President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, delivered his much anticipated speech to a special session of the European Union, where he assured them that his administration was doing its best to protect the fundamental human rights of persons in the theatre of operations against Boko Haram.
His assurance is coming on the heels of an Amnesty International statement this week which condemned Buhari’s decision to recall a retired Nigerian major general who the organisation has accused of being guilty of crimes against humanity.
President Buhari told members of the EU parliament that his government shared the European Union’s commitment to peace and security, respect for human rights, democracy and good governance, equality and tolerance, as ways of developing prosperous and strong societies.
“For our part, we have updated our rules of engagement in fighting terrorism and pay very close attention during operations to the treatment of captured terrorists, civilians caught up in the conflict and in general, safeguarding property.
“Our aim is to use minimum force necessary in our fight against terrorists,” President Buhari assured members of the parliament and the European Union Commission.
The President also spoke of Nigeria’s concerns about the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union, African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), collectively endorsed by the Economic Community of West African States.
He said that Nigeria was yet to sign the agreement because pertinent technical issues raised by the Federal Government have not been satisfactorily addressed.
“Giving due consideration to the mismatch of the two regions (Europe-ECOWAS) in terms of technology and manufacturing experience, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and Associated Trade Unions raised concerns over the negative impact of the agreement on Nigeria’s industrialisation programme.
“Nigeria is working towards addressing her own side of the issues and I therefore urge our European Union partners to also address our own concerns to allow for an Economic Partnership Agreement that is mutually beneficial and can contribute to the prosperity of our people, in the context of our shared values and interest at promoting cordial bilateral trade relations,” President Buhari said.
The President also sought greater support from the European Union for Nigeria’s efforts to curb the theft of its crude oil and corruption in its oil and gas sector.
“Nigeria is facing the challenges of oil-theft and illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta as well as recovery of illicit funds. In this regard, Nigeria solicits the cooperation of the European Parliament to support the efforts aimed at stemming these vices.
“Our attempt to restore security, curb corruption and fight crime will result not only in improving social stability in Nigeria but will re-open the doors for full economic relations with Europe and the rest of the world.
“Those who wish to invest in our country have immense opportunities and we intend to guarantee the security of people and investments brought to Nigeria,” President Buhari said.
He assured the parliament that Nigeria will collaborate with the European Union to address illegal migration to Europe.
Our Government is making concerted efforts to address the push-factor that propel migration, especially from Nigeria, as both destination and transit country.
“In this year’s budget, the Government has provided for over Five-Hundred Thousand graduate employment in the teaching profession alone. We are equally collaborating with the States and Local Governments, to strengthen Skills Acquisition Centres, in order to train the teeming youth in various vocational skills, so that they can be self-employed, and eventually, become employers of labour.
“We are also making efforts to diversify the economy, giving impetus to agriculture and solid minerals exploitation, to create wealth and employments.
“Nigeria welcomes the outcome of the Valletta EU-Africa Summit on Migration, including the launching of 1.8 billion Euros Emergency Trust Fund to address the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe.
“Nigeria will work with the countries of the Sahel and Central Africa, to submit to the Board of the Emergency Trust Fund, our identified projects for funding in due course.
“The Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM), which Nigeria was the first African country to sign on 12th March 2015, is a demonstration of the positive spirit of our cooperation with the European Union in the field of migration and development.
“It is in the light of this understanding that I wish to propose the reciprocal visa waivers for holders of Nigerian Diplomatic and Official Passports attending official Meetings and Conferences in Europe,” the President said.