The Senate on Thursday asked the federal government to enlighten the Nigerian business community on how to leverage on the immense benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement.
The AfCTA was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday.
The agreement was signed several months after Mr Buhari initially refused to sign. About 52 other African countries had already signed by then.
Mr Buhari had argued then that more consultations were necessary before Nigeria could append her signature to it, an act which was criticised by many diplomats and other Nigerians including ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Barau Jibrin and 40 other senators sponsored a motion on Nigeria’s membership of AfCTA.
Mr Jibrin, in his motion, complained that not many Nigerians understand the profound benefits of the agreement “in the light of the rather intricate interplay of economic theories and their applications as they affect the common man”.
Lawmakers who deliberated on the motion said Nigeria should embrace the agreement and be part of it.
They said some of the advantages of the agreement is that “when Africans trade freely with one another, Nigeria will emerge as the economic leader”.
They however, lamented that some of the challenges the nation will experience is lack of infrastructure and transportation. They urged the federal and state governments to improve infrastructure to aid the implementation of the agreement.
The Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya, said “it is one thing to sign a free trade agreement and another thing to yield opportunities from the agreement”.
“We have had a lot of failed signatures of so many international conventions and so many trade agreements.
“Global trade, whether bilateral or multilateral is the foundation of global peace and prosperity. Nations that don’t have good foundations of global relations across the seas and across the nations have a tendency of becoming markets for other nations making their economy vulnerable.
“Yes, we are the largest country but we are the largest consuming economy because we fail to take advantage of the trade agreement that we sign with other countries,” he said.
Mr Yahaya also stressed the need for Nigeria “to discipline her investment banking”.
“We have not attracted enough attention to utilise the raw materials we have. If we are not careful, we will end up as a raw material supplier to industries set to in Benin Republic,” he said.
Kola Balogun explained the need to improve Nigeria’s infrastructure. He said it is necessary to work on road and power as it goes beyond signing the agreement.
“We have the resources, the capital and the labour. this missing item must be put in place in order for us to be competitive and use that advantage to create wealth, generate employment for the people and curb insecurity,” he said.
The Senate thereafter, urged the state governments to collaborate with federal government in the speedy construction of roads and put in place a robust after-implementation plan of action.
It urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to create an enabling monetary policy environment for Nigeria to take advantage of the agreement.
The federal government was also admonished to continue its current policy of improving infrastructure such as electricity, roads, and other basic necessities “in order to bring about reduction in the cost of production and thus make goods produced in Nigeria globally competitive.”