AfCTA: Experts, academia task FG on accelerated infrastructural development

• NASS unaware of details of AfCTA

Experts drawn from various professional fields and the academia on Monday urged Federal Government to initiate deliberate policies geared toward infrastructural development preparatory to the implementation of the African Continental Free trade Agreement (AfCTA).

They gave the charge in Abuja, during the 6th edition of the public lecture series on: ‘African Continental Free trade Agreement: issues and implications for Nigeria,’ organised by National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), where they also expressed concerns over the challenges posed by the state of critical infrastructure and the recent government policy on land borders closure.

In his paper presentation titled: ‘Nigeria and the AfCTA: Cost-Benefit analysis’, Prof. Femi Ajay, NILDS Director of Democratic Studies, expressed optimism that Nigeria with the largest market estimated 200 million population and $397.472 billion GDP, military and diplomatic weight at both sub-region and continental levels, to exert strength and influence in serving as catalyst and guarantor in the process of AfCTA scheme.

In the bid to take full advantage of the abounding benefits in the scheme, Prof. Ajayi harped on the need for Nigeria to “critically invest in its infrastructure (roads especially access and rural roads, power, storage facilities, etc) manufacturing industries, human capacity development (SMEs training and retraining), capital investments, etc.

Prof. Ajayi who was represented by Hon. Mojeed Alabi a former member of 8the House of Representatives, also tasked Central Bank of Nigeria to provide monitored financial access with more relaxed collateral requirements and unnecessary administrative bottlenecks that have characterized the loan facilities, in conjunction with Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture.

He also urged Ministry of Power on the need to generate more and regular electricity through the distribution companies (DisCos), generating companies (GenCos), Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in line with the 5-year timeline in order to ease the cost of production for the SMEs.

Meanwhile, Chairman, House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, Hon Ossai Nicholas Ossai explained that details of the AFCTA signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019 after ratification by 22 African Union (AU) member States on the 30th of May, 2019, are yet to be made available to the National Assembly for domestication in line with section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

According to him, many Treaties and Agreements of that nature, entered into by Nigerian government in the past and present, are also not yet made available, for the required legislative domestication.

“Of greater concern is the the fact that the National Assembly whose constitutional mandate in line with section 12(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to ratify/domesticate government treaties, protocols and agreements, is usually completely sidelined by the executive in the processes leading to negotiations, consultations and signing of some of these agreements.

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“As I speak now, the National Assembly is yet to receive any official documents or communication relating to AFCTA.

“The implication is that Nigeria will be expending taxpayers money on issues that don’t have force of law in the country, especially with the full knowledge that under the international law, Nigeria cannot renege on her State obligation on account of none ratification of her treaties /agreements by the National Parliament,” he said.

Consequently, according to him, the National Assembly through his committee will review all bilateral treaties, protocols and Agreements signed by successive governments over the years.

He said: “On the strength of the foregoing, and the fact that several bilateral treaties, protocols and Agreements including the latest ones are not brought before us, my committee will in the coming weeks, host special public hearing on the review of such treaties, protocols and agreements.

“This will be done at a round table for initiation of National Policy on Arbitration to enable Nigerians benefit optimally from government bilateral engagements.”

Speaking earlier, NILDS Director-General, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman explained that the 6th edition of the public lecture series on: ‘African Continental Free trade Agreement: issues and implications for Nigeria,’ was part of the Institute’s mandate of assisting the Legislature in making informed policies as well as sensitize the public on relevant at National issues with a view to assisting the policymakers in making evidence-based policy decisions.

“The importance of trade to the National economy cannot be overemphasized. Trade creates economic opportunities for people, income opportunities, job creation and improvement in the general standard of living.

“For example, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), trade contributed 16.10% to total GDP in the second quarter of 2019. Due to the importance of trade to the national economy, the government has been making concerted efforts at improving the business environment and promoting trade for sustainable development of the country,” he noted.

He also cited the United Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) report which stated that if all the 55 African countries join a free trade area, it will be the world’s largest by the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion. In addition, UNECA noted that intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3% by 2020 under the AfCTA.

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