Members of the organised private sector in Nigeria (OPSN) have pledged to work closely with the federal government on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
They made the pledge Monday, during the formal handing over of the leadership of the OPS from the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) to the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA).
The OPSN is made up of the NACCIMA, the NECA, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), the Nigerian Association of Small Medium Enterprises (NASME) and the Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists.
The National President of the NACCIMA, Mrs. Saratu Iya Aliyu, who handed over the mantle of leadership of the group to the President of NECA, Mr. Taiwo Adeniyi, said the OPSN was still grappling to know exactly what was needed for them to do to participate effectively in the AfCFTA.
Aliyu said a lot of enlightenment was needed to be done, adding that a lot of things have to be in place because the movement of goods and services from one country to another has its own protocol.
She said: “Our members have to know and be educated about the AfCFTA. There is a lot we as the leaders of the organised private sector are trying to know.”
Speaking in the same vein, Adeniyi, who is the new Chairperson of the OPSN, said the OPSN was concerned about the operational details of the AfCFTA.
Adeniyi said: “We are currently working with the National Action Committee (NAC) to make sure that all of this is stated out. But you will be rest assured that as the OPSN, we are willing to work with the government to get its assurances and be sure that we will not shoot ourselves in the leg. We want to get a full grasp of the implications and modalities of the trade and be assured that we are well protected and that our concerns are taken care of.”
He also assured that his chairmanship of the OPSN would continue with the steps already taken by the immediate past leadership of the organisation.
“What is expected of us is advocacy to ensure that the concerns of our members are always brought forward before the government. We know that we are in difficult times as far as the country is concerned. But we will not shy away from doing what is right to be done.
“Quite a number of issues we raised have not been attended to like power, ports operation, and the customs. And what we want to continue to do is to ensure that government hears us as we (OPSN) speak in one voice,” Adeniyi said.
Similarly, the Director General of the NACCIMA, Ambassador Ayo Olukanni, pointed out that the AfCFTA is not a 100-meter dash.
“It took 60 years of negotiations to sign that agreement and it will not take less than 10 years before its implementation will come into full flight,” Olukanni said, adding that “the most important thing is to understand that the OPSN is engaged with the NAC to make sure that we take advantage of the free trade area.”
According to the Executive Secretary of the NASME, Mr. Eke U. Ubiji, the OPSN took the AfCFTA seriously and have held serious workshop to aid the appreciations of its implications in collaboration with the Centre for International Private Enterprise, an American based organisation.
However, the President of the MAN, Mr. Mansur Ahmed, noted that the taste of the pudding is in the eating.
He urged the organised private sector to take a step further and engage with other members of the private sector in continent like the African Business Council.