The European Union (EU’s) aid assistance to Nigeria in the last decade was above €2.2 billion, the Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, said on Wednesday in Abuja.
Also, Mr Karlsen said as a demonstration of EU’s commitment to the continued political and economic development and growth of the country, another €318.5 million has been set aside to fund various activities relating to the forthcoming 2019 general election and the humanitarian crisis of the country’s North-east region.
The Ambassador, who described the EU as Nigeria’s “key political development partner” said about €1.5 bilion was committed to the Nigeria’s development over the last decade, apart from about €200 million spent last year alone.
He said between 2015 and 2017, about €144.18 million was spent in humanitarian aid to victims of terrorist attacks in the North-east region of the country, including Borno State, while another €100 million went in support of the electoral process since 1999.
To support the crisis-torn region in terms of economic development, investment, trade and job creation, the envoy said another €353.5 million was provided for water, sanitation and energy infrastructure towards improved living conditions of more than 4 million people in 14 states.
He said apart from about €1 billion spent on engagement with ECOWAS to support strategic national development activities in the region, trade between Nigeria and EU member countries in 2017 was above €25.3 billion.
Mr Karlsen, who was briefing the media on preparations by the delegation towards the celebration of the “2018 Europe Day” said an additional €257.5 million has been set aside by the EU for humanitarian relief and assistance for long term development in the region.
To facilitate the process towards the 2019 general elections, Mr Karlsen said the delegation has set aside about €26.5 million for engagement of key players in the electoral process to prepare for the exercise.
Apart from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he stressed the need for the National Assembly, political parties, civil society groups, women groups, disabled people and other key institutions to be mobilised to support the processes leading up to the 2019 general elections.
“We hope the EU can support the national leadership to ensure Nigeria demonstrated to Nigerians, Africa and the world the consolidation of democracy,” he said.
“The EU has consistently observed elections in Nigeria since 1999. This time, it will be a long term election observation mission coming with the necessary expertise before, during and after the elections to be able to come up with recommendations,” he noted.
At the end of 2015 elections, the EU in its final monitoring report made seven recommendations covering the need for more inclusive parliamentary mechanism for cross-party involvement in the selection and approval of the INEC Chairperson and Commissioners; developing and maintaining a comprehensive voter register, including improved biometrics, and merging accreditation and voting processes on election day for ease of access for voters.
Other recommendations included: amendment of the Constitution to allow for independent candidacy for all elected positions; strengthening of the National Broadcasting Commission to perform its functions; allowance of reasonable time limits for the effective filing, hearing and determination of pre-election suits, and provision of information by political parties on promotion of women’s political participation.
However, Mr Karlsen said following the mid-term reviews of the implementation of the recommendations in October last year, not more than four of the seven recommendations received significant attention.
“It is difficult to draw any final conclusion on all the decisions that have been taken at different levels. But, the fundamental demand is to stress the importance of reforms to be done in time ahead of the elections to allow INEC to properly implement the changes made,” he said.
“There is a clear need to establish the ECOWAS standard, which stipulates that six months ahead of the elections, all major reforms should be decided, to allow INEC secure the implementation. Last minute changes introduced to elections processes are part of the bad practices that should not be encouraged.”
He frowned at the insufficient progress made in terms of participation of women and youth in elections, saying the political parties and all players still needed time to do more on these.
The Ambassador said the EU and the international community would keep a keen eye on the constitutional changes and ongoing debates in the National Assembly.
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