President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria will only be signatory to the Continental Free Trade Agreement if the nation’s national interests as well as regional and international obligations are balanced.
The President reiterated this position at the 2018 Annual General Meeting/25thAnniversary of the African Export-Import Bank held in Abuja on Saturday.
President Buhari stated that he had already directed relevant agencies to conduct intensive and extensive consultations on the free trade agreement in view of the fact that Nigeria was a trading nation and no nation could survive on its own.
According to him, trading is important and the terms of trade are important.
“Therefore, there is a need to ensure our national interests as well as our regional and international obligations are balanced.
“Accordingly, I directed the relevant agencies to conduct intensive and extensive consultations across the nation on the Continental Free Trade Agreement.
“Nigeria is a federation of 36 states plus FCT Abuja, 774 local governments and millions of interested stakeholders who must be consulted with and listened to, inorder to ensure an optimum outcome.
“Significantly progress has been made in these consultations. The team has met key stakeholders across six geo-political zones.
“The responses have been diverse as would be expected. However, one clear message has emerged which is that any trade agreement must be both `free’ and `fair’. This fairness is achievable and we will work towards it.”
The President noted with delight the positive impact Afrexim bank had made to date, saying he was encouraged by the bank’s plans for inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa’s economies.
According to him, Africa’s journey to prosperity can only be achieved by supporting inclusive and sustainable projects, and called on member states to support the AFREXIM bank to deliver on its mandate.
He stated that his administration had adopted a policy of inclusive economic growth and was determined to attain this by reducing the nation’s over reliance on crude oil.
“To date, we have invested aggressively in infrastructure to support our growth potential in agriculture and solid minerals.
“We are also empowering many Nigerian entrepreneurs in the entertainment and digital economies to mention a few,’’ he said.
Buhari congratulated the management and board of directors of the bank for their dynamism and tenacious leadership without which the feats so far achieved would not have been possible.
“Twenty five years ago, I am sure there would have been doubts as whether Africans can truly come together to build something meaningful.
The success of Afrexim bank in its 25 years journey has answered this question conclusively,’’ the president stated.
Earlier in his remarks, the President and Chairman Board of Directors of the Afrexim bank, Dr Benedict Oramah, revealed that the bank had embarked on the development of various industrial parks and export processing zones across Africa to boost trade and economic prosperity in the continent.
According to him, the bank has so far spent 1.5billion dollars on various developmental projects in Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Togo, Burkina Faso and Chad.
Oramah commended the Nigeria for donating parcel of land to the bank for the construction of office complex for the bank in Nigeria.
President Buhari witnessed the signing of $750 million loan facility to Bank of Industry (BOI) and another $650 million loans to Dangote Group by the Afrexim bank.
The $750 million facility to BOI is meant for industrialization and export development in Nigeria, while the $650 million in favour of Dangote Group is for the execution of the Dangote refinery project. (NAN)