Buhari decries illicit arms trade, solicits debt cancellation for Nigeria, others at UN

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Friday at the ongoing 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the United States of America, called for a regulation of arms and light weapons trade in the interest of human rights.

Addressing the gathering of world leaders, the Nigerian President expressed deep concerns at the devastating effects of small arms and weapons, calling for accountability in the conventional arms trade.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, revealed this in a statement titled, ‘At UNGA, President Buhari raises the alarm on the erosion of democracy in West Africa, urges world leaders to reject unconstitutional takeovers.’

The statement quoted Buhari as saying, “Nigeria remains deeply concerned over the illicit trade, transfer, and circulation of small arms and light weapons. Their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world are having devastating humanitarian and socio-economic consequences, especially on the continent of Africa.

 “It is on this note that my delegation calls for the worldwide application of the Arms Trade Treaty to codify accountability in the conventional arms trade, which is critical to the security of nations. This is in recognition of the need for a broad-based global partnership in the ongoing battle against trans-border crimes, including terrorism and piracy.”

Buhari also frowned on the recent trend of the unconstitutional takeover of power on the African continent, saying such actions must not be tolerated by the international community.

He warned that the democratic gains of the past decades in West Africa ‘‘are now being eroded’’ due to these negative trends.

He affirmed Nigeria’s support to efforts by ECOWAS, AU and the UN to address this growing challenge, saying, ‘‘As leaders of our individual member-states, we need to adhere to the constitutional provisions of our countries, particularly on term limits. This is one area that generates crisis and political tension in our sub-region.

“In this connection, my delegation underscores the importance of promoting peaceful, unfettered, and inclusive participation of states in global actions towards conflict prevention.

‘‘This will facilitate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063.”

The Nigerian President also called for fair and equitable international trade system, which he said was more important to African countries than foreign aid.

Buhari called for reforms that would engender recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, build resilience against future shocks and pursue transformative development strategies that could deliver the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

He said, ‘‘Nigeria reaffirms that  international trade is an engine for development and sustained economic growth, as well as the global eradication of poverty.

 ‘‘My delegation would like to reaffirm the critical role that a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system can play in stimulating economic growth and development.

 ‘‘Fair and equitable trade would eventually eliminate the need for aid. My country and indeed all African countries do not intend to stay indefinitely looking for aid. All we need is a fair and equitable system of international trade.”

However, he called for outright debt cancellation for countries facing the most severe challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Buhari said, ‘‘Developing countries have been faced with unsustainable debt burdens even before the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of a new wave of deepening debt, where vital public financial resources are allocated to external debt servicing and repayments at the expense of domestic health and financing for critical developmental needs.

‘‘I must commend the current initiatives by the international financial institutions and the G20 aimed at significantly mitigating the economic situation of the indebted countries and urge for more efforts in this regard.

‘‘Therefore, there is an urgent need to consider expansion and extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to include all Developing, Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.

‘‘In addition, a review of the eligibility criteria for debt suspension, including outright cancellation, is needed for countries facing the most severe challenges.’’

The President also advocated the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, outlining steps Nigeria had taken to achieve ‘‘moderate success’’ in containing the virus and halt its deadly onslaught in the country.

‘‘Nigeria remains grateful for the assistance received from our partners and friends all over the world. Vaccination is the key to our safe emergence from the pandemic.

‘‘We fully support the COVAX initiative from which we have benefitted. We also thank the United States of America, Turkey, India, China, the European Union, and others for the vaccines provided.

‘‘Despite the acknowledgement, however, I would like to reiterate my call for a fairer and more equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries so that, together, we can fight and contain the pandemic,” he said.

On the fight against terrorism, the President told the UN General Assembly that ‘‘As a result of the renewed vigour of Nigeria’s military, many terrorist fighters are voluntarily surrendering to our security forces.

‘‘Nigeria will continue to work closely with UN counter-terrorism bodies and entities to bring this scourge to an end,’’ he said, adding that the country would spare no effort in addressing the challenges of terrorism posed by the activities of Boko Haram in North-East Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, as well as banditry in the North-West and North-Central Nigeria.”

He also renewed the call for the reforms of the UN Security Council, stressing that those intergovernmental negotiations on the issue were taking too long.

‘‘No reform of the United Nations system is more urgent than that of the Security Council. Stakeholders around the world are asking how such power could be concentrated, with scant representation.

‘‘The intergovernmental negotiations have taken too long, some 15 years.

‘‘We must avoid going in circles. Consensus has been achieved in some of the elements of this reform, especially that of the representation of Africa based on the Elzuwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.

‘‘It is unreasonable to expect unanimity in this matter. The issue, indeed, is about justice, not unanimity. Without justice, the legitimacy even efficacy of our organisation is called to question.

‘‘We can and must make substantial, irreversible progress on Security Council reform in the current session,’’ he said.

The President also encouraged Israel and Palestine to re-engage in dialogue based on relevant UN resolutions and Initiatives.

‘‘The two-state solution has the support of the international community and is widely acknowledged as the path to lasting peace,’’ he said.

Buhari concluded his address praising the outgoing German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

He also pledged Nigeria’s unalloyed support for multilateralism and faith in the UN as the pre-eminent body for solving current and emerging global challenges.

 ‘‘Nigeria re-affirms its faith in the United Nations and is further resolved to continue to work with all member-states for peace and security, development and the protection of human rights.

‘‘In this regard, let me close my statement by paying special tribute to a great and humane internationalist, and an exemplary practitioner of multilateral cooperation. I am speaking of Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany. As she exits the stage, we wish her well,’’ he said.

Use leadership position to stabilise W’Africa, Guterres to Buhari

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has urged Buhari to continue to use his leadership roles in Africa for the stabilisation of the West African sub-region.

Adesina’s statement quoted Guterres as saying this in a meeting on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The UN Scribe observed that Africa, especially West Africa, was generally seen as an ocean of stability and good governance, but was deeply concerned at recent reversal of fortunes in democratic rule in some parts of the West African sub-region with coups overturning elected institutions.

He, therefore, urged Buhari to continue to show leadership as he looked up to Nigeria to help stabilise the sub-region in terms of democracy and good governance.

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