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‘Weakened’ Boko Haram Still Active and Preying on Soft Targets, Buhari Tells UN General Assembly

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said Boko Haram terrorists, though weakened by the military, “are still active in the country, preying on soft targets,” promising that the scourge would

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said Boko Haram terrorists, though weakened by the military, “are still active in the country, preying on soft targets,” promising that the scourge would soon come to an end.

Buhari, who spoke in New York, United States, while addressing world leaders, including the new President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Abdulla Shahid of Maldives, during the 76th session of the Assembly, called for the support of the world body to end the Boko Haram menace.

President Buhari said: “Mr. President, 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.

“Nigeria will continue to work closely with the UN Counter-Terrorism bodies and entities with a view to bringing this scourge to an end.

“Nigeria has spared no efforts in addressing the challenges of terrorism posed by the activities of Boko Haram in North-East Nigeria, the Lake Chad region as well as banditry in the North-West and the North-Central. The Nigerian Security Forces have recorded considerable success in the fight against terrorism. As a result of the renewed vigour of our military, many terrorist fighters are voluntarily surrendering to our security forces.”

The President lamented that Nigeria was concerned about illicit trading and movement of small arms, which he said had led to an increase in criminality and insurgency in the country.

President Buhari also lamented that countries such as Nigeria spend the bulk of their revenues on debt servicing, leaving little for infrastructure development and other essential aspects of the economy such as healthcare and education.

As a result, he called for the extension of the debt repayment timeline for developing countries, especially those severely suffering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Buhari said “there is an urgent need for debt repayment extension for developing countries that are still recovering from the pandemic and also struggling with liquidity challenges.”

He also called for an inclusive agenda that would build resilience and stability against future shocks; to deliver on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

He said: “Developing countries have been faced with unsustainable debt burdens even before the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of 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 took a swipe at the recent coup detat in Mali and Guinea and canvassed the support of the international community to reject the unconstitutional governments in the two West African nations.

He declared that the recent trend of unconstitutional takeover of power must not be tolerated by the international community.

The President warned that 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 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union (AU) and the United Nations (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.”

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

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

He renewed his advocacy for 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.

Buhari said: “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, 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 make this even more urgent. No country can afford the socio-economic implications of prolonged shutdown. It is imperative to underscore that no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Commenting on international trade, the Nigerian leader canvassed for reforms that would 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.

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.”

President Buhari also reiterated his call for the reforms of the UN Security Council, stressing that inter-governmental negotiation on the issue, was 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.

“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 organisation is called to question.

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

Deji Elumoye in Abuja