President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in New York unfolded Nigeria’s positions on international matters before the global audience.
Presenting Nigeria’s National Statement during the opening day of the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA73), the President first paid glowing tributes to the late seventh UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, for his invaluable contributions to global peace.
According to him, “We in Africa, while mourning the loss of this great son of ours and citizen of the world, take pride in the way he served humanity in a truly exemplary manner. He demonstrated, in his calm but determined manner, the virtues of compassion, dedication to the cause of justice, fairness and human rights. He was a visionary leader who inspired hope even in the face of the most daunting challenges. He devoted his entire life’s career to the UN and the pursuit of its ideals and goals. The world is indeed a better place thanks to his exemplary service.”
President Buhari, while noting that in the past year, the world saw some positive results and encouraging signs from the bilateral and multilateral efforts of the international community to address conflicts, crises and threats to world peace, commended “the efforts of the leaders of the United States, North Korea and South Korea, to realise our shared goal of a nuclear free Korean Peninsula.”
He also acknowledged the commitment to peace shown by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-Un by initiating a historic Summit, urging both leaders to “continue this positive engagement.”
Expressing regret about some lingering threats to peace and security around the world, the President noted that in some cases, matters got worse.
“The continuing plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, the protracted Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the wars in Yemen, and Syria, and the fight against international and local terrorism such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab come to mind,” he said.
According to President Buhari, “The terrorist insurgencies we face, particularly in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, are partly fuelled by local factors and dynamics, but now increasingly by the international Jihadi Movement, runaway fighters from Iraq and Syria and arms from the disintegration of Libya.
“In Myanmar, the carnage appears to have thankfully abated somewhat. We commend the United Nations for staying focussed on the situation of the Rohingya people, to bring their suffering to an end, and hold to account the perpetrators of the atrocious crimes committed against innocent and vulnerable members of this community, including women, children and the old.”
Calling on the international community to strengthen its resolve to combat ethnic and religious cleansing everywhere, the President expressed Nigeria’s support for “the UN’s efforts in ensuring that the Rohingya refugees are allowed to return to their homes in Myanmar with security, protection, and guarantee of citizenship. We note the indication by the Government of Myanmar of its willingness to address these issues and we encourage them to do so expeditiously.”
He also commended the “Government and people of Bangladesh in particular and all other countries and organizations that have contributed to shouldering the burden of providing shelter and other vital assistance to the Rohingya Refugees.”
Drawing the attention of the international community to the “carnage and the worsening humanitarian situations in Syria and Yemen,” the Nigerian leader cautioned that “the international community cannot afford to give up on the Syrian and Yemeni people. We must pursue all efforts to find peaceful negotiated political solutions to these wars which cannot be won by force of arms alone. Regarding Syria, we hope that the UN sponsored Geneva process and the Sochi initiative, led by Russia, Iran, and Turkey advance this objective.”
He added that, “The International community must keep up the pressure to encourage the parties to pursue the path of dialogue, negotiations and inclusiveness in resolving their sectarian divides and bringing to an end the immense human suffering in Syria as well as Yemen. We commend Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Germany, Italy and France for hosting the millions of the refugees fleeing these brutal conflicts.”
On the worsening Middle East conflict, President Buhari called “on the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the necessary compromises in the interest of justice, peace and security, in line with our numerous UN resolutions and applicable international laws.”
Observing that, “unilateral, arbitrary and insensitive actions only prolong the conflict and undermine world peace and security,” he attributed the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza to the “appalling result of unrestrained use of power.”
Nigeria, the President said, “urge both parties to re-engage in dialogue on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Quartet Roadmap and the Arab Peace Initiative, among others.”
He also reaffirmed Nigeria’s “unwavering support for a just two-state solution, negotiated without intimidation and with Israel and Palestine existing side-by-side in peace and security.”
Citing the current peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the commitment towards peace between Djibouti and Somalia, President Buhari declared:
“I believe that with hard work, commitment, and a disposition to compromise and necessary sacrifices, peace is achievable in the Middle East as well.”
On irregular migration which he admitted “entails huge avoidable loss of human lives, puts strains on services in host countries and communities, and fuels anti-immigrant and racist sentiments in Europe,” the Nigerian President welcomed the successful conclusion of the negotiations on the first-ever Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and looked forward to its adoption in Marrakech later this year.
He said the “aim is to protect the rights of migrants worldwide, while addressing the concerns of countries of ‘origin’, ‘transit’, or ‘destination’ alike.”
Commending countries such as Germany, Italy and France for treating migrants with compassion and humanity, the President noted that, “irregular migration is not a consequence of conflicts alone, but of the effects of climate change and lack of opportunities at home. Climate Change remains one of the greatest challenges of our time. Very close to us at home, it is our lot in Nigeria, together with our neighbours around the Chad Basin, to live with the climate change consequences of a drastically shrunk Lake Chad and the parching up of otherwise fertile arable lands.”
Painting a distressing picture of The Lake, which was a major source of livelihood to more than 45 million inhabitants of the region, the president said the shrinking meant loss of livelihoods as they are now rendered poor and vulnerable to the activities of extremists and terrorist groups.
“The instability thus caused in the sub-region intensified internal displacements leading, among other consequences, to intense economic competition especially between farmers and herdsmen,” he added.
Reiterating Nigeria’s call for a rededicated international engagement to accelerate the recovery efforts in the Lake Chad Basin to address the root causes of the conflicts in the region, the Nigerian leader stressed that:
“What is required is continuous and robust UN cooperation with national Governments and sub-regional and regional organisations such as the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union, to enhance capacity in conflict prevention, conflict management and peace building.”
He expressed “heartfelt appreciation to the United Nations, the Governments of Germany, Norway, the United States, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France and a host of other development partners for their laudable support in assisting us to address both the humanitarian challenges and the on-going stabilisation drive in the Lake Chad Basin region.”
Addressing the issue of corruption within countries and illicit flow of funds across national boundaries which, he said, “have huge negative impact on the stability, peace, and economic prospects of millions in developing countries,” the President noted further that, “Corruption significantly deprives national Governments of resources to provide meaningful livelihoods to their populations who are predominantly youths, thus giving rise to more irregular migration.”
Noting that the fight against corruption is a collective assignment involving all stakeholders, he said, “It is in our collective interest to cooperate in tracking illicit financial flows, investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals and entities and repatriate such funds to their countries of origin.”
According to President Buhari, “Fighting corruption or resolving international conflicts, crises and wars; defeating terrorism and piracy; curbing arms trafficking and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which fuel these conflicts, particularly in Africa; stemming irregular migration by addressing its root causes; and the many other global challenges we are faced with today can only be effectively addressed through multilateral cooperation and concerted action.
“The only global institutional framework we have to address these challenges is the United Nations System. That is why we continue to call for the strengthening of the Organisation and making it more effective by speeding up the pace of progress towards its reform, including that of its principal organ, the Security Council. The reconstitution of the Council to make it more equitable and more representative of our global community is both a political and moral imperative.
“We believe that a reformed Security Council with expanded membership in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, is in accord with prevailing international consensus and it is in our collective interest to do so. It is high time we stopped skirting round the issue and establish achievable benchmarks and time frames for these reforms.”
Giving a background to the call, he said, “I assure you all that in this advocacy, I am only reflecting Nigeria’s deep and abiding commitment to our Organisation and its founding principles and goals. From the date we joined in 1960, we have contributed our quota to the fulfilment of the mandate of the UN. We have been active participants in many Security Council and African Union authorised Peace Keeping operations around the world, beginning with the Democratic Republic of Congo operations in 1960.
“Furthermore, Nigeria has always mobilised the required human and material resources to achieve set United Nations goals, including the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We are resolute in complementing the efforts and examples of the United Nations to promote gender equality and youth empowerment as necessary pillars for sustainable development.”
He noted that, “Without these, there can be neither enduring peace nor security. As we set and implement our national policies to achieve these goals, we, in the spirit of international solidarity, will readily cooperate with other nations seeking to achieve similar goals for their own populations to help ensure that no one is left behind.”