Nigeria's ex-president, Obasanjo describes actions of African leaders absent at AfCFTA as criminal

Obasanjo says African salvation lies in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) framework

African leaders had gathered in Kigali, Rwanda on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 for the extraordinary summit of the African Union to sign a deal (AfCFTA), expected to improve the economic prosperity of the African nations by removing barriers to trade, like tariffs and import quotas, allowing the free flow of goods and services between its members.

President Muhammadu Buhari and his South African counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa and nine other countries failed to sign the deal, with an excuse to consult more stakeholders on the agreement.

Obasanjo, who attended the event criticised African presidents who refused to sign the trade pact, saying their excuse is ‘mere flimsy excuse and criminal.

In a video posted by Uganda's TV,  NBS Television, Obasanjo said: "It is criminal for any African leader to talk of not understanding what we are going to sign (Free Trade Agreement in Africa) and afford not to be here."

“I am surprised that any African leader at this point in time will be talking about either not understanding the Continental free trade area or not to support what we’re going to sign. I see that as criminal.

“The signing and implementation of the (AfCFTA) will enable a shift from dependence on assistance to increased trade."

“The establishment of the Free Trade Area will result in the establishment of a market of over one billion two hundred million people, with a combined gross product of over three trillion dollars.”

“That is where our salvation lies, trading amongst ourselves and consequently developing our economies. The agreement will inspire a change a perception of the continent by the rest of the world,” he said.

President Buhari in a social media post on Friday, March 22, 2018, said he has approved the setting-up of a committee to consult further on the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

"At the Fed Executive Council Meeting on 21 March 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the setting-up of a Presidential Committee to widen Consultations on the Framework Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area AfCFTA."

"Committee will report back to FEC in 2 weeks," the Twitter post reads.

The South African President had said his country needs more time to consult people at home, his Cabinet, partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council, and finally to consult Parliamentarians and only signed the declaration on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was signed at the extraordinary meeting by representatives of 44 of the 55 African Union (AU) member states and expected to come into force within six months.

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