…Says has no choice than to sign AfCFTA .FG: We’re still negotiating the deal
Mathew Dadiya, Moscow
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has for the umpteenth time, attacked President Muhammadu Buhari over his fight against corruption, accusing the President of nepotism in the appointment of people in his government.
Obasanjo said that corruption and development “are strange bed-fellow,” saying that “corruption is not only when money, goods and services are involved.”
The former president said this on Thursday during a panel discussion moderated by BBC news presenter, Lukwesa Barnes, at the 26th Afreximbank Annual meetings 2019 holding in Moscow, Russia.
According to him, nepotism is a form of corruption, condoning what is bad is corruption and lack of fiscal discipline is corruption.
He said that corruption and development cannot meet; urging African leaders to eschew corruption to make sure that their development makes significant progress.
“Fighting Corruption is not a one day matter, those who are entrenched are smart and what they do is to study you, when you say you are fighting corruption. Once they know what you are doing they take their time, let you go and comeback again.
“It must be consistently fought; it must not be a matter of do it today and leave tomorrow. It must not be a matter where you have sacred cows but comprehensive and all inclusive,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Trade and Industry, African Union (AU), Mr. Albert Muchanga, has raised concern over Nigeria’s continued delay in endorsing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), saying that the country has nothing to fear because the free trade agreement would even benefit Nigeria more than other countries.
Muchanga said that the objective of the agreement is to open up Africa by promoting free trade amongst its countries thereby promoting growth and economic activities that would enhance infrastructure.
Muchanga commended the Afreximbank for the initiative and continuous support for business and development of infrastructure.
On why Nigeria has been reluctant to sign the AfCFTA, Obasanjo said: “I don’t think there is any confusion. I was talking to somebody in government in Nigeria not long ago, he said, ‘we would be like a sleeping giant and when a sleeping giant wakes up he will surprise everybody.’
“I believe we have enjoyed the time of the delay but of course we have no choice than to sign it”.
The AfCTA is a trade agreement signed in Kigali, Rwanda, on 21 March 2018 between 52 African Union member states, with the goal of creating a single market followed by free movement and a single-currency union.
Speaking further on Nigeria’s delay in appending its signature to the pact, Obasanjo expressed optimism that Nigeria would sign it before the formal launching in Niamey on 7th or 8th of July.
However, he said: “I hope that Nigeria would not be absent at the launching because I see no reason why Nigeria can be present at the launch when she has not signed the agreement.
“It is out of place talking of Eritrea and even Niger and Benin who are our neighbours who have signed and Nigeria is counting itself out.
Nigeria should be where it should be before the 7th or 8th of July. If you hear the statement of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, you have nothing in a statement more beautiful than that but he is not a policymaker, he is a policy executor.
Now he will go home and tell the policy makers that I have made the right statement, so it’s now right for action for that statement. I hope that when he gets home and said that it’s time for right action, they will follow through.”
Speaking further Obasanjo said: “What is happening in Nigeria is that the consultations that should have taken place in Nigeria came last.
Nigeria I supposed did the negotiation from Egypt and we had a Nigerian minister actually led the negotiation but unfortunately while that negotiation was going on the type of consultation that should be going on with trade unions, MAN and Chambers of Commerce and Civil society was not going on.
“Government is only a facilitator but the people who will really make work are the private sector operators but they were not carried along. So when this was presented they were asking what is all about?
“The other day I was in Addis Ababa on this same issue, the trade unions, MAN and the chambers of commerce were there and they all said they are now fully informed and now fully onboard. It is now left for government to do the needful by signing the African continental free trade agreement.”
However, the Permanent Secretary, Politics and Economic Affairs, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Gabriel Aduda, said: “If we do not work hard to ensure that a few protective steps are put in place, what we will likely end up with is a dumping ground which is what we do not want.
“With time, Nigeria is going to sign, we have to do like what China did even with the World trade agreement – they gave a condition and that is what we are going to do and you have to look at the size of your market.
You do not expect a country like Nigeria to be given the same size of cake with a country like the Gambia even though we are all in Africa, it doesn’t work like that because Gambia is just like a local government in Nigeria.
“We need to understand how these things work and we should also understand one thing that behind all these trade issues – the barriers, the policies, the rules and everything – are the big players behind the masquerades- who are the former colonial masters.
“You cannot just go ahead and enter into an agreement with a neighbouring nation without looking at who is standing behind that nation; how are you going to protect yourself.
“Even though we need a free and fair deal, but how also do we protect ourselves to ensure that we do not just become a dumping ground. These are some of the issues we are looking at the moment. Absolutely, we are coming back to the table to say this is what we want.”
Earlier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Mr Sergey Lavrov, expressed Russia’s willingness to contribute to the development of the African continent.
Lavrov said more than 20 billion dollars investment deals were done on the continent in 2018.
“Russia is building a long term relationship with Africa and has become a shareholder in Afreximbank.
“To give an additional impetus to all our cooperation, including commercial and economic, it was decided to jointly organise the first Russia-Africa summit in October 2019 in Sochi.
“We are waiting for African Heads of State and Government, leaders of the African Union and other major sub-regional organisations. We hope that Afreximbank will contribute to the substantial content of the economic part of the programme, which seems very solid.
I take this opportunity to call on dear participants of the current conference to actively join future activities in Sochi.”