BY SAMUEL ADEBAYO, ABUJA – President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja said he does not think that Nigeria has the capacity to effectively supervise and to ensure that members of the Africa Union (AU) don’t allow their countries to be used to dump goods on us to the detriment of our young industries and our capacity to utilize foreign exchange for imported goods.
This is just as he said that Nigeria will be guided by “national interest” in taking any decision on the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
President Buhari, who stated thess when he received in audience the National Council of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) led by its president, Engr Mansur Ahmed, said he is ready to receive the report of a Committee set up to assess the potential costs and impact of signing the agreement establishing the AfCFTA for Nigeria.
He noted that the Presidential Steering Committee on the AfCFTA Impact and Readiness Assessment Committee was inaugurated on October 22, 2018, with the mandate to assess the extent to which Nigeria was ready to join the agreement, and what the impact of doing so would be.
The Committee was initially given 12 weeks to conclude its assignment, after holding wide consultations with industry groups and stakeholders, including the MAN.
The President told National Council of MAN that the AfCFTA is on the agenda for the upcoming AU Summit in Niamey, Niger Republic, in July.
He promised to look into the presentation by MAN highlighting issues of concern to the manufacturing sector, namely the AfCFTA, Export Expansion Grant and other incentives, challenges with the 2019 fiscal policy measures, recent increase in NAFDAC charges, the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Act, 2019, among others.
The president said; “I assure you that I know the enormity of our problems in terms of population growth rate and teeming young people.
“We need to move very fast, and the government will try and encourage you as very much as possible so that the problem of unemployment and the provision of other services relative to our population and state of development can be tolerated.”
Earlier, the MAN president outlined some credible policies that have driven the economy forward in the first term of President Buhari.
Ahmed commended the Buhari administration for consistent efforts to sustain the growth trajectory anchored on improving the business environment, adding that government’s efforts at improving the Ease of Doing Business Project, fight against corruption, focus on poverty reduction, job creation and inclusive growth as well as the launch of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan are well recognised.
He however, noted that despite the significant progress recorded in the last 4 years, it is clear that our economy is still fragile, adding that with the GDP at 2.0 per cent and below the population growth rate, the clouds are still threatening and the task of driving the economy upwards is still enormous.
According to Ahmed; “We are encouraged by the very strong commitment you expressed only last week in your Democracy Day address. You did say that in your second term, your administration will do, even more, not only to continue to drive the economy on the path of sustained growth but indeed to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”