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Buhari, silent on closure of Nigeria’s land borders, calls for ECOWAS commitment as AfCFTA begins January 2021

President Muhammadu Buhari has called for the commitments of member States of the Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOWAS) as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement begins on January 1.

President Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, said at the 13th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government held virtually on Saturday that the successful commencement of the trade in January 2021 was indeed a fulfillment of the collective dreams of Africa’s founding fathers.

He said that the AfCFTA sought to achieve better, united, peaceful and prosperous Africa, adding that any abuse of the rule could affect trade relations, cause disorder, regional and geopolitical tensions and reduced economic growth.

While silent on the August 2019 closure of Nigeria’s land borders, Buhari pledged Nigeria’s commitments in taking all the necessary steps towards the effective commencement of the trading on January 1, 2021.

According to the President, “In view of Nigeria’s strategic role in our collective efforts to build the Africa we want, the Nigerian government has taken bold steps to ratify the AfCFTA.

“It is, however, pertinent to remind us of the need to preserve the agreed rule we are putting in place, to ensure that there is no breakdown or abuse of the rules based continental free trade framework.

“We must, therefore, work assiduously to encourage probity, transparency, and promote a shared and inclusive prosperity for all Africans.”

Buhari said that Nigeria is keenly aware of her role in deepening intra-Africa trade and making it a success. We remain open to transparently work with our brothers and sisters across Africa in the spirit of cooperation.

“To deepen Continental Integration through the free movement of goods, natural and legal persons across the continent we must remain strident and committed in our support for the instrument while timeously addressing actions that could lead to breakdown of rules-based African Continental Free Trade Area.

“The successful commencement of  trade in January 2021 is indeed the fulfillment of the collective dreams of our founding fathers, for a better, united, peaceful and prosperous Africa.

“Let us, therefore, keep in mind that any form of abuse of the rules that undermine our borders and affect our markets could be a recipe for strained trade relations, disorder regional and geopolitical tensions and reduces economic growth,” Buhari said.

Buhari also said that trade rules requires trust and constant updates. We must continue to work to address and close noticeable gaps, in particular, the challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and other critical issues affecting the continent.

According to him, AfCFTA is a rules-based system that provides governance structure for intra-Africa trade, including for settlement of trade disputes and smooth operationalisation of the agreement.

“In this regard, we are further assured that the mechanism will provide the essential balance previously lacking in our trade relations

“Importantly, this agreement is strategic and relevant to the establishment of an economic and legal framework for intra-Africa trade relations and further serves as a platform for deepening Africa’s integration into the global economy,” he said.

Buhari expressed optimism that the opportunities abound within the AfCFTA framework for the engagement of businesses that would foster trade as well as investments flows.

He added that the agreement would also foster growth of regional and global value chains.

Buhari noted that it is important that the launch of the trade in 2021 produces a win-win situation and shared prosperity for all member States.

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