After several months of uncertainty, President Muhammadu Buhari has given assurance that he will sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement having weighed the pros and cons of the treaty.
He gave the assurance while playing host to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is in Abuja, the nation’s capital for a summit organised by the African Export and Import Bank.
Buhari explained that ordinarily he would have appended his signature to the document long ago, but his slow pace of reading as well as peculiar challenges of Nigeria’s unemployed population informed his decision to withhold assent for the time being.
He said, “I am very careful about what I sign whether it is my checkbook or agreements especially when it involves nation, states. As your president has said, we are so populated and have so many young unemployed citizens and our industries are just coming up.
“So, in trying to guarantee employment, goods and services in our country, we have to be careful with agreements that will compete maybe successfully against our upcoming industries. I was presented with the document, I am a very slow reader maybe, because I was a soldier. I didn’t read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature. I kept it on my table. I will soon sign it”.
Recall that the Nigeria Labour Congress and a number of stakeholders in Nigeria had warned of negative implications of signing the AFCFTA treaty, with a caveat that such assent may stifle job creation in Nigeria.
The development had prompted President Buhari to put off his trip to Rwanda where the agreement was to be signed. However, other continental leaders took the bold step to sign the document.
Meanwhile, reacting to the spate of killing of Nigerians residing in South Africa, Ramaphosa attributed it to criminal elements in his country.
He said South Africans are not averse to Nigerians living in their midst, noting that the relationship between both countries dates back to the days of apartheid struggles.
Ramaphosa said, “There has been quite a number of incidence in our country where foreign nationals some of whom are Nigerians have lost their lives and are being attacked. I will like to say here and now that that has been as a result of criminal activity among our own people which we are focusing on from a criminal element point of view.
“I want to state here and now that South Africans do not have any form of negative disposition or hatred towards Nigerians and in the main Nigerians in South Africa and a number of places of our country live side by side, they corporate very well and some are in the corporate structures of our various companies and some are traders and some are into a number of things.
“So, I want to dispel this notion that when a Nigerian loses his or her life in South Africa, it is as a result of an intentional action by South Africans against Nigerians. That is simply not true.”