Timothy Olawale - Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA)

The raging controversies over the signing of African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement by President Muhammadu Buhari got another big voice on Wednesday in person of the Director-General of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr Timothy Olawale.

Olawale said Nigeria took great risks by signing the agreement.

He expressed the opinion while fielding questions from the State House correspondents after the leadership of the association’s meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

This came on the heels of the association’s 62nd Annual General Meeting held in Lagos on Tuesday, where it lamented that some government agencies were frustrating the ease of doing business in Nigeria through what it termed their contradictory regulations.

President Buhari had signed the AfCFTA agreement in Niamey, Niger Republic, on July 7, 2019, making Nigeria the 53rd country to do so.

Incidentally, NECA was one of the associations the Federal Government consulted before it arrived at the decision that Nigeria should join AfCFTA.

But, the group warned that one major negative implication was that AfCFTA would turn Nigeria into a dumping ground for all manner of goods.

It also observed that the Nigerian economy, lacking in key infrastructure, was too fragile to withstand competition from other countries, while it also kicked against the plan by the Federal Government to raise Value Added Tax.

Olawale noted that the economy was already weighed down by multiple taxation and could not absorb more taxes.

Speaking specifically on the implications of joining the AfCFTA, he said, “The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement is laudable. There are lots of benefits inherent in it. We also know that it is capable of engendering capital inflow into the country.

“However, before we start talking about benefits derivable from it, we must also talk of the likely damage it can do to an economy that is fragile like ours, which behoves on us as stakeholders and government to put all hands on deck to address those issues.

“Those issues border on those variables that will ensure the competitiveness of Nigerian businesses and industry. We don’t want a situation where our business are not competitive due to the disadvantaged environment they operate. Of course, we are all familiar with the disadvantaged environment with regards to issue of infrastructure, among which is power and the issue of road network – that is, transportation for goods and services and accessibility to the different business environments”, the Punch quoted him as saying.

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