Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari signed the agreement for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Sunday, fulfilling a promise he made earlier in the week.
"Nigeria will sign the #AfCFTA Agreement at the upcoming Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Niamey, Niger," the presidency tweeted late Tuesday.
True to his word, the President signed the agreement on Sunday at the opening of the 12th Extra Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government in Niamey, Niger Republic.
Benin's President Patrice Talon also signed the agreement, with both him and President Buhari receiving rapturous applause at the summit, AFP reported.
Fifty-four of the 55 African Union member countries signed onto the deal, with only Eritrea holding out.
Nigeria had been a key backer of the plan to progressively reduce trade barriers on the continent since talks on the African Continental Free Trade Area got underway in 2002.
However, it changed course shortly before the deal was signed last year following pressure from local unions and businesses that feared they would be uncompetitive if trade barriers are removed.
Last week, a special government panel formed to study the potential impact of joining AfCFTA, recommended that President Buhari sign Nigeria up.
Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, President of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), commended the Federal Government on its decision to sign the AfCFTA agreement.
“Nigeria signing the AfCFTA does not in any way expose it to any economic or social hazards…It [AfCFTA] has adequate and all necessary safeguards against smuggling, dumping and other risks or threats to the internal development of individual countries in the region,” he said.
Mr Kayode, who is also the AU Trade Policy Ambassador and Vice President of the Pan African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), said the Organised Private Sector (OPS) supports the agreement, and foresees its benefits to the Nigerian economy.
“What is important to us in the OPS is the need to immediately log into the initiative,” he said.
-Additional reporting by AFP