Wescot at a press conference said the EU Development Programme in Nigeria for the next seven years would be targeted at poverty reduction, particularly in northern Nigeria, stressing that the fund was approved under the 11th EU Development Fund (EDF), 2014 to 2020.
It was reported that the latest approval represents a reduction of 17.7 per cent compared to the 677 million euros appropriated to Nigeria under the 10th EDF from 2008 to 2013.
The EU official described Nigeria as a significant development partner to EU, citing strong trade relations. “The EU imported 33 billion euros worth of goods from Nigeria and exported goods valued at 11.4 billion euro to Nigeria in 2012.
“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 500 million euros in development assistance to Nigeria.’’
He said the EU and prospective investors from the bloc would target investments in the agricultural sector to provide jobs for unemployed people in Nigeria, particularly in the rural areas, assuring it will also assist Nigeria to address her security challenges including the fight against Boko Haram and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“We are keen to provide support and from our instrument for stability we have just agreed on an additional 10 million euros to help support the Nigeria security apparatus to develop its capability for 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 also noted that he plans to meet with Prof. Attahiru Jega, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, to discuss on credible elections in Nigeria.
The EU official, had earlier met with Nigeria’s Minister of Trade, Olusegun Aganga, and held discussions on the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with West Africa countries. He said negotiations on the EPA had made “good progress’’ and described ECOWAS member-countries’ commitment to a common external tariff as a “significant step forward.”