The European Union has advised the Nigerian government to look beyond military deployment in the ongoing war against terrorism in the Northeast, and other crises causing insecurity across the country.
Addressing a media briefing ahead of Europe Day 2021, the Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ambassador Ketil Karlsen said the insecurity crises in the country has shown that while the military option should not be foreclosed, other options including dialogue and other legal instruments should be evolved.
He said by advocating for the introduction of dialogue and other strategies, the EU is not promoting that terrorists should not be punished for act terrorism but rather that all options should be brought to bear.
Karlsen reaffirmed the commitment of the EU to a strong and robust mutually beneficial partnership with Nigeria and declared its continued support for the country in addressing challenges and seeking opportunities.
He said the EU-Nigeria partnership had never been stronger and more relevant, even in the face of recent upheavals arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, while hailing the resilient spirit of what he described as “a long-standing partnership of equals.”
He noted that the EU bloc of 27 Member States remains Nigeria’s biggest trading partner, first investor, a top donor of humanitarian and development aid, and the biggest diplomatic network.
Ambassador Karlsen cited the outstanding strides made in recent times as the EU and Nigeria collaborated to address issues of common concerns, leveraging their wide and deep partnership.
He said: “This year also, we are commemorating 10 Years of EU Diplomacy. The European External Service was created a decade ago, getting the EU diplomacy ready for the challenges of the 21st century.
“In the face of big challenges such as pandemics, security, finding green and digital solutions, climate change and migration, we have already proven to be more effective together.”
He noted that the European Union has within these 10 eventful years contributed to promoting peace and security, democratic governance and rule of law, human rights and freedoms, prosperity and decent living at home and around the world.
He said multiple examples of EU engagement in Nigeria include; working with the Nigerian authorities to bring an end to the security challenges across the country.
He said. “We are supporting the government’s efforts to fight terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism as well as the reform of the criminal justice system.
He disclosed that: “Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the EU has supported its democratic process with over €100 million. The EU has consistently deployed an Election Observation Missions (EU-EOM) in each of the general elections. EU’s support aims to strengthen key democratic institutions including INEC, the National Assembly, the Civil Society and the Media.”
While noting that over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s population is under 25 years, Karlsen said the ability to provide opportunities for young Nigerians will be a strong factor in the country’s political, economic, and social development.
He said: “The youths have, therefore, been a central feature of EU’s support across all priority areas. In 2020, the EU doubled the number of young Nigerians selected to study in various European universities under its flagship education programme, ERASMUS+.”
He said while the EU takes the lead in promoting human rights and freedoms, Nigeria is one of the pilot countries for the EU-UN Global Spotlight Initiative, a multi-year joint effort to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030 with an initial investment in the order of €25 million made to Nigeria.
He said although the global economic downturn precipitated by the COVID-19 led to a decline in the volume of EU-Nigeria trade, the EU remains Nigeria’s largest trading partner accounting for 20.4 per cent of Nigeria’s trade with the world in 2020.
He revealed that the EU is taking the lead in supporting partner countries, including Nigeria, to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic by combining resources from the European Union, its Member States and European financial institutions, under the ‘Team Europe’ initiative. At the onset of the pandemic in Nigeria, the EU rapidly mobilised €50 million to help the country’s national response to the crisis. In addition, over €9 million grant in humanitarian aid was given to Nigeria to boost prevention and response to coronavirus in the country.
He said the EU in Nigeria has availed the remaining 14.5 million USD unspent from the basket fund to support the rollout of vaccines in Nigeria.