Yesterday Nigeria joined the list of African countries that have signed the Africa Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA). President Muhammadu Buhari finally signed the agreement in Niamey, Niger Republic. This is happening almost after one year since the AfCFTA agreement was open for signing in Kigali. Rwanda during the 10th Extraordinary summit in March, 2018.
Despite the suspension of the planned Ruga settlement by the federal government, Nigerians are still weighing on the matter. They are saying cattle herding is private business and shouldn’t concern the federal government.
Major Nigerian Newspapers have more on these stories:
Guardian Newspaper: How to make Africa’s free trade deal work for Nigeria
With Nigeria’s joining of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) a done deal, the country’s chances of benefitting from the treaty could depend on how ingeniously it gets its economic acts together. At exactly 10:47 a.m. yesterday in Niamey, Niger Republic, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the agreement in the presence of African Heads of State and Government, delegates and representatives from the private sector, civil society and the media at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on Launch of the Operational Phase of the AfCFTA.
The move brought to an end the months of delay and heated debates among stakeholders on the propriety or otherwise of Nigeria jumping on the trade bandwagon. Buhari acknowledged this when he said: “This is coming over a year since the AfCFTA Agreement was opened for signature in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union, on 21st March 2018.”
On his country’s initial restraint, he explained: “We fully understand the potential of the AfCFTA to transform trade in Africa and contribute towards solving some of the continent’s challenges, whether security, economic or corruption. “But it is also clear to us that for AfCFTA to succeed, we need the full support and buy-in of our private sector and civil society stakeholders and the public in general.”
He promised that Nigeria would “sustain its strong leadership role in Africa, in the implementation of the AfCFTA.” He also noted: “Nigeria wishes to emphasise that free trade must also be fair trade” and that “as African leaders, our attention should now focus on implementing the AfCFTA in a way that develops our economies and creates jobs for our young, dynamic and hardworking population.”
How to achieve these goals meanwhile have got economic experts talking. “The gains depend on the ability of Nigeria to push its goods across borders. The question is, can we push? What do we export to other African countries? They are basically vessels and other floating structures, electrical energy, cement, pasta and refined petroleum products. So, our gains depend on how offensive we can be in pushing tradable goods abroad,” said Dr. Solomon Olakojo of the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan.
A former consultant to the World Bank, Dr. Samson Olalere, told The Guardian: “For this to be advantageous to Nigeria, the industrial sector of the economy has to be improved upon. The implication of the signing is that Nigeria will become a dumping ground for goods from better industrially developed countries who are signatories to the said agreement. “For the country to benefit, it has to lay serious emphasis on infrastructural development. The energy sector has to be improved upon to boost productivity and enhance lower cost of production in the industrial sector. This is in order to be able to compete favorably in the market space that will be provided across African countries with effective implementation of the agreement.”
Mansur Ahmed, President of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), said infrastructure for competitive manufacturing and industrial development such as electricity generation and distribution, good road networks and financial facilities to the real sectors of the economy should be enhanced by the government to maximize the advantages in the pact. He called for adequate provisions for tracking the origin of products coming to Nigeria and advised that 70 to 80 per cent of raw materials of products coming to Nigeria must be sourced from Africa, while finished products coming to Nigeria must be made in Africa. This, according to him, would deepen the industrial sectors in Africa.
Prof. Femi Mimiko of the Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, expressed the hope that Nigeria would be smart enough to leverage the agreement to extend its influence into other areas of the African ecosystem. He warned that AfCFTA could make Nigeria a dumpsite for goods produced abroad. It might also facilitate the penetration of the continent by more established, bigger and more formidable regional integration arrangements like the EU, which may climb on the back of countries like Morocco, with which they already have some unique collaborative arrangement. “Such would not be good for the continent,” Mimiko insisted. “And this is where the need to strengthen the African state, now working as a collective, comes in. We would need to imbue the African state with greater capacity to administer all the dimensions of this agreement.”
On his part, president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Babatunde Ruwase, said safeguards, soft and hard infrastructure including viable ICT policies must be activated to maximise the potential benefits of the treaty. He urged the government to maximise benefits accruable from consumers and market right of access to multiple and diversified products and services, and seek protection against abusive and injurious parties in and outside Nigeria, based on ongoing capacity expansion of trade laws.
Sun Newspaper: Rumbles over Ruga
Ripples over the contentious but suspended Federal Government Ruga settlement programme is far from over as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 17 states of southern Nigeria alleged “underground” plot to bring back the project.
It called on Christians to be vigilant not minding the suspension of the policy aimed at earmarking settlement for herds. The warning contained in a statement released in Enugu, yesterday, by CAN Secretary, Dr. Joseph Ajujungwa came as Ohanaeze and Arewa groups trade tackle over the policy.
Ajujungwa called on every southerner “to be watchful” stressing that “even as we pray, we don’t need to keep quiet; they are experts in underground work.” The scribe was emphatic that southerners did not have land for grazing field or cattle colony, hence, his call on the South East governors to stick to their gun on their earlier decision against the policy. “Do you know what it means to give 10 hectares of land to herdsmen? We say no to that. As CAN, we will preach it from our pulpit, every Imam should peach from the mosque and the traditionalists should stand against it; nobody should relent; no land should be given; any traditional ruler that does that should be dethroned. “In the North, we have largest hectares of land, very vast that nobody is occupying. Why are they not building the ranches, RUGA or whatever there? They can come here, take grass and go, and we buy cows in exchange, just like the governors said. We do not have such mass land required. “We are also calling on the Federal Government to be mindful of what they are doing because cattle rearing is a private farming business. Why should the government support individual cattle farmers against other farmers?”
On the ultimatum issued by a coalition of northern youths, Ajujungwa cautioned that nobody has the monopoly of violence. “As they are planning to attack, others are planning to defend themselves and we cannot run away for them. “CAN is calling on all Christians, all law-abiding citizens of southern Nigeria to please watch and pray. Watch means that you must open your eyes to see what is going on and, therefore, pray; do not relent.
Also reacting, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council worldwide warned the Coalition of Northern Youths not to misconstrue its peaceful approach to issues of the nation as weakness. The group condemned the 30-days ultimatum given to the Federal Government and governors to implement the suspended RUGA settlement policy as a declaration of war against the south and southerners living across the northern part of the country.
In a statement issued in Abakaliki by its President General, Mr. Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the Igbo group vowed to explore all peaceful avenues for protection of lives and properties of Igbo resident in the North. An Arewa group had threatened to sack southerners resident in the North and implement the Ruga policy across the nation if the Federal Government failed to rescind it decision to suspend it within 30 days.
Rather than splitting hair over the Ruga policy, which was clearly rejected by southern Nigeria, especially South-East /South-South governors and people, Ohanaeze Ndigbo advised the Coalition to direct northern governors to embrace the National livestock Transformation Programme option. “We warn that youths of South-East and South-South are not ready to stomach the threat of genocidal ethnic cleansing against the Igbos in the North. We call on Ndigbo to be vigilant and defend themselves in the North and relocate immediately their business headquarters to the East.”
In its own reaction, the Arewa Defenders Forum (ADF) called on the Federal Government to re-introduce Ruga, which it said was a critical measure to address insecurity in the North. President of the group, Nuruddeen Alkasim, in a statement after an emergency meeting in Kaduna, raised concerns over alleged “Islamisation and Fulanization” plot noting that the suspended programme was designed to bring an end to suspicious killings using the name of Fulanis and their northern identity for political convenience.