Details of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA), signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in July this year after ratification by 22 African Union ( AU) member States on the 30th of May, 2019, are yet to be made available to the National Assembly for domestication in line with section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The Chairman, House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, Hon Ossai Nicholas Ossai, stated this in Abuja, Monday, at a Public Lecture organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).
Hon Ossai at the lecture titled: “African Continental Free Trade Agreement : Issues and Implications for Nigeria “, added that many treaties and Agreements of that nature , entered into by Nigerian government in the past and present , are also not yet made available, for the required legislative domestication .
“Of greater concern is the the fact that the National Assembly whose constitutional mandate in line with section 12(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to ratify /domesticate government treaties , protocols and Agreements , is usually completely sidelined by the executive in the processes leading to negotiations , consultations and signing of some of these agreements.
” As I speak now, the National Assembly is yet to receive any official documents or communication relating to AFCTA.
“The implication is that Nigeria will be expending tax payers money on issues that doesn’t have force of law in the country , especially with the full knowledge that under the international law, Nigeria cannot renege on her State obligation on account of none ratification of her treaties /agreements by the National Parliament”, he said.
Consequently according to him, the National Assembly through his committee , will review all bi-lateral treaties, protocols and Agreements signed by successive governments over the years.
He said : ” On the strength of the foregoing, and the fact that several bilateral treaties , protocols and Agreements including the latest ones are not brought before us, my committee will in the coming weeks, host special public hearing on review of such treaties , protocols and Agreements.
“This will be done at a round table for initiation of National Policy on Arbitration to enable Nigerians benefit optimally from government bilateral engagements “.
Speaking earlier, NILDS Director General, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman explained that the 6th edition of the public lecture was part of the Institute’s mandate of assisting the Legislature in making informed policies as well as sensitize the public on relevant at National issues with a view to assisting the policy makers in making evidence-based policy decisions.
“The importance of trade to the National economy cannot be overemphasized. Trade creates economic opportunities for people, income opportunities, job creation and improvement in the general standard of living.
“For example, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), trade contributed 16.10% to total GDP in the second quarter of 2019. Due to the importance of trade to the national economy, the government has been making concerted efforts at improving the business environment and promoting trade for sustainable development of the country,” he noted.
He also cited the United Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) report which stated that if all the 55 African countries join a free trade area, it will be the world’s largest by number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion. In addition, UNECA noted that intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3% by 2020 under the AfCTA