Nigeria, EU enter N20b pact to develop North-East

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Nigeria and the European Union (EU) yesterday signed a €50 million (N19.65 billion) memorandum of understanding (MoU) to support the development of the insurgency-ravaged North-East geo-political region.

The latest pact, signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Geoffrey Onyeama, and EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Mr. Neven Mimica, on the sidelines of the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) in Yokohama, Japan, brings the bloc’s intervention in the country to €562 million for 2014-2020.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who thanked the European nations for the gesture, described as “pathetic the situation in internally displaced camps.”

He called for further assistance to improve youth education with a view to taming poverty in the region.

Mimica promised that Nigeria’s request for enhanced assistance would be given priority since it had come at the time the EU was preparing its seven-year budget.

Besides, the president has declared that “Nigeria has very attractive investment opportunities with some of the highest returns on investments.”

Presenting the country’s statement at plenary session three on “Public-Private Business Dialogue”, he welcomed prospective investors to priority sectors like power and renewable energy; petrochemical and gas; maritime (shipping and ports); automobiles; mining; agribusiness; healthcare and pharmaceuticals; ICT and railway.

Reaffirming good returns, the Nigerian leader stated: “I have also established a Presidential Committee on Enabling Business Environment, which is made up of key ministries and prominent businessmen to promote the Ease of Doing Business and make Nigeria more attractive and competitive for investments.”

He pledged that his administration was “committed to removing all impediments to private sector participation in these sectors by creating policies that ensure consistency, predictability and a level-playing field for all.”

Reviewing Nigeria-Japan relations, Buhari described the Asian country as “a strategic partner for our socio-economic development.”

He applauded the establishment of the Japan-Nigeria Business Facilitation Council to facilitate more ties.

Describing TICAD as important to Nigeria in many respects, the president said it “coincides with the period when the (our) country is faced with a number of challenges that affect (s) our economy.”

Besides, President Buhari yesterday averred that those Nigerians indulging in criminal activities abroad do not represent the country’s values.

A statement by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the president made the submission during a meeting with leaders of the Nigerian community in the Asian superpower.

He urged the over 17 million citizens overseas to be good ambassadors.

Also yesterday, President Buhari sought the assistance of the Japanese government in combating piracy and illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea.

He made the request during a bilateral meeting between the Nigerian delegation and Japanese officials, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the triennial occasion.

The host lauded Nigeria’s signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Commending the Buhari administration for taking “Nigeria to the Next Level”, Abe pledged a $300,000 support for the National Defence College as well as 12 million Yen for the public health sector.

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