By Joseph Onyekwere and Terhemba Daka
• Asks WHO to supply COVID-19 vaccines to all
• Speech full of usual promises not often met says ex-envoy
The Federal Government has pledged to work with member states of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to promote human health and general well-being.
Making the pledge, President Muhammadu Buhari also declared that the country would continue to partner the World Health Organisation (WHO) to boost the development, manufacturing and supply of effective coronavirus vaccines to all.
He made the pledges when he presented Nigeria’s national statement, via video message, on the first day of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly Debate.
Shortly after the President’s presentation, however, a former ambassador and President of the Association of Foreign Relations Professionals of Nigeria, Gani Lawal, said the pledges might not be fulfilled as was the case in the past.
The theme of this year’s General Assembly is ‘The Future We Want, The United Nations We Need: Reaffirming Our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism- Confronting Coronavirus Through Effective Multilateral Action. ’
The President said, ‘’As we reflect on the future we want and the United Nations we need, we must realise that the people of the world not only look up to us, they count on us.
‘’If the United Nations system cannot mobilise the world to marshal out a truly effective and inclusive response to the coronavirus pandemic, then the United Nations would have failed in the core mission of giving expression, direction and solution to the yearnings of the international community.”
He stressed the need for the future to guarantee human rights, dignity, prospects and prosperity, adding that the principles of ‘Leaving no one behind and doing no harm’ must be expressed through accountability, strategic growth initiatives and elimination of threats of all kinds.
President Buhari noted that in the quest to provide a future of hope and prosperity for Nigerians, his administration had adopted measures towards ensuring national resilience, explaining that the goals would be achieved through the implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan and the Medium Term National Development for the periods 2020-2025 and 2026-2030.
‘’We expect that these ambitious initiatives will deliver sustainable economic growth and development to Nigeria,’’ he said.
On the pandemic, he called for effective multilateral actions and expressed concern that the pandemic had devastated the world economy, straining the capabilities of the health systems of many countries, including Nigeria.
‘’In the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria, we prioritised vulnerable groups, including women, children, older persons and the unemployed, in our efforts to provide medical and social assistance to cushion the socio-economic effects of the disease.
‘’Accordingly, we have expanded our national social register to include an additional one million Nigerians. Our National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) has been the vehicle for reaching out to the poor and vulnerable members of the Nigerian population, as well as providing cover for over 12 million households,’’ he said.
On poverty eradication in Nigeria, the President said his administration had commenced the disbursement of N10.9 billion to households on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises as palliatives.
A N500 billion fiscal stimulus package and sustained delivery of humanitarian and social interventions to poor and vulnerable households, according to him, have been established, while the Central Bank of Nigeria launched a N3.5 trillion stimulus package to boost manufacturing and facilitate import substitution.
He urged the international community to cooperate in addressing the scourge of poverty, particularly in developing countries and enjoined global leaders, particularly from the global North, to support the alliance at a time when the COVID-19 is reversing gains made in the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and pushing an additional half a billion people into extreme poverty.
Nigeria, the President also said remained deeply concerned about disarmament, international peace and security, President Buhari said Nigeria remained deeply concerned about illicit trade, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons, particularly on the continent of Africa.
He called on the international community to renew efforts at stemming the traffic and promote the Arms Trade Treaty in order to codify accountability in the battle against trans-border crimes, including terrorism and acts of piracy.
DESCRIBING, the President’s speech at the UN as “not a total departure from what it used to be because it is full of promises which are more often not met,” Gani Lawal, former Nigerian ambassador, asked: “Will Nigeria contribute to the eradication of poverty by further impoverishing the middle class by increasing prices of essential products like fuel and electricity amidst COVID-19?”
According to him, the speech is very cogent on general terms but empty in terms of specifics. He, however, said the speech could be excused on the grounds that struggle for social development is always work in progress.