Cooperation between the European Commission (EC) and Nigeria aims to assist in the country’s economic, political and social development. This is done through fermenting democratization within Nigeria through political dialogue, as well as encouraging trade. However, the most prominent aspect of EC–Nigerian cooperation is in development cooperation, with the stated aim of poverty reduction. Ignacio Granell is currently responsible for projects related to good governance, transparency, service delivery, NGO support and economic reforms at the Delegation of the European Commission to Nigeria.
With the return to democracy in 1999, relations between the EC and Nigeria were resumed and a country support strategy was signed between the EC and Nigeria in 2002. The European Union (EU), through the European Development Fund (EDF) and other sources, has a sum of approximately EUR 650 million available for Nigeria in development funding over the period 2002-2007. The EC’s largest program is to support reform and good governance in all sectors and improve water supply/sanitation in particular, initially in six focal states: Abia, Cross River, Gombe, Kebbi, Osun, and Plateau. A total of EUR 144 million was established in order to carry out this program. Ignacio affirms that good governance is key to the nurturing of favorable conditions within Nigeria. He asserted, “With good governance and transparency it is possible to increase the wealth and to improve the living conditions of citizens, by making sure that everybody has access to public health, education and assuring that the citizens can effectively participate in the decision making process of their governments.”
Funding may be transferred to other states if the government’s SEEDS benchmarking exercise shows that the current focal states are not seriously committed to reform and service delivery. The projects take both a bottom-up and a bottom-down approach as Ignacio explains, “The way the project works is both by working with civil society to ensure government promises of providing adequate services are met, for instance by monitoring budget implementation, but also working closely with civil and public servants and giving them the tools to do their job properly.” He added, “Good governance is a very challenging area because it is necessary to interact with state authorities in order to achieve progress in the country across the board.”
A Spanish citizen, fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English and French, Ignacio has been working at the EC Delegation since February 2005. Before joining the EC, he occupied positions in the Agency of Foreign Investment of Catalonia in New York, in the Trade Commission of Spain in Toronto as well as in Brussels at the Direction General of External Relations. He has studied economics, completed a Post-Graduate degree in International Trade at the Ecole de Commerce de Solvay in Belgium, and has attended programs at Berkeley, California and the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
The scale of the EU support program as well as its ongoing dialogue and cooperation with the government, the private sector and civil society reflects the commitment the EU has towards Africa’s most densely populated country. Ignacio seems positive that the good governance project is making a significant difference within Nigerian society and is confident in the ongoing reform process. “It is very rewarding to think that you are helping to eradicate poverty and to improve the quality of life of many people, we are trying to wipe away the mark left by years of dictatorship and corruption,” he said.