African leaders have begun arriving in Rwanda ahead of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement signing due on Wednesday, but without a key figure, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari was scheduled to leave Abuja on Monday ahead of Wednesday’s launch but has pulled out to allow for more consultations, an official statement said Sunday.
“Mr President will no longer be travelling to Kigali for the event because certain key stakeholders in Nigeria indicated that they had not been consulted, for which reasons they had some concerns on the provisions of the treaty,” the statement quoted by VOA News stated.
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“Consequently, Mr President’s decision is to allow time for broader consultations on the issue.”
The framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area is expected to allow free trade among all countries that sign. The Federal Executive Council headed by the Vice President had on Wednesday, March 13, 2018, approved that Nigeria signs the agreement with fellow African countries. But few days into the major move, Nigeria’s organized labour union, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has urged Buhari not to sign the deal.
“We at the Nigeria Labour Congress are shocked by the sheer impunity or blatant lack of consultation in the process that has led to this,” said NLC President Ayuba Wabba.
“We have no doubt this policy initiative will spell the death knell of the Nigerian economy.”
In January 2012, the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area by an indicative date of 2017.
The main objectives of the Agreement are to create a single continental market for goods and services and to enhance free movement of business persons and investments. It is also to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.
Nigeria has a population of 190 million and crude oil is the mainstay of the country’s economy. The fall in the prices of the oil has, however, affected the country’s economy and the president has since adopted some protectionist policies to save the situation.