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Nigeria, EU signs new energy pact

15 June 2009, The Guardian

Abuja:  Nigeria and the European Union (EU) have signed a new agreement on energy aimed at exploring non- oil sources for development.  The development of energy from renewable sources (biomas, wind or solar), and low-carbon technologies top the list of areas to be explored according to the tenets of the Nigeria-EU joint way forward released at the weekend by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the end of the Nigeria-EU ministerial Troika meeting 2009 in Prague, Czech Republic.

A statement by the press secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Boade Akinnola, said both parties have identified energy as the main sector that "could contribute significantly in deepening the Nigeria-EU bilateral cooperation."

The Nigeria-EU Ministerial Troika meeting co-chaired by Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, for Nigeria and the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic representing the Presidency of the Council of the EU is in furtherance of the new omnibus cooperation agreement between Nigeria and the EU. The Troika meeting also focused on peace and security initiatives in Africa, the situation in the Gulf of Guinea/Nigeria's Niger Delta, Democratic Republic of Congo, African Standby Force (Including peace keeping operations), economic development and diversification, good governance, migration and human rights as well as the joint Africa-EU strategy and the role of Nigeria classified under what has been termed "Horizontal issues."

Nigeria, according to the statement, had strongly canvassed the need for both parties to set measurable benchmarks both at the multilateral and bilateral levels for the achievements recorded on the economic front to be measured in accordance with development goals set in the provisions of national planning.

Welcoming Nigeria's increasing role as energy supplier to the EU, the parties held that "the energy sector could contribute significantly to deepen the Nigeria-EU bilateral cooperation. To promote best practices in energy efficiency, we (EU) welcome the interest expressed by Nigeria in wider international efforts in the fields."

On the understanding reached in this field, the statement quoted the parties agreed to establish a new "structured dialogue on energy" with the aim of enhancing cooperation on "energy security, energy sustainability and gas trade and flaring."

In this vein, the parties agreed that the disruption and theft of crude oil (oil bunkering) account for a substantial loss in production of about 650,000 barrels per day. These criminal practices have a severe negative impact on the national economy as well as grave socio-economic and environmental consequences in the affected region of the Niger Delta. They also discussed the necessity to further develop a paper trail for crude oil similar to or better than that established for rough diamonds under the Kimberly process.

But Chief Maduekwe also pointed out "as politicians, we are answerable to the people and measureable benchmarks would enable each representative of his people to report in clear terms what the bilateral relation has achieved or would ultimately contribute to the general wellbeing of an average citizen.  By engaging Nigeria , the EU has affirmed the belief in Nigeria as a continental leader and thus pledged the commitment of the Nigerian Government to continuing to be a role model in Africa for good governance, rule of law and entrenchment of democratic principles and be in the frontline for continental security."

He drew the attention of the EU to the fact that democracy in Africa is fragile, not because it is a new concept, but because "the states are fragile due to limited capacity. We in Nigeria will want you to seriously address the issue of state capacity," he added.

The EU troika, which included Mr. Manuel Lopez Blanco, Director for Western and Central Africa, Caribbean and the OCTs of the European Commission and Mr. Jose Costa Pereira, Head of Africa Unit, General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union and Mr. Gunnar Wieslander, State Secretary to the Minister for Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, focused mainly on three broad areas namely, Peace and Security in Africa; Bilateral Issues; and Multilateral issues.

Parties also discussed, within the framework of the political dialogue, the situation in the Niger Delta, agreeing that the situation was complex and such a range of issues need to be taken into consideration in its resolution. The EU took note of the efforts of the Nigerian Government to establish a ministry of Niger Delta as parts of efforts aimed at resolving the issues and further welcomed the general amnesty offered by the Nigerian Government, including the rehabilitation process for those who will lay down their arms. They particularly agreed on the importance of youth empowerment, infrastructure development, environment, demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, and good governance in general, for the development and peace of the region.

To this end, the EU reiterated its willingness to contribute to this process, and continue to collaborate with the Nigerian authorities to build relations with States and Local Governments of the area.

Nigeria, on its part, stressed her commitment to address any possible humanitarian concerns that may have arisen as a result of the operations to consolidate Law and order in the area.

The parties reaffirmed their commitment to the peace and security of the Gulf of Guinea and jointly condemned illegal activities such as piracy, arms-trafficking, oil-bunkering and unauthorized exploration of mineral resources of the area.

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