Reactions have continued to greet Nigeria’s endorsement of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, (AfCFTA) with the latest coming from Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria, which warned that Africa’s most populous country can’t remain a consuming nation if it is to fully benefit from the trade deal.
Newly elected president of the TUC, Quadri Olaleye, who made the assertion on Friday, argued that it has become imperative for Nigeria to expand its productive base and make deliberate effort to create an environment that is supportive of productive activities within the economy.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the free trade pact in Niamey, the Nigerien capital, last weekend, during extraordinary session of head of governments of the Africa Union (AU).
Olaleye, who addressed labour journalists in Lagos, noted that to benefit from the treaty, Nigeria must immediately get its acts right.
“The reason why the debate to sign or not to sign the agreement raged for over year was because Nigeria is deficient in infrastructure and also majorly a consuming nation,” he said, adding that while the TUC is in support of the signing of the deal by the president, there are, however, issues of concern which the managers of the economy must address.
“As a congress, we have our concerns. Power is critical to the manufacturing sector. We have the population but lack the basic infrastructure that is capable of making our industries thrive. Our gains, therefore, essentially depend on our ability to push our goods across the borders.”
Olaleye argued that this was the only way the free trade agreement would out fair to Nigeria.
“The energy sector has to be improved upon to boost productivity and lower cost of production, and also source raw materials locally,” he said, adding that government must make the AfCFTA serve Nigeria’s interest.
The labour centre also raised concerns about influx of foreign artisans in the name of expatriates in Nigeria; a trend they said should be checked.
He lamented that the Nigerian construction industry was grossly affected by the issue of technology transfer, which is critical in a developing country, as expatriates, who are supposed to be employed where local employees lack capacity, have taken jobs where Nigerians have competent for.
According to the TUC president, “the ratio of the expatriate to local senior staff in some multinational companies in Nigeria is “as high as 10:1,” he said.