President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria will soon sign the Africa Trade Agreement, which it refused to sign few months ago.
He stated this while speaking to State House Correspondents after a closed door meeting with visiting South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday.
President Buhari said he took his time to study the terms of the agreement, in order not to go into anything that will harm the country’s upcoming industries.
“I am very careful about what I sign whether it is my cheque book or agreements especially when it involves the nation or states. We are so populated and have so many young unemployed citizens and our industries are just coming up. So, in trying to guarantee employment, goods and services in our country, we have to be careful with agreements that will compete maybe successfully against our upcoming industries. I was presented with the document; I am a very slow leader maybe, because I was an ex- soldier. I didn’t read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature. I kept it on my table. I will soon sign it,” he said.
On his part, South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who expressed regret at the way some Nigerians are being killed in his country, pledged to fish out the perpetrators of such acts and bring them to book.
“There have been quite a number of incidences in our country, where foreign nationals some of whom are Nigerians have lost their lives and are being attacked. I will like to say here and now that that has been as a result of criminal activity among our own people which we are focusing on from a criminal element point of view. I want to state here and now that South Africans do not have any form of negative disposition or hatred towards Nigerians and in the main, Nigerians are in South Africa and a number of places in our country. They live side by side, they corporate very well and some are in the corporate structures of our various companies and some are traders and some are into a number of things.”
“So, I want to dispel this notion that when a Nigerian loses his or her life in South Africa, it is as a result of an intentional action by South Africans against Nigerians. That is simply not true. You will know that South Africa has a number of challenges, one of which is criminality and which is all pervasive. We have over a number of years been bringing down a number of crimes in our country and we are working on a concerted basis to ensure that crime does come down. So, the Nigerians who are in South Africa are also part of our community. They can never be targeted on an intentional basis; l will like all of us to see that as an act of criminality which in the main affect many South Africans in the various parts of our country. It is an act of criminality and our government is determined to bring the levels of criminality down and also to go after those who perpetrate these acts of criminality. So that anyone who attacks anyone in South Africa will be pursued with the might of the law to make sure they are brought to justice,” he stated.
The South African President solicited for more cooperations between his country and Nigeria.
He said: “It is important that South Africa and Nigeria should develop and deepen the relationships between the two countries. Deepen them at a people to people level but also at an economy level and of course underpin by good political relations between the two countries. At an economy level, our various companies from South Africa are already business here and in a number of ways are diplomats of our country. At the political level, we took time during our discussions to thank the people of Nigeria and the leadership of Nigeria over the many years for the support they gave to our struggle.”
Ramaphosa thanked Nigeria for the support it rendered to his country in the struggle against apartheid.
“Today, we are a free and independent country and this is largely due to the support that we got from a number of countries around the world but more especially on the African continent. Nigeria which is six hours away from South Africa was proudly regarded as a front line state because it was really at the frontline of our titanic struggle against apartheid. Nigeria and indeed Nigerians never flinched for a minute in support of our struggle. In fact Nigerians even took it a little further; President Buhari related that Nigerians through their households contributed money into the Organization of African Union Fund to support the struggle against apartheid. So, I took time to thank President Buhari and Nigerians for the support that we received during our struggle,” President Ramaphosa said.