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At UNGA, Buhari Raises Alarm Over Incessant Coups In West Africa

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* Calls for debt cancellation for developing countries

* Renews advocacy for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

* Seeks reforms of UN security council

The recent trend of unconstitutional takeover of power, sometimes in reaction to unilateral changes of constitutions by some elected leaders, must not be tolerated by the international community, President Muhammadu Buhari told world leaders Friday in New York.

In his speech at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, the President in a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, 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 ECOWAS, AU and the UN to address this growing challenge.

‘‘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,’’ Buhari said.

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.

‘‘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’s speech, delivered from the podium of the General Assembly hall, addressed other matters on the international agenda of interest to Nigeria, including 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 the issue of debt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian leader urged G20 countries to extend its 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:

‘‘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.’’

The President also used the occasion of the speech to renew 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.

‘‘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, makes 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,’’ he said.

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 measures 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.

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

The President noted that while terrorism continues to dominate security discourse worldwide, in Nigeria, Boko Haram terrorists 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 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 peace keepers 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,’’ he said.

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 .

‘‘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,’’ he said.

The Nigerian leader also renewed the call for the reforms of the UN Security Council, stressing that intergovernmental negotiations 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.

‘‘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.

On the Palestinian question, the President 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.

President Buhari expressed deep concerns at the devastating effects of small arms and weapons, calling for accountability in conventional arms trade.

“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 world wide application of the Arms Trade Treaty to codify accountability in 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 on-going battle against trans-border crimes, including terrorism and piracy.”

President Buhari concluded his UN speech at the 76th annual general debate with praise for 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.

‘‘Our organization is at the peak of the multilateral system.

‘‘It is also the pre-eminent body for solving our current and emerging challenges, and for developing norms that are protective of us all. We need to re-commit to it, rejuvenate it to better serve us.

‘‘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 the current moment, hope for these, is dependent on how we assist each other to get Covid-19 out of all countries, regardless of their classification. We can and must do so.

‘‘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.

Culled from the Leadership News Nigeria

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End SARS Protest One Anniversary: Nigeria and the Consciousness

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“In a way, Nigeria is fascist in disposition considering that the government posturing often suggests that whatever the government does on behalf of the state is best for the people” —Ebuka Onyekwelu

 

One year after the end SARS campaign which started in Ikeja Lagos as a protest against police brutality in Nigeria, the level of citizens’ awareness remarkably appears to be on a steady increase. There are now efforts by some people to look critically at the end SARS protest against the backdrop of what the campaign has bequeathed Nigeria or her citizens in terms of institutional changes which are more enduring and sustainable. But, sustainable change arising from the protest is yet to be seen because; it is the norm for the people to be ignored by their government. Matter of fact, it comes naturally to the Nigerian government to disregard and altogether sideline the people not only in public policy formation but even in public policy implementation. Consequently, government and its actions run usually, in opposite direction with the people and it does not bother the government.

In a way, Nigeria is fascist in disposition considering that the government posturing often suggests that whatever the government does on behalf of the state is best for the people. In perspective, since 1999, Nigeria has never had a president who failed to warn that “Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable”. So the supremacy of the state is the preoccupation of those in government and for them, no one should question the decision or position of the government. This clearly superimposes the state and its will on the people as against the state being an expressed will of the people. Summarily, this is the principal idea behind the government’s unwillingness to take criticism or opposition, or in short democratize.

One year after the end SARS campaign which started in Ikeja Lagos as a protest against police brutality in Nigeria, the level of citizens’ awareness remarkably appears to be on a steady increase.

In many ways, it also explains why our institutions are so weak that nothing happens except by some political approval. At all levels of government across the country, the situation is the same. Therefore, it stands to reason that the Nigerian system is boldly resistant to social change. The country’s justice administration system is grossly underperforming. Government at all levels simply move at their own pace and at their own preferred direction, unchallenged. They simply expect the people to just fall into conformity with absolutely no questions. This was the order the end SARS movement was up against.

Getting a clear picture of how the country truly functions puts one in a better position to be able to properly assess the audacious end SARS campaign and how it rattled the regime, but also why it has not made significant systemic changes. At first, the regime simply dismissed the end SARS campaign as a deliberate act by opposition elements to distract the government, and then later referred to it as mere social media noise. But when thousands of Nigerian youths across the country defied the odds and joined the protests, then the government recanted and the Police Chief ordered the disbandment of SARS unit of the police force, across the country.

It was a remarkable milestone because for almost the very first time, the Nigerian government is responding to the demands of the Nigerian people. But because the end SARS campaign is something much more than putting an end to police brutality, it was difficult for the millions of protesting young people to just rescind their energies and anger against a country that is a clear threat to their present and future. Nigerian youths simply want a government that can guarantee their future of a decent and fairly comfortable life if they are willing to work. To this, the government did not know exactly how to react.

Being the first time in recent memory the government of Nigeria is acting towards the direction of the people’s demand, there was the tendency for the protesting youths to push their luck further by making other legitimate demands and in fact push for an overhaul of the country. And that was exactly what happened. Looking back, it was at this point that the government and the ruling elites saw the potential danger the newfound consciousness pose to their stronghold on the government and all the benefits of state power which they appropriate to themselves. Disbandment of SARS and institution of judicial panels of inquiry across several states were, to their minds, concessions in excess, which the protesting youths should accept, be happy for and then return home in victory. But the youths were already disenchanted and have developed particular disillusionment towards Nigeria’s ability to treat them right in their own country. The problem really, was that nearly everything is wrong with the manner and way the country works, such that most of her citizens have nothing to hold on to as proof that they should remain hopeful of a better future. Really, for the youths, it is a personal fight about their lives and future in their own country.

However, social change cannot happen all at once. No matter the intensity of our disgust for how Nigeria is presently designed to function or how the country actually works, yet, any meaningful transition to the most desirable must also be a process. Nigeria as it is now, many will agree, is worse than it was before. Hence, Nigeria was not “destroyed” in a day and assure cannot be fixed in a day. The voice of positive change raised by Nigerian youths during the end SARS campaign resonated with the aspiration of millions of well-meaning citizens of Nigeria within and outside the country. But demanding or even expecting too much change at once was a strategic error that culminated in the most horrendous Lekki Tollgate shooting scandal and corollary consequences which has further exacerbated insecurity in parts of the country, and rapidly deepened the many sufferings of ordinary Nigerians. Ever since that time till now, there has been brazen, audacious criminal activities especially in Southeast Nigeria, which until then, was the most peaceful zone in Nigeria. Attacks on security formations, setting diverse public offices ablaze, and carting away arms from burnt police stations were the hallmark of the aftermath of the Lekki shooting.

Nigeria, as predictable as it is, no one has been charged, held responsible, or dismissed from the force for the Lekki incident. The end SARS judicial panel in most states have suddenly stopped sitting. Perhaps, only the Lagos state panel has completed its mandate. Anambra state with one of the most notorious tales of SARS brutality and direct murder of several citizens who upon arrest by SARS operatives, have never been seen; nothing has been heard of the panel set up by the governor after its first or second sitting. In all, no police officer or SARS operative has been jailed or found guilty of brutality or murder. In Lagos, many people who were able to prove their case was awarded varying degrees of financial compensation and that was all. Here is Nigeria again, reinforcing her treacherously skewed conception of justice as mere monetary payoffs.

Although the error of strategy in demanding total change in one swift is easily overlooked considering the largely anomic nature and leaderless character of the end SARS movement. Yet, one year after, it is clear that Nigerian youths are not ready to give up their demands for good, responsible, and focused leadership across the country. Nigerian youths are now more defiant, fearless, and even belligerent towards the government. They are willing to risk it all while making their demands. This without a doubt is a very serious danger to the anti-democratic attitude and posturing of the government. Normally, this should give any government reason to rethink its existential relevance to the governed, and that, Nigeria must do and on time. So far, the lesson is that when the people insist on clear demands from the government, they usually get attention. But to fundamentally change the country, they only have to keep the pace of their demands and sustain the pressure on the government.

The end SARS campaign a year ago is only a successful test run of the Nigerian people’s will to make legitimate demands from their government and get results. Moving forward, the Nigerian government at all levels must adjust accordingly as the growing consciousness of the people dictates or face diverse levels of intense crisis, fundamental disruptions that will most likely include armed struggles, which can result from needless use of force on peaceful protesters.

♦ Ebuka Onyekwelu, strategic governance exponent,  is a columnist with the WAP

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Addressing Mental Health becomes Relevant as Suicide Rate Soars

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Last week, a 23-year-old physiology student, Chidiume Kenneth Ekene, committed suicide right in the corner of his hostel at Uli, Anambra State.

Usually, common suicidal methods prevalent amongst victims are poisoning, suffocation, jumping into the lagoon (drowning), and sometimes, firearms, but Chidiume’s case was through self-immolation (deliberately setting oneself on fire). It was hard to imagine the torture and gradual melting of his body in the presence of breath.

The news was shocking at first, but with the accounts of his friends and coursemates, negligence and ignorance ripened the deceased thoughts of suicide. They all confirmed that they noticed his unusual behaviour and statements saying that he wanted to die. In a Facebook post, one of his mates revealed her careless reply to the deceased: “…die make I come chop rice.” (see the screenshot below) And many believed it was a spiritual attack.
Suicide means death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die while a suicide attempt is self-inflicted harm with any intent to end one’s life that did not eventually result in death. Staying silent about suicide is a problem because it fuels suicide itself, breeds confusion, promotes stigma, and isolates people when they need help the most. People become suicidal when they are experiencing a high level of stress, mental suffering, high-level hopelessness, and despair. It is a way of them feeling in control when they are in an uncontrollable situation, but sadly, make a permanent decision to end their life in a temporary state of pain.

Suicide is gaining its root gradually amongst teenagers and young adults, even adults.
Suicide is gaining its root gradually amongst teenagers and young adults, even adults. But we seem to understand the adult victims’ situation and ascribe the teenage and young adults’ case to a spiritual attack; hence, the advocacy for mental health at all levels and all ages has been like a fairytale. This is the reason why young adults who can effectively handle a social media app could not recognize a suicidal statement from their friend, how much more reporting to the appropriate authority.

Talking about reporting to the appropriate authority, the question for many would be “which authority?” “Do schools, especially government universities, orient their students constantly on the importance of visiting or reporting a case to the school’s counseling unit? If we have hotlines to call, what is the awareness level amongst citizens? The majority of students in our society go through the four walls of the university and cannot identify the counseling unit block in their school; no wonder the height of cluelessness exhibited by students faced with a clear suicide warning. It is high time we changed the narrative. The saying “there is no health without mental health” extends to “there is no productive society without mental health”. Being concerned about the economic state of our country is no more important than the dilapidated state of mental health in our face. Mental health does not have to stop at personal conviction alone; rather, it must expand to become a national consciousness and culture if we must breed a healthy society.

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It is Illegal to Use Billboards, Signage in Enugu Without Approval – ENSSAA

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Enugu State Structure for Signage Advertisement Agency (ENSSAA) says it is now illegal for any person or group to erect billboards and structure for signage in the state without approval from the agency.

The General Manager of ENSSAA, Mr. Ike Ezugwu, stated this on Sunday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu.

Ezugwu said the law establishing the agency said licences and permits must be issued to individuals and organisations for the construction and placement of outdoor structures in any part of the state.

“So it is unlawful for any person to erect, construct, enlarge and operate outdoor structures without first being registered with the agency.

“And once we identify those without approval, we remove them and the owner bears the cost of removing it.

“It is our responsibility to control, regulate and monitor them.

“By licensing them, we have them in our database,” Ezugwu said.

He stressed that the agency was working hard to ensure that the state is rid of illegal billboards and posters, saying “if we stop regulating and controlling them, the environment will be littered with illegal billboards”.

The General manager explained that the agency was unable to cover all the 27 local government areas in the state due to insufficient manpower but maintained that they are gradually making success.

He, therefore, urged billboard owners in the state to register with the Agency, stating that what they pay forms part of government’s Internally Generated Revenue.

Ezugwu added that the agency collects 10 per cent as a cost of the collection while state and local government councils collect 40 and 60 per cent respectively from the monthly collections.

According to him, state and local government councils usually collect these levy which amounts to double taxation.

“The State House of Assembly later passed ENSSAA law by harmonising these collections and entrusted it to us,” he added.

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