’s economy, that its market would be a target for goods produced cheaply in other African countries.
“Nigeria is a net importing country of goods and services, as far as we are not technologically advanced, as far as we have a large population, as far as our cost of production remains high, Nigeria will be a dumping ground for goods and services, said Chijioke Ekechukwu, the former Director-General of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry.