The Federal Government on Tuesday commenced a Sensitisation and Consultation Workshop in Borno to enlighten Nigerians on the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
Okechukwu Enelamah, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, made this known at the opening ceremony held at the multipurpose hall of the Government House in Maiduguri.
News Agency of Nigeria reports that the sensitisation came after Nigeria suspended the signing of the agreement during a special AU Summit held in Kigali.
Enelemah, who was represented by Chiedu Osakwe, Director General, Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations, said the workshop was in compliance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for a wider consultations to give Nigerians opportunity to participate in decision making.
Osakwe said: “We are here on the instruction of President Muhammadu Buhari to improve the knowledge of Nigerians and enlighten them on the agreement on establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“Mr. President wanted us to explain to Nigerians, describe its benefits to, marketers as well as other members of the business community in the country. Signing of the agreement must represent fairness and equitable interest of all Nigerians.
“I am happy to report that the Northeast geo-political zone gave the African Continental Free Trade Area a resounding vote and endorsement. They will like Nigeria to adopt the agreement as quickly as possible. And they have recommended that our president signs it.
“We have had wonderful discussion with various groups of traders especially Arewa Traders Association. One of the fundamental points we identified, based on feed back, is that we must reduce interest rate and cost of borrowing to make it possible for SMEs businesses to grow.
“We chose Borno as the centre for the Northeast geo political zone because it shares border with countries of Lake Chad which include Niger, Cameroon, Chad and they have been trading across border.”
Speaking, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno, expressed his administration’s readiness to always support the policies of government aimed at uplifting the living standard of Nigerians.
Represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Usman Durkwa, Shettima said the programme, when implemented, would go along way in revolutionizing the lost socio economic glory of the state.
He directed all government stakeholders taking part in the programme to take the advantages associated with the agreement so as to kick start socio-economic activities that were crippled as a result of the insurgency.
Alhaji Ahmed Ashemi, Sole Administrator Borno State Council of Chambers and Commerce, appealed to the Nigerian government to give special consideration to the northeast in its empowerment programmes.
Ashemi said: “We want the Nigerian government to provide special loan for our people, especially Small and Medium Enterprises to enable them kick start their businesses and stand on their feet.”
Ashemi said most of the traders in the state have lost their means of livelihood as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.
He appealed to the military to consider reopening of roads and provide security to motorist to resuscitate trade in the zone.
He said: “Millions of people are benefiting from that road as their major means of livelihood.
“The reopening of the roads will not only be of benefit to Borno, but will boost the economy of the country and the neighbouring countries.”