Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday called on the European Union (EU) to extend its cooperation with Nigeria to the health sector.
Buhari made the call during the 7th Nigeria-EU Ministerial Dialogue which held virtually in Abuja and Brussels.
Present at the dialogue were the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Mr Josep Borrell; the EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel; the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson; EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič; Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen; Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson; and Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski.
On the Nigerian side were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the Minister of
Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd); the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo; the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq; the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami; the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige; the Minister of Environment, Muhammad Abubakar and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Zainab Ahmed.
Buhari, who was represented by Onyeama, said it was evident that while the EU and Nigeria focussed on issues of peace, security and economic development, attention should also be given to the promotion of strong cooperation in other critical areas such as the health sector.
The President further said he believed that the bitter experiences from the global pandemic situation have introduced a new perspective in the partnership between the EU and Nigeria.
‘It has become evident that while we focus on issues of peace, security and economic development, attention should also be given to the promotion of strong cooperation in other critical areas such as the health sector,’ Buhari said.
Buhari also expressed appreciation to the EU for their valuable material and financial support in battling the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The President further said he believed that the monster that is currently ravaging the planet can only be subdued through collective actions and solidarity as demonstrated by the EU.
‘Even though we are beginning to see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel in the battle with the pandemic, the catastrophic impact on our economies will continue to be felt for some time. It is therefore important to understand that mitigating the impact of this severe shock would require an unprecedented level of partnership with coordinated efforts towards ensuring collective capacity to curtail the spread of COVID-19 and to carefully navigate the highly uncertain path to economic recovery.
‘What this means is that we should make the best use of this dialogue to recalibrate our strategic partnership and intensify cooperation in critical areas that could produce quick results. The outcome of this process will significantly determine the flow of other aspects of our engagements. Nigeria on its part will always be ready to welcome any collective action plan that would facilitate stronger and more impactful cooperation with the EU. Furthermore, as a major player in Africa, Nigeria anticipates a new structure of African Union – European Union partnership that will move beyond donor/recipient relationship towards long-term cooperation on jointly identified, mutual complimentary interest,’ Buhari also said.
The President further said he was convinced that the promotion of functional and beneficial political, trade, cultural, technological and economic relations between Nigeria and EU was predicated on building bridges and strengthening partnership with mutual aspirations.
‘I, therefore, have no doubt that we would explore every opportunity in this dialogue to further reinvigorate our strategic ties,’ Buhari added.
Meanwhile, the European Union and the Federal Government, have resolved to have a reinvigoration of a strategic and mature political partnership that should be comprehensive, balanced and mutually beneficial.
In a joint communique signed by Borell and Onyeama after the dialogue, the EU and Nigeria, amongst other areas, said they would deepen cooperation in the areas of agriculture, climate change and the environment, renewable energy, blue economy, research and innovation, trade and investment, sustainable finance, capacity building in governance, rule of law and security, social development, health systems resilience, humanitarian assistance, and migration and mobility.
‘The EU reiterated the importance of this partnership in the context of a new comprehensive EU strategy with Africa,’ the communique read.
On the #EndSARS protests, the EU and the Federal Government reiterated the importance of respecting human rights, including the right to peaceful demonstrations and freedom of expression within the context of law and constitution.
The EU expressed its concern and condolences for the casualties and stressed the importance of bringing perpetrators of violence to justice.
‘Both sides acknowledged the importance of delivering on genuine reforms, including of the police, through a process characterised by engagement of all stakeholders, local ownership, transparency and accountability. Both sides acknowledged the concrete efforts and response of the Nigerian Government in addressing the #EndSARS movement demands, including the setting up of independent bodies to investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings, with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units. This also includes civilian brutality to policemen and damages done to private and public properties and investments.
‘Both sides stressed the joint commitment to continue supporting efforts to address Nigeria’s peace and security challenges, and to respond to the humanitarian needs, in particular in the North East, but also in the North West, Middle Belt, Niger Delta, and the Gulf of Guinea. They noted that a strong Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus approach should be at the heart of this cooperation.
‘Both sides reiterated the importance of security and defence forces to respect human rights and to work closely with local authorities and humanitarian actors to protect civilian populations and facilitate access to humanitarian assistance.
‘Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the outcomes of their review conferences and remain committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in this context.
‘Both sides condemned the horrific abuses committed by non-state armed groups and acknowledged the efforts to reduce the threat. Both sides reaffirmed the importance to prevent a general destabilisation of the region and noted the importance to strengthen the resilience of communities, especially the most vulnerable, as well as refugees and internally displaced people. Both sides acknowledge that in order to respond to the complex challenges in the Lake Chad Basin region a truly integrated approach is needed, linking political, security, environmental and development efforts and ensuring the provision of humanitarian assistance in a principled manner. Both sides expressed their support for the implementation of the AU’s Lake Chad Regional Stabilisation Strategy in close coordination with all key actors, including the AU and the United Nations. The EU expressed willingness to continue working closely together through the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) as part of an integrated response to the crisis, and in line with relevant Security Council resolutions. The EU called for better cooperation between MNJTF member states and increased operational activity. The EU acknowledged the significance of Nigerian leadership within the MNJTF and encourages the Nigerian government to take initiative in order to enhance the MNJTF’s efficiency. Both sides recognised that higher military pressure on armed terrorist groups, in compliance with humanitarian law, was required for the return of peace in the Lake Chad region.
‘Both sides intend to work together to prevent further violence in the North-West and the Middle Belt, particularly through the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan,’ the communique further read.