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Analysis of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy with the European Union, France and Germany: A Narrative
Gbadebo Afolabi

post-graduate student of the Department of International Relations and History at Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

117197, Russia, Moskva oblast', g. Moscow, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 15/1
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Traditionally, the relationship between Nigeria and Western countries is rooted in their long-standing economic ties, political and other common values its people share, coupled with Nigerians in the Diaspora and western businesses established in Nigeria. Since its independence in 1960, the African giant has strategically made contacts with many international organizations to help maximize its foreign policy potentials. Nigerian foreign policy gives much credence to the European Union as a strategic partner and an opportunity for her to capitalize and define a feasible cooperation policy framework for its cooperation with Europe, based on values and interests that unite Nigeria and members of the European Union. It seeks to analyze how such foreign policy manifest into Nigeria's potentials in trade cooperation and development at large.

Keywords: Diplomatic dialogue, Bilateral, Agreement, Cooperation, Africa, European Union, Nigeria, Foreign policy, Multilateral, Development



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Relations between Nigeria and the EU is guided by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, where it allows the EU to help strengthen Peace and security, good governance and human rights, economic and regional integration, energy, environmental sustainability and climate change and related topics on political dispensation in African countries. Fundamentally, the 20-year ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (2000 to 2020) also aimed at addressing regional integration with developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific[1]. Again, both parties are keen on achieving regional development, political dispensation, and economic and trade cooperation.

For Africa, particularly the West African regional bloc – ECOWAS; this initiative was holistically welcomed noting the fact that countries in this region are under-developed and that, any form of inventiveness that enrich progress will be acknowledged. Additionally, The ECOWAS regional body itself was formed on the basis of economic liberation; hence, countries in West Africa have come under one economic system –Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to maximize their makings and expedite the realization of the benefits of economic integration[2].

Since the agreement entered into force in April 2003, developing countries such as Nigeria have successfully implemented series of individual bonds with the European Union that has helped foster its development. Additionally, Nigeria’s external policy objectives includes – the adherence to the United Nations Charter, socioeconomic development and the reforming of the international economic system, as well as international cooperation on an equal footing[3]. This further explains why Nigeria attaches great importance to an organization such as the EU.

This paper seeks to analyze Nigeria’s foreign policy direction towards the European Union and how that ties into her relationship with some member states (France, Germany) and the EU in general, towards the attainment of the objectives and principles upon which its external policies are based. While this article seeks to elaborate on the importance of the EU in Nigerian foreign policy, it also attempts to dissect France and Germany as points of reference. Author’s discourse aims at explaining why Nigeria attaches great importance to this organization and individual countries, with respect to the many agreements signed between them, it also concludes with policy suggestions.

Nigeria and the European Union: Interactions and Prospects

The European governing body (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe[4]. The organization that started with 12 member state representatives endorsed the Treaty of Maastricht in February 1992, and it officially came into force in November 1993. This union which aims at regional integration has since helped expand the market base of member states through economies of scale[5]. Primarily, the Union sets its goals and values to; promote peace, its values and the well-being of its citizens, to offer freedom, security and justice without internal borders, to sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive market economy with full employment and social progress, and environmental protection, to combat social exclusion and discrimination, to promote scientific and technological progress, to enhance economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among EU countries, to respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and to establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro[6].

Africa on the other hand reviewed its policies in the early 2000s to help achieve a collective effort in search of the continent’s formal integration. This paved way for Africa to reaffirm its partnership with the European Union, where such affiliation became the formal channel through which the two parties implement their strategic interest[7]. As a giant of Africa, Nigeria’s foreign policy gives credence to partnership with the European Union which is an opportunity for her to capitalize and to define a single, strong and sustainable cooperation policy framework for its cooperation with Europe, based on values, interests and aspirations that unite Nigeria and members of the European Union. Politically, relations between Nigeria and the EU is guided by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, where it allows the EU to help strengthen Peace and security, good governance and human rights, economic and regional integration, energy, environmental sustainability and climate change and related topics on political dispensation in African countries[8].

The European Union has been one of Nigeria’s long-standing partner for decades. Although, addressing its self-interests also drive the EU’s activities in Africa, it has helped a lot of developmental changes in the Nigerian economy. Through the European Development Fund (EDF), The EU’s approach to supporting sustainable development through investment currently amount to €512 million over the period 2014 to 2020[9].

Additionally, the total trade volume between Nigeria and European Union Member States stood at 25.3 billion Euros in 2017[10], through the establishment of the European Business Organization (EBO), which represents the interests of European companies Nigeria. According to the deputy head of EU to Nigeria, Mr. Richard Young cited in the Vangurd report “The EBO Nigeria will also ensure a high-level policy dialogue with Nigerian authorities and organized private with the objective of improving the business and investment and fostering business and trade relations between the EU and Nigeria”. Additionally, agreements signed also aim at aiding Nigeria’s integration process; since most assistance from the EU is in the areas of democracy, human development and good governance, particularly since Nigeria returned to democratic governance in 1999.

Officially, the EU mission in Nigeria aims at achieving the following;

· To actively promote the values and policies of the European Union, in an open and equal partnership with the Government and people of Nigeria;

· To deepen the political dialogue on all issues of mutual interest and to strengthen the partnership both with Nigeria and ECOWAS;

· To implement the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, the development and trade policies focusing on poverty alleviation and on the promotion of democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law as well as the smooth and gradual integration of developing countries into the world economy;

· To inform Nigeria and ECOWAS about the policies and programs of the European Union, as well as its institutions and values;

· To support regional integration in the Economic Community of West African States as well as the planned development of Pan-African policies, programs and institutions[11].

As the biggest development aid donor in the world, the EU has taken upon the challenged to create and influence the world greatly by acting unanimously as one union with strong position. Based on the world report for 2012, more than fifty percent of the world development aid was contributed by the EU and its member-states in the alleviation of poverty, sustainability of economic and social development in developing countries[12]. However, the EU Funded Program, “Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria” (EU-SDGN) aims at contributing to the reinforcement of democracy in Nigeria through building strong, effective and legitimate democratic institutions[13]. Nigeria on the other hand, as a regional leader of the West African sub-region carries huge burden in both Nigeria and within the region. At any given time, Nigeria is obliged to assist, intervene, or even bail out other member states within its jurisdiction[14]. This has compelled the country to always look for assistance from individual countries (mostly developed countries) or organizations such as the European Union.

Nigeria’s Multilateral Cooperation with Member-states of the Union

Multilaterally, Nigeria’s main principal donors are the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Community (i.e. European Commission aid), UNDP and UNICEF. Individually, Nigeria’s major bilateral donors within the EU Member States are (Germany and France). Nigeria receives series of support from the French government such as economic development, security, health, support to the private sector and agriculture. This has been the practice since the 1960s when the two states established diplomatic relations. Currently, their focal point between Nigeria and France has been on trade and security. Again, French exports to Nigeria consist of refined petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, mechanical, electric, electronic and computer equipment, and agro-food products; while exports from Nigeria to France are mainly made up of petroleum products. The French Business report estimated bilateral trade between the two states at €3.6 billion in 2017. The report opined, “Nigeria remains France’s leading trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa” and that “Nigeria remains France’s fifth-largest supplier of natural hydrocarbons and the leading supplier in sub-Saharan Africa. The stock of French FDI in Nigeria was €6.5 billion in 2016 – the second largest stock of French FDI in Africa after Morocco”[15]. These bilateral relations have helped strengthen the political alliance and benefit growth and employment in both countries.

Another long-standing cooperation between the two states has been on development cooperation in human rights, and security. Apart from the Boko Haram terrorist group, the West African region has historically been affected by degrees of terror activities; coupled with the rise of 2012 Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali, which led to a lot of arms finding their way in civilian population[16]. Nigeria as a regional leader has prioritized the issue of combating terrorism in the region. Nigeria considers this type of foreign policy as an internal issue, since regional conflicts could potentially move into its territory and affect internal security[17]. In recent times, insecurity in the West African region has increased to unacceptable levels. Insurgents, rebels, militants and terrorists have threatened the peace and security of West Africa, leading to loss of lives and massive destruction of properties. Internally, Nigeria is faced with insurgency of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) militants. These groups have accused the government for corruption and have resulted to insurgency by claiming that they do not benefit from the resources of the Niger Delta, despite the fact that the region is the main oil-producing zone in Nigeria[18].

Internationally, France has taking steps at every level with its various partners to counter terrorism both in France and abroad. Again, France need to stabilize a country like Nigeria to be able to implement its interests in the country. This reflected in the 2016 Global Terrorism Index; which indicated a decline in terror attacks in the region in 2015. The Index acknowledged that 'The decline in Nigeria was due to sustained military action by the Nigerian government and neighboring countries against Boko Haram, forcing them to abandon territory they had previously controlled[19]. This informs the long-standing relations both countries share.

As mentioned, diplomatic dialogues like human rights, democracy, security, and regional integration are promoted through close diplomatic cooperation at regional and bilateral levels; while at multilateral level (EU), Nigeria expands alliance with France through the regional body EU on its mutual priorities. Lastly, based on the consolidation of results and experiences gained from the many years of development cooperation between Nigeria and France. Nigeria’s foreign policy attaches importance to such cooperation such that it serves as a trusted partner for trade and investment in its country; it offers access to the market of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its activities which are under the auspices of Nigeria.

Another key partner through the EU (multilateral level) is Germany. The two states have exchanged bilateral relations on several issues. The two states relations saw a renaissance in the late 1990s when Nigeria had a democratically elected president, which also saw an end to military rule in the country. Currently, Nigeria-Germany are actively involved on many bilateral relationships across broad-ranging sectors including diplomacy, security, as well as trade and investment. The re-lunch of Nigerian-German Business Association (NGBA) in 2007, laid a firm ground for bilateral business relationships[20]. This membership organization is made up of German and Nigerian owned business enterprises and to foster bilateral trade relations the two countries.

Moreover, the German mission in Nigeria is involved in series of developmental cooperation aim at contributing to improve local businesses and social intervention of less privileged people and eradication of diseases in Nigeria. According to the German mission in Nigeria, “Since development cooperation with Nigeria began, Germany has pledged funds worth a total of some EUR 600 million, approximately two-thirds under Financial Cooperation and one-third under Technical Cooperation”[21]. On counter terrorism, the two states have shared a number of information on how to curb terror networks in the West African region, which is enclosed by the Boko Haram terrorist group. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a press brief adds that, “We did, of course, exchange views on how the threat from the terror group Boko Haram can be overcome, how it can be fought so that it cannot claim any more victims, and the bloody attacks on state institutions, on churches, on Christian schools can be stopped”[22]. Additionally, the German government assists Nigerian security agencies with training and other logistics and the two states have exchange intelligence that will help the ongoing fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the country.

While these attributes highlight German’s contributions to Nigerian developmental process, it also reaffirms grounds for good bilateral relations between the two states. These credentials have resulted into the many state visits between the two countries. These series of official visits between Germany and Nigeria date back in 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) visited Germany, which brought about the renaissance of the two states relations. President Yar’Adua (2007-2010) in 2008, President of Germany Horst Köhler (2004–2010), who led a business delegation to Nigeria in 2008, The visit of Chancellor Angela Merkel to Nigeria in July 2011, President Joachim Gauck (2012–2017) visit to Nigeria in February 2015, President Jonathan (2010–2015) visit to Berlin in April 2012, President Buhari’s visits to Germany in June 2015 and October 2016, among others[23].

Conclusively, despite the signed agreements that endeavor under equal opportunities on both bilateral and multilateral, Nigeria, per this analytical discourse, is seen to have benefitted more from these partnerships based on the assistance it receives from the Union and its member states. Traditional development aid programs are more prioritized by the EU and its member states. However, Nigeria’s cooperation with the union further strengthens its human development sector, through the implementation and policy of developmental projects by the union[24]. The good partnership could be attributed to Nigeria being an anchor on the African continent.

ACP-The Cotonou Agreement:
Evans S.C. Osabuohien “Trade Openness and Economic Performance of ECOWAS Members-Reflections From Ghana And Nigeria”. African Journal of Business and Economic Research (AJBER) Vol.2 Nos. 2&3, pp57-73.
Ebenezer Ejalonibu Lawala and Opeyemi Idowu Alukob. Nigerian Foreign Policy: a Fourth Republic Diplomatic Escapade: Journal of Siberian Federal University. Humanities & Social Sciences N.4 September 2016. p.708-721
Napoleon Bamfo. The Political and Security Challenges Facing 'ECOWAS' in the Twenty-first Century: Testing the Limits of an Organization's Reputation: International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Vol. 3 No. 3; February 2013
The European Union:
The EU in brief:
The African Union Executive Council adopts the African Common Position for Negotiations of a new cooperation agreement with the European Union. Addis Ababa, March 27, 2018.
EU-Nigeria Ministerial Dialogue 2016-Joint Communique 20/06/2016.
This Day: The Evolving EU-Nigeria Social, Economic Alliance February 21, 2017
The Vangurd: "EU-Nigeria trade volume hits N8.9trn" ON OCTOBER 5, 2018.
EU Delegation to Nigeria: 12/05/2016.
Danish presidency of the council of the European Union (2012) EU Development policy. Accessed on 10/12/2013
European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria:
France’s Regional Economic Service:
OECD. West African Studies Conflict over Resources and Terrorism: Two Facets of Insecurity. 1st ed. Paris. OECD Publishing; 2013
Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force: Volume 5 January–May 2012
Annan N. Violent Conflicts and Civil Strife in West Africa: Causes, Challenges and Prospects. Stability: International Journal of Security & Development.2014; 3(1):1-16
Global Terrorism Index: Institute for Economics and Peace, 2016.
Nigerian-German Business Association (NGBA)
German Mission in Nigeria. Development Cooperation:
Nigeria-Germany: terror threats and trade ties: DW, Berlin 19 April 2012.
German Mission in Nigeria:
European Union-EEAS (European External Action Service) Accessed on 19/12/2013