President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has admitted that the perennial gridlock that charactises, Apapa area of Lagos, especially the toll it had taken on business and commuters remains a major challenge to the Federal Government under his watch.

Nigeria’s two biggest and busiest seaports, the Lagos Ports Complex LPC and the Tin Can Island Ports Complex TCIP are located in Apapa as well as other numerous tank farms and businesses from where the government makes at least N5billion daily.

The President spoke during a meeting with a delegation of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry LCCI led by its chairman, Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, who visited him at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja on Wednesday.

“I must admit that the Apapa gridlock still remains a major challenge to us. It saddens me that businesses have had to suffer as a result of that.

“We are doing our very best working with the Lagos State Government to bring this problem to an end ” he said.

The President therefore expressed hope in the ongoing efforts and collaboration by the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government in resolving all the issues that give rise to the gridlock.

The President also acquainted the delegation of some of the investments initiatives undertaken by his administration in the last four years on infrastructure development and in support of business environment, including the establishment of “development banks to provide loans to traders and small enterprises.”

Buhari and the LCCI leadership reviewed Nigeria’s recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, both agreeing that there were pros and cons for the country.

“The consultative approach Nigeria took on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement is just another example of our desire for sustainable and inclusive growth. The team visited all the geopolitical zones. We met farmers, commodity traders, manufacturers, bankers and stock brokers. We listened and made notes of their views.

“Our studies revealed that although the services sector was doing okay, other key job creating sectors such as manufacturing and processing still lag behind.

“This is evident from the fact that intra-African trade only accounts for 14 per cent of Africa’s total trade. As a continent, our consumption is mostly of goods imported from outside the continent”, the President said

He also told his visitors that: “We viewed this as both an opportunity and a threat. It is an opportunity as Nigerian manufacturers can aggressively expand to meet the huge demand across the continent. It is a threat as one can abuse the rules of origin to flood the market with imports from outside the continent, thereby destroying jobs here at home.

“Nigeria’s engagement in the next phase of the negotiations is to ensure proper safeguards are put in place to support African manufacturers. We shall continue to count on your support to ensure this goal is achieved.”

Meanwhile, chairman of LCCI, who spoke earlier on the Apapa gridlock, noted that while it appeared that traffic flow had eased in some areas, the problem was far from being over, urging the Federal Government to take further steps that would completely end the gridlock.

On the signing of the AfCFTA , he said that it would promote economic integration in Africa.

He therefore urged the government to speed up the implementation of the agreement by putting necessary measures in place to enable Nigeria to harness its maximum benefits.

“We commend Your Excellency for signing the AfCFTA. We believe it will promote continental economic integration and growth of member countries. We appreciate in particular the extensive consultation with the private sector which preceded the signing of the agreement.

“We also commend the recent setting up of National Action Committee on the implementation of AfCFTA. We look forward to speedy execution of programmes and projects that will create the environment to enhance the competitiveness of Nigerian businesses within the context of AfCFTA”, Ruwase said.