The EU official for Africa, Dr Nicholas Westcott, said on Wednesday in Abuja that the European Union has approved €500m budget for Nigeria from 2014 to 2020. Dr Westcott who was speaking to journalists at a press conference said that the EU development programme in Nigeria for the next seven years would be targeted at poverty reduction, particularly in northern Nigeria.
The EU official said the fund was approved under the 11th European Union Development Fund (EDF) from 2014 to 2020. The fund is a reduction of 17.7% compared with the €677m earmarked for Nigeria under the 10th EDF from 2008 to 2013.
Westcott described Nigeria as a significant development partner to EU, citing strong trade relations between both parties. “The EU imports €33b worth of goods from Nigeria; we exported €11.4b worth of goods to Nigeria in 2012,” he said. “We have the biggest stock of investment built up over many years in Nigeria and many EU investors are still keen to come and invest in the country.
“We also remain a significant development partner and have just agreed that over the next seven years we will contribute €500m in development systems to Nigeria.’’ He said the EU and prospective investors from the bloc would target investments in the agriculture sector to provide jobs for the unemployed people in Nigeria, particularly in the rural areas.
Westcott reiterated the EU’s commitment to assist Nigeria in addressing its security challenges including the fight against Boko Haram and the piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. “We are keen to provide support and from our instrument for stability we have just agreed an additional €10m to help support the Nigeria security apparatus to develop its capability of solving some of these challenges.’’
On the 2015 elections, he said the EU would assist Nigeria to build robust democratic institutions, where “differences of views could be resolved peacefully without resorting to violence.’’ “The forthcoming elections in Nigeria would be a very important step to the evolution of Nigeria’s democracy.
“All the people of Nigeria and the international community want those elections to be transparent, honest, open, credible and peaceful,’’ he said. Wescot told reporters that during his visit to Abuja he would meet with Prof Attahiru Jega, the INEC chairman, to discuss on credible elections in Nigeria.
According to the EU official, he had earlier met with Nigeria’s Minister of Trade Olusegun Aganga and they held discussions on the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with West Africa countries. He said negotiations on the EPA had made “good progress’’ and he described ECOWAS member-countries commitment to a common external tariff as a “significant step forward.’’
“There are still outstanding issues to be resolved, but my conversation with the minister was encouraging and these are problems that can be overcome in the weeks ahead.’’ He also used the occasion to announce that the EU-Africa summit would hold in Brussels on April 2 to April 3 2014.