[UPDATE] No easy solution to human rights abuses, poverty, inequality ― Buhari

•Says coups eroding democratic gains in West Africa •Wants debt suspension for poorer countries over Covid-19 •Says Boko Haram still active despite internal strife

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that there is a need for sustained investments and more international cooperation to end human rights abuses, poverty and inequalities in countries as there can be no quick fix to the problems.

Delivering Nigeria’s remarks at the 76th session of the UNGA in New York, he also pointed out that democratic gains were being eroded in West Africa by an unconstitutional takeover of government, which he said must not be tolerated.

The president stated: “We must deal not only with the symptoms of conflict but also the immediate causes that fuel conflicts in the first place.

“These include poor and undemocratic governance, human rights abuses, poverty, ignorance, injustice and inequalities.

“There are no easy solutions to these conditions. They require long term investments and more effective international cooperation.

“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.”

He regretted that the recent upsurge in coups in the West African subregion had impacted negatively on democracy, saying: “In West Africa especially, our democratic gains of the past decades are now being eroded. The recent trend of the unconstitutional takeover of power, sometimes in reaction to unilateral changes of constitutions by some leaders, must not be tolerated by the international community.”

While affirming Nigeria’s support to efforts by ECOWAS, AU and the UN to address this growing challenge, he said: “Nigeria fully supports the efforts by ECOWAS to address this growing challenge and appreciates the support of both the African Union and the United Nations.

“In this regard, I would like to reiterate that 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.”

“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.”

The President urged the international community not only to deal with the symptoms of conflict but also the immediate causes that fuel conflicts in the first place.

He added: ‘‘These include poor and undemocratic governance, human rights abuses, poverty, ignorance, injustice and inequalities.

‘‘There are no easy solutions to these conditions. They require long term investments and more effective international cooperation. 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 president also addressed the issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arms Trade Treaty, climate change, terrorism, anti-corruption, debt suspension, international trade, UN Security Council Reform, Palestinian Question, racial discrimination, among others.

On debt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he urged G20 countries to extend their debt suspension initiatives to all developing countries, Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States facing fiscal and liquidity challenges.

The president also called for outright debt cancellation for countries facing the most severe challenges saying: ‘‘Developing countries have been faced with unsustainable debt burdens even before the pandemic.

He said: ‘‘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.’’

President Buhari also renewed his advocacy for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, outlining steps Nigeria has taken to achieve ‘‘moderate success’’ in containing the virus and halt its deadly onslaught in the country.

He stated: ‘‘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.

‘‘The rising wave of newer and more contagious strains, makes this even more urgent. No country can afford the socio-economic implications of a prolonged shutdown. It is imperative to underscore that no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

On Nigeria’s intervention to halt the pandemic, the president said: ‘‘At the outset, we recognised detection and contact tracing to be important tools in combating the virus.

‘‘In this connection, from a mere four laboratories with testing and detection capacities, we ramped up the facilities to over 140 centres today.

‘‘Similarly, we built isolation centres and emergency hospital wards in record time all over the country. We carry out genomic sequencing in designated laboratories across the country with a view to detecting variants in circulation.

‘‘In addition, over 40,000 health care workers have recently been trained on Infection, Prevention and Control measure with the support of various partners.

‘‘Through the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, we have established 16 infectious disease treatment centres located within our Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres,’’ he said.

On the fight against terrorism, the President told the UN General Assembly that the Nigerian Security Forces have recorded considerable success.

According to him, ‘‘As a result of the renewed vigour of Nigeria’s military, many terrorist fighters are voluntarily surrendering to our security forces.”

President Buhari noted that while terrorism continues to dominate security discourse worldwide, in Nigeria, Boko Haram terrorist group, though fragmented by internal strife and weakened by our defence forces, is still active and preying on soft targets.

He further said: ‘‘Nigeria will continue to work closely with UN Counter-Terrorism bodies and entities with a view to bringing 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.

‘‘I and three other Nigerian Heads of State served actively as peacekeepers and Nigeria continues to support peacekeeping efforts. We know the sacrifice involved; we also know how important peacekeeping is for those in vulnerable situations.

‘‘Nigeria will continue to play its part fully in supporting United Nations peacekeeping operations within Africa and beyond.”

On international trade, President Buhari called for reforms that will engender recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, build resilience to future shocks and pursue transformative development strategies that can deliver the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Buhari added: ‘‘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.”

President Buhari also restated his call for the reforms of the UN Security Council, stressing that intergovernmental negotiations on the issue were taking too long.

He added: ‘‘No reform of the United Nations system is more urgent than that of the Security Council. Stakeholders around the world are asking how much 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 on the basis of 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 Organization is called to question.

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

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