President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated reasons Nigeria will not join other African countries to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) treaty. Buhari, considering Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, said on Thursday that the decision to withhold signing the deal was to allow for “broader and proper consultation with all stakeholders, including trade unions which have advised the government against signing the deal”. According to the president, with the committee noting that intra-African trade constituted only 14 percent of the continent’s total trade volume, Nigeria’s consumption is composed mostly of goods imported from outside Africa. For AfCFTA to succeed, he said, Nigeria and other African countries must develop policies that promote African production, among other benefits. Nigeria’s vision for intra-African trade, he said, is for the free movement of “made-in-Africa goods”; adding that if Nigeria allows unbridled imports to continue, it will dominate the country’s trade, with coastal importing nations having better prospects of prospering, while landlocked nations will continue to suffer and depend on aid. The president said that many of the challenges Nigeria was facing today on security, economy and corruption, were rooted in the country’s inability, over the years, to domesticate the production of the most basic requirements and create jobs for its vibrant, young and dynamic population. The AfCFTA treaty is one of the flagship initiatives of the African Union Agenda 2063, aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons, investments and a single currency across the continent. The first phase of the agreement was adopted and signed by the African Union Heads of States and governments at its 10th Extraordinary Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has suspended the implementation of the new tariffs on pharmaceutical, food and allied products following threat of hike in the prices of drugs and other products. The decision, according to the agency, became necessary following agitations by stakeholders, particularly the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). The implementation of the tariffs was expected to have commenced on June 1 this year. NAFDAC’s Director of Public Affairs, Abubakar Jimoh, said all the parties will maintain status quo until further notice, to douse the tension, while it continued to dialogue with critical stakeholders on the review of tariffs and other regulatory issues. Last week, the Chairman of the PSN, Lagos Chapter, Bolanle Adeniran, said that prices of drugs in Nigeria may increase by 100 percent following the hike in the price of registering drugs in the country. NAFDAC had increased the cost of registering new prescription drugs by 350 percent to ₦1.05 million, from ₦350,000; while registration of over-the-counter drugs increased from ₦1 million to ₦4 million.

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council has put the amount the country loses to foreign ship-owners annually at about $9 billion since the country does not have any vessel that is involved in international freight services. Nigeria, the council said on Thursday, makes nothing from the billions of dollars importers and exporters pay as freight fees to owners of vessels. The Executive Secretary, NSC, Hassan Bello said in 2015, Nigeria spent $9 billion on movement of cargoes internationally, and not a ship is owned by a Nigerian or Nigerian firm. Bello noted that a committee charged with the mandate of actualising the establishment of a national shipping line had been inaugurated by the government, explaining that with no Nigerian vessel to share in the movement of cargo on the high sea, the country had continued to suffer massive capital flight. The NSC boss stressed that about five million jobs could be created in the industry if the estimated $9 billion was invested in the sector. The government is expected to partner private sector on the proposed national shipping firm.

The value of Nigeria’s export fell by 3.9 percent to ₦4.535 trillion in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. The total export rose by 1.7 percent compared to the Q4 2018. The breakdown of the figures from the National Bureau of Statistics’ report on foreign trade statistics shows that the value of total imports increased to ₦3.7 trillion in Q1 2019, representing an increase of 3.39 percent and 29.84 percent compared to Q4 2018 and Q1 2018. The trade balance remained positive at ₦831.6 billion in Q1 2019, boosted by increases in exports and imports. The boost also had an effect on the total trade increase to ₦8.239 trillion, 2.50 percent and 7.52 percent higher compared to Q4 2018 and Q1 2018. The export trade was dominated by crude oil, which contributed ₦3.376 trillion or 74.45 percent to the value of total exports in Q1 2019. The country exported mainly mineral products, which amounted to ₦3.95 trillion in total or 87.1 percent of the total value of exports. This was followed by vehicles, aircraft and parts; prepared food stuff, beverages, spirits; and vegetable products, which respectively accounted for ₦418 billion or 9.22 percent, ₦55.4 billion or 1.2 percent and ₦49.0 billion or 1.1 percent of the total exports. Products exported to Europe, Asia and Africa in Q1 2019 were valued at ₦1.833 trillion, 40.43 percent of total exports, ₦1.324 trillion, 29.2 percent and ₦936.8 billion 20.67 percent respectively. ₦405.8 billion, 8.95 percent worth of goods was exported from the country to the Americas and N34.5 billion, 0.76 percent to Oceania. Within Africa, Nigeria exported goods valued at ₦300.6 billion to ECOWAS member states (representing 32.08 per cent of total merchandise exports to Africa). By country of destination, the country exported goods mainly to India, Spain, Netherlands, South Africa and France, valued at ₦745 billion, 16.43 percent, ₦487.1 billion, 10.74 percent, ₦405.4 billion, 8.9 percent, ₦325.5 billion, 7.2 percent and ₦302.3 billion, 6.7 percent respectively.