Buhari: l Declined Signing EPA to Protect Local Industries, Youths

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  • FG expresses concern over trade deficit with Ukraine

Omololu Ogunmade and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari thursday in Abuja said he declined signing Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) involving Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) because of his commitment to secure the future of youths and keep local industries alive.

The president made this disclosure while receiving a letter of credence from the Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Nigeria, Ketil Iversen Karlsen, at the State House.

He said his insistence on probity, transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors was dictated by his commitment to secure the future of the country for all Nigerians, especially the youths.

According to his Special Adviser, Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, the president said his administration would always promote the culture of honesty and integrity in service, with a view to guaranteeing a better future for the youth.

“Our insistence on probity is to encourage people to be accountable, and accept honesty as a lifestyle so as to secure the future of our youths,’’ he reportedly said.

Adesina also said the president observed that more than 60 per cent of Nigerians are youths and deserve to inherit a stable and prosperous country that they can be proud of, adding that the government would work assiduously to prevent waste and the depletion of resources by corrupt Nigerians.

He also said Buhari told the Head of Delegation of the EU that Nigeria had been reluctant to sign the EPA among ECOWAS countries because of the need to protect the economy, especially the industries and small businesses which currently provide jobs for most Nigerians.

Adesina said the president noted that signing the agreement would expose the industries and small businesses to external pressures and competitions, which could lead to closures and job losses.

“We are not enthusiastic about signing the EPA because of our largely youthful population. We are still struggling to provide jobs for them, and we want our youths to be kept busy.

“Presently, our industries cannot compete with the more efficient and highly technologically driven industries in Europe. We have to protect our industries and our youths,’’ he was quoted as saying.

Buhari, he added, commended the EU for its support for the rehabilitation of the North-east, noting that the Nigerian economy was already being repositioned to attract more investments that can create jobs. Adesina added:

“In his remarks, Karlsen said the EU will continue to support Buhari’s administration in the key priorities it listed including security, economy and the fight against corruption.
“He said the EPA was designed to accommodate and protect some economies that would find it difficult to compete.

“President Buhari also received Letters of Credence from the Ambassador of Italy, Dr. Stefano Pontesilli and the Ambassador of Spain, Mr. Marcelino Cabanas Ansorena.”
The federal government has expressed worries about dip in the volume of trade Nigeria and Ukraine in 2017.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, made the disclosure yesterday when he addressed Ukrainian investors at the Nigerian-Ukrainian Trade and Investment Round Table Meeting in Abuja.

The Ukrainian delegation was led by Deputy Minister of Trade and Investment, Nataliia Mykolska.
Mustapha said the volume of trade between Nigeria and the Eastern Europe country, shrunk by 4.6 percent or $42,872 in 2017, against the $93.20 million transacted in 2016.

He expressed hope that Mykolska’s visit help in addressing the deficit, leading to improved volume of trade this year over the corresponding year between both countries.

He said the Nigerian government was ready to resolve the trade volume imbalance for mutual benefits, adding the federal government would grant the necessary waiver that will sustain Ukrainian investments in the country.

The SGF appealed to Ukrainian investors to consider the Nigerian waterways as one of the possible areas they could invest in given the huge potential of the sector that is yet to be fully harnessed.

“Nigeria has 10,000 km waterways and a lot of potential for economic growth. Ukrainian investors should help Nigeria to develop it. Though the country is passing through economic challenges, it remains an Investment haven for foreign investors,” Mustapha appealed.

Mykolska said the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, which facilitated the meeting, would convince Ukrainian investors to help tackle cybercrime in Nigeria.

The deputy minister similarly said that the Ukrainian investors were in the country to explore opportunities for the widening of their investments in all sectors of the Nigerian economy.