President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said the need to protect the nation’s economy was the reason he did not sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) among ECOWAS countries.
Buhari spoke 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.
According to the president, Nigeria did not sign the EPA because of the need to protect the economy, especially the industries and small businesses that currently provide jobs for majority of Nigerians.
The President noted that the signing of the agreement would expose the industries and small businesses to external pressures and competitions, which could lead to closures and job losses.
“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.
However, Buhari said the insistence on probity, transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors was to secure the future of the country for all Nigerians, especially the youths.
He said his administration would continually promote the culture of honesty and integrity in service, which would 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.
The President said more than 60 percent of Nigerians fall into the age category of youths and deserve to inherit a stable and prosperous country that they can be proud of, adding that the government will work assiduously to prevent waste and the depletion of resources by corrupt Nigerians.
Buhari, who commended the EU for its support for the rehabilitation of the North East, noted that the Nigerian economy was already being repositioned to attract more investments that will create jobs.
In his remarks, Karlsen said the EU would continue to support Buhari’s administration in the key priorities it listed; security, economy and the fight against corruption.
He said the EPA was designed to accommodate and protect some economies that would find it difficult to compete.
“We are hopeful that there will be a signature on the agreement,’’ he added.