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Buhari to address EU parliament, commission’s special session

President Muhammadu Buhari is to address a special session of the European Union parliament and European Commission next Wednesday in Strasbourg, France.

The Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria, Michel Arrion, told reporters in Abuja on Wednesday that President Buhari is scheduled to address the 751-member EU Parliament in a special session to be attended by members of the executive and legislative arms of the 28-member states of the EU.

Mr. Arrion said the one-day session would afford the Nigerian leader the opportunity to canvass the support of his European counterparts for his administration’s cardinal agenda of fight against insecurity in Nigeria.

The last African leader to address a similar special session of the EU was Thabo Mbeki of South Africa in 2004.

The president is expected to hold bilateral discussions with the presidents of the UK Parliament and European Commission about corruption, economy and the challenges of migration and mobility in Africa.

Mr. Arrion said the EU would use the occasion of Mr. Buhari’s visit to re-open discussions on the controversial Economic partnership agreement (EPA) on trade with the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, which Nigeria has refused to sign.

He said the EU would continue to support Nigeria in the fight against corruption through a range of programmes aimed at strengthening the capacities of the anti-corruption agencies and the criminal justice administration system.

“We welcome any form of cooperation in the judicial and the police that Nigeria wants to have with EU member-states,” he said. “The EU will be ready to support government agencies fighting corruption in public procurement and administration, starting with investigation and judiciary’s handling of corruption cases.”

Apart from the support for the fight against corruption through a 35 million Euros project implemented nationwide by the UN Office on Drug and Crime, the EU envoy said the delegation would support the judicial reform in Nigeria with the currently United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, initiative in six states.

The projects, targeted at various anti-corruption cases, seek to evolve a coordinated mechanism for the implementation of anti-corruption strategies in the country.

He said the EU was committed to work with Nigeria in formulating the appropriate policies and strategies, by combining military, intelligence, information, humanitarian, political and development responses to the problem at federal and state levels.

“During the visit, we (EU) will hold bilateral discussions on the humanitarian responses, in terms of building the capacity of Nigeria to respond to the social infrastructure needs for schools, hospitals and electricity in the North East region of the country.

“The focus of the discussions will be how the international community can help Nigeria address the threat of Boko Haram insurgents; fight corruption in public and private sectors of the country’s economy, and help recover and return stolen assets to Nigeria,” he explained.

He advised the government not to focus on corruption in the public sector alone, noting that the level of corruption in the private sector, especially in the business sector, was not only high, but also seriously impacting on the economy and management of economic infrastructure.

Mr. Arrion said the problem with the Nigerian economy was its over-dependence on oil revenue.

“There should be a complete review of taxation policy in Nigeria, particularly on company and individual income taxes as well as value added tax, VAT. Nigeria has the lowest rate of VAT in Africa. The issue is not the rate of VAT, but the coverage. You cannot raise VAT if half of the economy is not covered and the businesses and transactions are informal,” he said.

On migration, Mr, Arion said a high level mission is expected to visit Nigeria soon to discuss on the challenges of migration and mobility in Africa, to follow up on discussions held last November in Malta on EU-Africa summit to form a common agenda on migration.

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