President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said a need to protect Nigeria’s small and medium scale industry stooped him from signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with other ECOWAS countries.
He said signing the agreement would open the industry to external pressure it might not be able to handle, leading to loss of jobs and closure of businesses.
The president made this disclosure while receiving a Letter of Credence from the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria, Ketil Iversen Karlsen, at the State House, Abuja.
He said: “We are not enthusiastic about signing the EPA because of our largely youthful population. We are still struggling to provide jobs for them, and we want our youths to be kept busy.
“Presently, our industries cannot compete with the more efficient and highly technologically driven industries in Europe. We have to protect our industries and our youths,’’ he said.
Buhari thanked the EU for its support for the rehabilitation of the North East, adding that the nation is improving just as the probity campaign is gaining ground.
President Buhari said his administration will continually promote the culture of honesty and integrity in service, which will guarantee a better future for the youth.
“Our insistence on probity is to encourage people to be accountable, and accept honesty as a lifestyle so as to secure the future of our youths,’’ he said.
Karlsen, however, expressed hope Nigeria would sign the agreement. He pointed out that the EPA was designed to accommodate and protect some economies that would find it difficult to compete.
He also pledged the EU’s support in the nation’s prioritised areas of security, economy and the fight against corruption.
“We are hopeful that there will be a signature on the agreement,’’ he added.