President Muhammadu Buhari has again explained that the delay in Nigeria’s signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agree (AfCFTA) agreement was borne out of a desire to ensure that national interests as well as regional and international obligations are balanced.
AfCFTA, a trade agreement designed by the African Union (AU) with the goal of creating a single market followed by free movement and a single currency union was signed by 44 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018.
Nigeria withheld its assent from the agreement at the 11th hour, citing lack of wide consultations with relevant stakeholders.
South Africa, which also declined assent in Rwanda at the time later signed at the recent extraordinary AU summit in Mauritania
Justifying Nigeria’s continuing delay in signing the pact, Buhari, who spoke while declaring close the 25th anniversary and annual meetings of Afreximbank in Abuja said Nigeria has a very unique and important role to play on the continent.
“We are a vast nation of nearly 200 million people, with diversity of language, culture, natural endowments and aspirations. However what we all have in common is that at all levels, Nigeria is a trading nation.
“No nation can survive on its own. 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, in order to ensure an optimum outcome.
“Significant progress has been made in these consultations. The team has met key stakeholders across our 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.
“It is in this light, that I will like to say congratulations to the management and Board of Directors of AFREXIM 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 to whether Africans can truly come together to build something meaningful. The success of AFREXIM in its 25 year journey has answered this question conclusively,” he said.
In his address, the President of Afreximbank, Dr. Benedict Oramah, said the Bank had continued to promote intra-Africa trade.
Highlight of the closing ceremony was the signing of a $1.4 billion loan facility between Afreximbank and the Bank of Industry (BoI) on one hand as well as with Dangote Group on the other.
BoI got a loan facility of $750 million for onlending to small scale enterprises in Nigeria.
On the other hand, Dangote Group got $650 million from Afreximbank to finance its oil refinery project in Lekki, Lagos.
Both loans are at concessionary terms.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun has emerged chairman of shareholders of Afreximbank.
She emerged during the annual meetings of the shareholders, where the bank posted impressive financial results in the 2017 financial year.
The next annual meetings of Afreximbank holds next year in Moscow, Russia.
The bank was established in Abuja in 1993 by African governments, African private and institutional investors as well as non-African financial institutions and private investors for the purpose of financing, promoting and expanding intra-African and extra-African trade.