Governors hail signing of AfCTA by Nigeria

Timothy Choji, Niamey

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Some Nigerian Governors have hailed the signing of the African Continental free trade Zone by the country.

The Governors, who were on the entourage of President Muhammadu Buhari to Niger Republic for the AU Summit, were optimistic that the decision of President Buhari to delay the signing of the treaty was a worthy choice at the end of the day.

They made their views known in an interview with Journalists that covered the continental Summit.

Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari said: “It was a good wait because there was need to properly study and I think the time taken by Nigeria has given our country the opportunity to look at some of the issues why Nigeria did not sign then and why Nigeria is signing now.

“I think it’s very important because Africa is a big market of 1.2 billion consumers and you know with the capability, industriousness and entrepreneurship, some may use African prices to be packaging instead of producing. So, I do believe for Nigeria, it’s a big opportunity. The market is there, the opportunities are here and with the huge level of entrepreneurship in Nigeria, I believe we will take advantage of that.

“I think there is the need to invest more in human development that can raise the level of competency in Nigerians in terms of having quality production that can compete because there will be competition, especially from South Africa and some others that may use other technologies to come through. I think there is the need to emphasize more on training, bringing up the level especially of technicians, artisans in terms of having enough to compete.”

Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu said the signing of the treaty was delayed for the right reasons and very soon the benefits of that decision would be seen by Nigerians and the rest of Africa.

“I think it was a momentous occasion. Last year, President Buhari delayed the signing at Kigali so that in deference to his democratic ideals consult with manufacturers, processors and all those who would be affected by the agreement so that Nigeria can get the best out of the deal and so that Nigeria can support the functioning of the bill. And you have that big free trade area in Africa.

“Nigeria, particularly President Buhari was determined to ensure that this time around, we sign an agreement that can work for us. We are all glad that Nigeria has now finalized the agreement and President Buhari graciously signed,” he said.

Bagudu stressed that Nigeria will not allow any country to dump all sorts of goods in Nigeria as a result of the agreement.

“The consultations with the organised private sector and relevant agencies and individuals have brought out the kind of work and synergy we need to put together so that as a country, we can do better under the trade deal, so that we can ensure that the tariff agreement, whatever tariff agreement we enter into is such that it will prohibit dumping and it does not discriminate against us especially for a country like Nigeria which has suffered the brunt of dumping from rice, poultry, milk, etc. That has threatened our industries so, we have gotten wiser and the consultations no doubt have provided clues and avenues of what we are going to do in order to ensure that there will be responsible trade so that Nigeria can benefit as well as other countries in Africa,” he said.

The Governor said his state stands to benefit a lot form the agreement, as it plans to take full advantage.

“Certainly, our ambition is big. Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has given us a boost, we want Kebbi rice to be eaten across Africa. Indeed, we have sent some of it to Asia. And more than Kebbi rice, we want Kebbi soya beans and tomatoes, clothing and processed goods from Kebbi to other parts of Africa to other parts of the world,” he said.

Borno State Governor, Professor Babagan Zulum said the step taken by Nigeria and other African countries will boost trade across the continent.

“I’m so pleased because in 1981, the African Union signed an agreement with member states to harmonize trade and tariffs and free trade zone among member nations. I think this singular act will ease trade among African nations and it was established that prices of commodities will come down, access to some of the commodities that we are lacking in the region in Nigeria in particular could be obtained and some of the bureaucratic bottlenecks with respect to customs and others will also be reduced. As far as I’m concerned, I think this is something that is very important. Nigeria declined last year, 2018 but purposely to understudy the effects of signing the agreement. I think by now, the president has made serious consultations and this will go a long way to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians.

“Well, I think the Ministry of Industry should look into the issues critically to be sure Nigeria is not a dumping ground. Whatever the government and Nigeria should do, the people of Nigeria should derive maximum benefit from signing the treaty. That is the most important thing,” he said.

On the impact the treaty will have on their states that are on the country’s borders, the Governors said they stand to gain a lot.

According to Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari: “I think for us, if you make Jibiya a land border so that all import and export activities can take place, I think it will go a long way in boosting. Already, we are developing an economic zone consisting of over 800 hectares and this year, we are going to set up over 100 hectares along Jibiya border coming into Niger and other West African countries. For us, we will take advantage of whatever is there to make sure Nigeria and Katsina in particular gets it share of the fallout of the agreement.”

While Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum said: “Borno state is bordering about three countries – Niger, Cameroon and Chad. It is my sincere belief that Borno will have some of the free trade zone in our own place and this will now improve the means of livelihood of the displaced communities of Borno state, trade volume within the state will also increase and this will further improve the socio-economic well-being of the citizens of Borno state.”

Nnenna.O