President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said that Nigeria is too big and too diverse to blindly sign agreements without understanding the consequences of such actions.
Buhari made the remark while receiving representatives of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) led by its President, Mr Babatunde Ruwase, at the Presidential Villa.
A statement by the Special Adviser on Media and publicity, Femi Adesina, said that the President used the occasion of his audience with members of the LCCI to shine more light on his decision to inaugurate a Presidential Committee last Monday to assess the potential costs and impact of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) for Nigeria.
He said ‘‘Nigeria is still assessing the impact of this agreement on its backward integration and import substitution policies.
‘‘Specifically, the provisions on rules of origin and transhipment were matters of concern to us.
‘‘Already, some of the treaties we are party to have been significantly abused resulting in massive smuggling which has crippled many of our local industries and destroyed millions of jobs.
‘‘To avoid these past mistakes, we conducted vast consultations across the country in which the LCCI participated. The responses have been mixed,’’ the President said.
On the issue of the gridlock in Apapa, Lagos, President Buhari acknowledged that the situation was a major concern to all.
‘‘The work on Wharf road is in progress. We will continue to do our best to expedite the repair works at the Ijora Bridge without compromising quality.
‘‘We have also directed the Nigerian Railway Corporation to use their infrastructure in the ports to support the evacuation efforts, thereby further decongesting the area.
‘‘Be assured that the completion of these projects is a major priority of this administration,’’ he said.
Speaking earlier, Ruwase while commending the Federal Government for the series of Executive Orders focused on promoting the ease of doing business in the country, stressed the need to improve the regulatory environment in the oil and gas industry.
He appealed to the executive arm of the government to expeditiously consider the Petroleum Industry Bill through appropriate collaborative actions with the National Assembly.
The LCCI president also drew the attention of the President to the numerous abandoned Federal Government properties in Lagos and the economic waste it represents.
He urged the Federal Government to either return the property to Lagos State government which is the original owner of the land; or give them out on lease to the private sector.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the closed doors meeting, he said “We commended the government on Ease of Doing Business. We also asked the government to digitize its operations as part of measure to tackle corruption. That will reduce man to man interactions in carrying out government business. We advised government to use this all through its processes.
“We also tasked government on the Petroleum Industry Governance BIll PIGB. We need to pass this quickly because many countries are discovering crude oil and this has made investments in the sector very competitive.
“We are contending with other nations for investment in the sector. So we need to attract investors by reducing unnecessary bottlenecks. Instead of giving incentives, the feelers we are getting is that the NPA is going to levy $1 per barrel of crude and other such levies are going to be imposed. We urged them to quickly pass the law to make our oil and gas more competitive to investors.
“We also talk about the Apapa gridlock. Instead of making profits, we are counting loses by the day because of demurrage , which has grounded our export drive. What the government need to do is to use pipeline to transport imported petroleum products.
“We also mentioned to his Excellency that we shall be celebration of our 130th anniversary.
“In the area of power, we also urged government to look into the issues. The problem we have is distribution. With what we are generating today, we cannot distribute more than 4000 megawatts. We should be thinking more of how to deal with distribution and transmission.” he said
According to him, the President promised to do something about the Apapa issues.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria, the Independence building, the National Assembly, the NITEL building etc.
“We Appealed to the federal government that they either give them to the Lagos State government or put them into proper shape so that they can be put into proper use to generate money for the government. They are currently wasting away and providing abode for hoodlums, criminals and the likes.” he stated.