AfCFTA: Buhari too weak to sign African free trade agreement – Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says President Muhammadu Buhari’s hands are too weak to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The former President made the statement on Saturday while speaking at the Babacar Ndiaye lecture series in Bali, Indonesia, The Cable reports.

Obasanjo spoke on the theme, ‘Global Power Disequilibrium, Trade Wars and Implications for Africa’ during the international lecture series instituted by Afrexim Bank to honour Dr. Babacar Ndiaye, a former President of the African Development Bank, who died on July 13, 2017.

The event held from the sidelines of the 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

Obasanjo said he hoped that Nigeria will soon have a President who will sign the agreement.

He said, “Africa cannot overcome fears of trade wars till it achieves 50 per cent intra-Africa trade.

“The AfCTA is a good idea and for Nigeria, hopefully, we will have a president that will be able to sign it because the one that is there now, his hands are too weak to sign.”

Guests present at the 2018 lecture included leaders of African and global banks, development finance institutions, the business community and political leaders attending the World Bank–IMF Annual Meetings.

Others were members of the diplomatic community, policymakers, academicians, African and non-African ministers of finance, economy and development, central bank governors, and CEOs of global and African corporations.

Obasanjo’s criticism comes barely three months after the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, criticised the Buhari-led government for failing to sign the same free trade agreement.

Sanusi, who is a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, had said at the launching of the Association Peer-Review Journal in July that it was ironic that Nigeria had signed many trade deals with European and Asian countries but was failing to replicate it in Africa.

Explaining why Nigeria had not yet signed the $3tn agreement, during a joint press conference with South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in July, Buhari had said he was slow at reading.

He had said, “I am very careful about what I sign, whether it is my cheque book or agreements, especially when it involves nations and states. As your President Ramaphosa has said, we are so populated and have so many young unemployed citizens and our industries are just coming up.

“I was presented with the document; I am a very slow reader maybe because I am 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.”

When contacted on the telephone, the National Publicity Secretary of the African Democratic Congress, Mrs. Yemi Kolapo, said Obasanjo was only stating the obvious.

Kolapo said the Buhari government lacked policy direction which was affecting the economy negatively.

She added, “Obasanjo is right. Everybody knows that this government has no policy direction. So, we are all waiting eagerly for that change of baton. It will come to pass next year. We will have a people-oriented government; a government that understands the economy and can turn resource advantage to fortune for Nigeria and Nigerians.”

Also, a Second Republic lawmaker and elder statesman, Dr Junaid Mohammed, said the economy under Buhari suffered from rising foreign debts and an incompetent economic team to salvage the situation.

Mohammed said, “It is not only Obasanjo who sees these things; I remember I have consistently questioned Buhari’s capacity to manage the Nigerian economy. International economic agencies have also been warning Nigeria about our rising public expenditure and growing foreign debts. We have borrowed and over-borrowed.”

However, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said Obasanjo lacked the moral right to criticise President Buhari.

The acting National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, said this in a telephone interview in Abuja, on Saturday.

Nabena said, “(Olusegun) Obasanjo lacks the moral justification to criticise President Muhammadu Buhari.

“This was the same Obasanjo who was in office for eight years and you cannot point to anything he achieved; the same person who spent $16bn on power yet we are still in darkness.

“President Buhari is a meticulous person who is interested in the future of this country. Let people like Obasanjo leave the President alone to face governance.” – Punch.

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