By: SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday gave a commitment that he would soon sign the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).which many thought he had turned down.
Buhari had said previously that Nigeria won’t agree to anything that would undermine local manufacturers and entrepreneurs, referring to his last minute withdrawal from the signing of the AfCFTA.
He had also noted that the economic and security implications of Nigeria signing the deal must be further discussed before the country would reconsider its position.
But at a joint press briefing in Abuja with his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, , President Buhari assured that he would soon append his signature to the document.
President Ramaphosa is on state visit to Nigeria.
The Nigerian President said he was being very careful to sign agreements or documents especially when they involved nations or states as the wall being of the local economy must be first considered.
Asked if he had been convinced to sign the trade agreements and if there was any deadline to that effect, he said: “I am very careful about what I sign whether it is my checkbook or agreements especially when it involves nations or states. As your president has said, we are so populated and have so many young unemployed citizens and our industries are just coming up.
“So, in trying to guarantee employment, goods and services in our country, we have to be careful with agreements that will compete maybe successfully against our upcoming industries.
” I was presented with the document, I am a very slow reader maybe, because I was an ex- soldier. I didn’t read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature. I kept it on my table. I will soon sign it.”
The president earlier decision not to sign the agreement was hailed by over , 3,000 Nigerian manufacturers under their umbrella body, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) saying the deal would lead to gross unemployment at home as most local companies would die “a quicker death’‘.
The $3 trillion continental free-trade zone encompassing 1.2 billion people, was accepted by 44 countries this year during the African Union Summit , but Nigeria and South Africa, Africa’s biggest economies, did not sign up.
South Africa eventually signed the agreement at a later date.