Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has said that President Muhammadu Buhari is too weak to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement and expressed the hope that “we will soon have a president who will be able” to endorse pact.
Obasanjo stated this on Saturday while speaking at the Babacar Ndiaye lecture series in Bali, Indonesia.
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 a former president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Babacar Ndiaye, who died on July 13, 2017.
“Africa cannot overcome fears of trade wars till it achieves 50 per cent 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.
“The AfCTA is a good idea and for Nigeria. 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 said
Nigeria was absent in March as leaders from 44 African countries signed the agreement to form a $3 trillion continental free-trade zone.
The Free-Trade Zone is the largest in the world since the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995.
Obasanjo’s criticism comes barely three months after the Emir of Kano and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Muhammadu Sanusi II, criticised the Buhari-led government for failing to sign the same free trade agreement.
Sanusi 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 agreement, during a joint press conference with South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in July, Buhari had said he was slow at reading.
“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,” he had stated.