Nigeria gets EU N5.6bn for diversification

By The Citizen

The Head, Trade and Economics Section of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Filippo Amato, said the EU has provided 19million pounds (about N5.6billion) grants to Nigeria through the National Planning Commission (NPC) to drive the diversification of the economy from oil to non-oil.

Speaking during the final national training on standards on code of practices for Nigerian agricultural products for exportation in Abuja, he said the grant was implemented through the Nigerian Private Sector Competitiveness Support Programme and aims to improve the business and investment climate through the improvement and implementation of regulatory reforms, especially in the areas of competition policy, land titling and business licensing with pilots in Kano State.

With Standard and Quality Unleashing the Potential of Agricultural Products to Grow the non-Oil Export in Nigeria as its theme, the forum was organised in partnership with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).

He said: 'As you are aware, Nigeria in terms of population and economy is over 60 per cent of ECOWAS. The EU combined support to ECOWAS and Nigeria in the areas of Trade and Economic Development is over 1.3billion euros between 2008 and 2014. In energy, our current 10th EDF (European Development Fund) intervention is the Nigeria Energy Support Programme, that started in May 2014 and will finish in September 2017, with a 15.5 million euro funding from the EU. It is being implemented by GIZ. The project focuses on renewable energy, energy efficiency, rural electrification and technical skills development issues.

'EU has helped Nigeria to establish the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) working closely with SON, NAFDAC (National Agency for Food, Drug Adminsistration and Control), Consumer Protection Council (CPC), and other stakeholders to improve the quality of products manufactured, exported and exchanged in the Nigerian market and to protect consumer rights. In these projects, the EU is partnering with GIZ, DFID  (Department for International Development) and UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation).

'Although it was true that there were a number of food products (such as melon seeds, dried meat, palm oil) imported from Nigeria that were sometimes rejected at the EU border because they were found to contain dangerous substances for human health, the import suspension measure adopted by the EU only concerned dried beans.

'The reason for the import suspension measure of dried beans is that since January 2013 more than 50 rejections have been recorded at the EU border in relation to this product originating from Nigeria, nearly all of them reporting the presence of the unauthorised pesticide dichlorvos at levels largely exceeding the acute reference dose tentatively established by the European Food Safety Authority.'

Amato said in order to allow the time necessary for Nigeria to provide feedback and consider the appropriate risk management measures, the suspension of imports of dried beans applies until 30 June this year, stressing that Nigerian authorities must provide an export control plan to assure that the beans exported to the EU comply with the EU Minimal Risk Levels for Hazardous Substances.

He also said the key to economic development is not protectionism, but a good mix of policy measures and reforms capable of increasing the competitiveness of all sectors of the economy and consequently Nigeria's trade relations with the rest of the world.

He argued that one tool that would considerably enhance trade relations and increase the potential to diversify the exports from Nigeria to the EU, is the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and ECOWAS.

According to him, the criticism raised against this agreement is often due to an emotional and misconceived perception of the agreement.

The agreement provides for the immediate removal of all tariffs on imports from West Africa to the EU, while it provides for a gradual reduction of tariffs on imports from the EU to West Africa over a period of 20 years and only for machineries, intermediate and capital goods, while allowing West Africa to maintain tariff protection over its agricultural products and consumer goods. The Nation