By Musa Madobi, KanoÂ
Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar has advanced reason on why the Federal Government has refused to sign the Economic Partner Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.Speaking in Kano on Tuesday, Abubakar stated that the Federal Government was taking its time to come out of the current economic challenges facing it.Â
She spoke at a one-day sensitisation seminar organized by the E) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adding that â€œNigeria and Gambia withheld their signatories to the agreement due to some identified issues of national importance that needed to be addressed.â€Â
The Minister said that the delay in signing the document is therefore, not an attempt to undermine the efforts of the ECOWAS commission as well as the EU on the already concluded initiative but rather based on the need to address the economic challenges presently facing the country.Â
â€œWe need some time to consult further withÂ the relevant stakeholders and agree on the next step, while our gathering today is a step forward towards finalizing on Nigeriaâ€™s position,â€ adding that trade agreement is too critical to be concluded and signed onto in a hurry.Â
According to her, â€œit became imperative that we reflect deeply on the trade liberalization deal with the EU and its long-term impact on the continents efforts towards industrialization and job creation,â€ pointing out that, â€œwe need to leverage our abundant natural resources and large market to develop our industries.â€Â
She also emphasized the need to create jobs, â€œfor our people, increase intra-African trade and achieve regional integration objective. Africa is on the rise and it is a very big and strategic market for any trading partner.Â
â€œWe should diversify our economies, move away from export of raw materials by encouraging value-added export through industrialization and have a better share of the global market,â€ she added.Â
Also speaking at the event, the Head of EU delegation in Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Michel Arrion who expressed worry over the delay of signing the EPA by Nigeria, said that, â€œNigerian government seems to have some reservation over the signing of the agreement.Â
â€œWe are here to dispel this misconception and to put the record straight, not through fear or threats, but to make Nigeria government realize the attendant benefit that it will bring to the economic growth and development of the country through trade facilitation with ECOWAS,â€ he stated.Â
Also in his remarks, Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion of the ECOWAS commission, Mr. Kalilou Traore said that ECOWAS, said that 20 countries have already signed the EPA, except Nigeria and Gambia.
According to him, the EU and its member states have committed to jointly fund the development dimension of EPA for at least 20 years through liberalization of trade in West Africa and to also improve the subsidy of processed products for export.Â
He added that already, 6.5 billion Euros has been set aside to support West Africaâ€™s EPA Development Programme (PAPED) for the next five years.