Governor Benedict Ayade of Cross River State has described President Muhammadu Buhari as a true democrat for showing great leadership on the African continent.
Prof Ayade said this in Calabar on Monday at the South South National Stakeholders’ Sensitization forum on African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
The governor, who hailed the President for not appending his signature to the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Kigali, capital of Rwanda in March this year until after painstaking consultation with various stakeholders, noted that this showed the democratic qualities of President Buhari.
“I must commend the President for Consulting with Nigerians for not signing the agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area, opting to consult with Nigerians before signing it. This decision has made a democrat. Now I support the signing of the agreement,” Ayade said.
He also praised the President for effectively leading the African continent by mobilizing other African leaders to consider the agreement, which is being championed by Nigeria, noting that such leadership deserves the commendation of all.
Ayade, who was decorated as the champion of AFCFTA for his strong advocacy for African unity and inter-African trade relationship, maintained that the agreement presents African countries with the opportunity of exploring their potentials instead of depending on goods manufactured outside the continent.
He pointed out the desire by young people from Africa to seek greener pasture outside the continent was a result of lack of opportunities, a situation which he said could be solved by inter-African Trade relationship.
“The principal economic activity for livelihood in the South South Geopolitical Zone remained trade, industry and agriculture. The South South Zone had been open to trade integration and globalization influences from the 19th Century.
“Trade and globalization had contributed to modernization and development, improved livelihood conditions and fostered job creation,” the governor said.
Earlier, the Director General of AFCFTA, Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe said the agreement will boost inter-African trade, disclosing that Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa and the twenty sixth in the world stands a greater chance of benefiting from the agreement.
Osakwe, who said the stakeholders’ forum in Calabar was meant to collate views from critical partners from the South South part of the country, explained that this was to ensure that Nigerians make input into the agreement before the President appends his signature to the agreement.
A communiqué released at the end of the forum requested greater investment of resources in the construction and upgrade of Free Trade Zones (FTZs); Countervailing measures against transhipment, dumping and other injurious trade practices against Nigerian manufacturers and service providers, by strict adherence to the Rules of Origin.
Others are predictable, cost effective, power supply; Reducing the cost of lending and improving access to credit, modernizing and updating Nigerian logistics, particularly with regard to supply chains, especially road and railway transport systems, maritime services and associated trade infrastructure, among others.