Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has stated that President Muhammadu Buhari’s hands are too weak to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCTA, even as he expressed the hope that Nigeria will soon have a president with the political will to sign the pact.
He made this remark at the Babacar Ndiaye lecture series in Bali, Indonesia on Saturday in apparent reference to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whom the ex-president a few days ago described as the “president-to-be”.
Nigeria in March this year declined to sign the agreement to create the AfCFTA, which was signed at an extraordinary summit in Kigali, Rwanda by representatives of 44 of the 55 African Union, AU, member states.
The agreement targeted at forming a $2.5 trillion continental free-trade zone, is expected to improve the economic prosperity of the African nations by removing barriers to trade, like tariffs and import quotas, and allowing the free flow of goods and services between its members.
Explaining its decision not to sign, the federal government had said a committee was reviewing the treaty and that it needs more input from stakeholders.
While criticising President Muhammadu Buhari over his failure to sign the agreement, Obasanjo said, “Africa cannot overcome fears of trade wars till it achieves 50 percent intra-Africa trade.
“We now have the continental free trade agreement which is a good idea and I can assure that Nigeria will soon sign. Hopefully, we will soon have a president who will be able to sign because the president that is there now, his hands are too weak to sign.”
He stated that Africa should not be seen as one country, but one market, saying the political will of African leaders was needed to move Africa forward.
While stressing that the AfCTA is good for all African countries, particularly small countries, Obasanjo said, “the future of Africa trade and the effectiveness of policies to achieve macroeconomic stability in Africa will largely depend on the strength and resilience of Africa-South trade.
“Accelerating the process of industrialisation and transformation of African economies we must add value to our commodities. And it is in adding value to our commodities that our industrialisation begins. This is nicely laid out in the African Union agenda.
“Boosting intra-African trade and boosting the process of regional integration and the AfCTA, the agreement which was signed in March this year. This is something we have all been working to and it came up only last March in Kigali.
“It is something I believe is good for all African countries, particularly for small countries in the continent who need protection and who also need to enjoy the advantage of economies of scale.”