THE Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council has backed President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to consult widely before Nigeria could sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

The Industrial Council at its meeting on Friday, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had received a status report on the Continental Trade Agreement and supported the need for more consultations before Nigeria ratifies the agreement.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Okechukwu Enelamah said the council reinforced the importance of consultation, which was what the President said.

He said: “The meeting agreed with the President and concurred that more consultation is the way to go because the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement will have implications for us, which we hope will be positive.”

The private sector, he said, was critical to the implementation of the agreement, making it imperative that they be consulted before Nigeria signs the agreement.

According to him, the Friday’s meeting of the Industrial Council took stock of the work being done on 49 interventions that have been identified and the progress made.

He added that the council discussed four areas where critical intervention was needed and where progress had been made.

The minister said the four areas included anti-smuggling and what was being done; partnering with the states on infrastructure and broadband expansion; financing; and the involvement of the private sector in roads construction and rehabilitation under a trust scheme.

“In these areas, progress was reported, work is not finished, and as you can imagine a lot of work has been done and the idea is to keep the momentum going,” he said.

Also speaking after the meeting, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Segun Awolowo, said the council discussed key industrial roads such as the ones in Aba, Southeast and Apapa, Southwest.

Buhari had cancelled his planned trip to Rwanda in March for an extra-ordinary summit of African Union towards signing the agreement.

Buhari said the cancellation was to allow for more consultations with stakeholders in Nigeria over the trade agreement.

Stakeholders, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the organised private sector raised concerns over the implications of the agreement for the Nigerian economy, arguing that government ought to have consulted more widely.

The NLC, in a statement, claimed that the agreement would lead to a collapse of the manufacturing sector and loss of jobs.

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