Dr Frank Udemba, National President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, has said the association had reservations on the impact of African Continental Free Trade Area on Nigeria’s economy.
Udemba made the disclosure in his address at the 30th Annual General Meeting of Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu branches in Awka on Friday.
The AGM has the theme: “Jobs in Nigeria: Closing the Gaps of Unemployment in A Divergent Labour Market’’.
AfCFTA is a trade agreement proposal of the African Union with the objective to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesses, persons and investments.
It will pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union and expand intra-African trade through better harmonisation, coordination of trade liberalization, facilitation and instruments across Africa.
Udemba said that the commended President Mohammed Buhari for not signing the agreement yet, adding that there was a need for wider consultation among stakeholders to critically analyse and weigh the possible impacts.
He added that MAN and the Organised Private Sector were not against the agreement but contended that the National Office for Trade Negotiation did not hold consultation with relevant stakeholders.
He said: “As a concept and in principle, MAN is not against the AfCFTA, our original contention was that NOTN did not undertake adequate consultation with relevant stakeholders.
“Although that is being done now, we still have the big issue of absence of a country-specific study to determine the possible impacts, benefits and downsides of AfCFTA on the Nigerian economy and manufacturing sector in particular.
“MAN shall continue to engage the NOTN and the Federal Government with a view to ensuring that concerns of manufacturers are addressed and we are adequately represented at the negotiations that determine whether or not Nigeria signs-on.’’
Udemba also called on the governments of Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu states to create better environment that would engender industrialisation in their domains.
He said infrastructure deficit and harsh regulatory framework were negatively affecting the survival of firms in the state.
He said: “Your Excellencies, it is obvious that your states are not fully industrialised, therefore, efforts should be made to attract investments in the manufacturing sector by providing appropriate infrastructure and other incentives.
“The manufacturing sector has been acknowledged as the highest contributor to job creation, skill development and technology transfer; it is therefore, imperative for state governments to institute more effective consultation mechanism with MAN.
“This will ensure sustenance of the existing manufacturing companies that are currently groaning under the weight of overwhelming infrastructure and regulatory challenges.’’
The national president applauded the rebound of the country’s economy after recession, acknowledging significant improvement in inflation rate, external reserve, Purchasing Managers Index and increased All Share Index.
Also, Senator Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said the Federal Government was doing its best to provide infrastructure that would encourage business.
Ngige, who was represented Chief Charles Amilo, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Anambra, said works were going on at the second Niger Bridge and roads across the country.
He said the Federal Government through the National Directorate Employment, N-Power and other programmes had created millions of jobs for Nigerians.
The minster urged the manufacturers to continue to support the Federal Government to achieve its target of better living condition for all Nigerians.
On his part, Chief Azubuike Okafor, the outgoing chairman of the branch, commended members for their resilience in spite of the operational environment.
Okafor urged governments of the branch states to improve on their ease of doing business so as to enjoy the Internally Generated Revenue benefits accruing from it as obtained in Ogun.
He lamented the high level of smuggling of substandard products into the country, stringent tariff regime and other bottlenecks on international transaction which, he said, were making members to compete unfavourably in the market.
The chairman urged the new executive to take the branch to higher level by being in the vanguard protecting the interest of members and ensure they remained united in the efforts to keep the economy afloat.
Okafor said the theme was carefully selected as it was relevant at this time when the nation’s economy was recovering from recession.
Also, Governor Willie Obiano lauded the association for their contributions to the state’s and national economy.
Obiano, who was represented by Chibueze Okoli, Permanent Secretary in the Office of Head of Service, promised to continue to build a virile economic environment that would attract and keep investors.