Can Buhari still call global attention to Nigeria’s problems?
The Nigerian president and his 21-man entourage arrived in New York, United States of America on Friday, the 25th of September, 2015 for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The General Assembly (GA) was created in 1945 as the policy and decision making arm of the United Nations which consists of 193 countries, and has since hosted world leaders between September and December every year. The leaders then discuss and proffer solutions to a wide range of problems encountered in their various countries.
This year at the UNGA, part of the issues that will be discussed are the violation of human rights in Rwanda, ending the U.S. embargo placed on Cuba, among other issues.
Is Buhari’s trip turning out to be a disaster?
President Buhari, since his arrival in New York has attended several meetings, however, he missed the meeting of World’s presidents with the Pope. He was also not in attendance at one of the summits organized to address the issue of terrorism and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), where the United States pledged over $6 million towards aid for the IDPs. While Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has emphasised that Buhari is fully conscious of his responsibility and would accept nothing short of the best for Nigerians in the meetings taking place in and around the United Nations. Many have suggested that his failure to attend this meeting is indicative of nonchalance towards insecurity in Nigeria.
The United States of America, United Kingdom and France have supported Nigeria in countering terrorism, but Boko Haram still remains Nigeria’s biggest threat thus far. Since 2002, Boko Haram has caused over 10,000 deaths and the displacement of over 1.5 million people from the Northern states.
President Buhari is the first Nigerian to deliver a speech on the opening day of UNGA since 1999 and addressed the global community yesterday- September 28th. But while some Nigerians have praised the eloquence of the President’s speech, others believe that he failed to touch on important and pressing issues that the country is battling with. In his speech, he highlighted the following:
In the president’s speech at the summit, he emphasized the need for Nigeria to partner with other countries and international agencies to eradicate crimes and corruption in the country. He also appealed to other presidents to ensure that stolen funds and assets are returned to their country of origin.
Buhari also proposed that ‘peace’ should be added to the already existing 6 essential elements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were grouped into six essential elements – Dignity, Prosperity, Justice, Partnership, Planet and people. He assured the gathering that his administration will ensure that the kidnapped Chibok girls are reunited with their families and that the government is doing all in its power to end terrorism and insecurity in the country.
Conflicts around the world
President Buhari noted an increase in conflicts around the world, causing people to flee their homes and die in hundreds. He noted that these conflicts are on the rise due to the availability of arms and weapons, therefore calling on the international community to ensure the effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty to stop the illegal transfer of weapons.
As the summit continues, some of the other issues that should be brought up by the President for deliberation and possible solutions include:
Earlier this month, JP Morgan Chase & Co said they will remove Nigeria from its list of Emerging Market Government Bond Index, because the country’s foreign exchange market does not have liquidity. Nigeria could lose foreign investors if this eventually happens. Also, the plunge of global oil prices coupled with Naira depreciation has caused Nigeria’s economic growth to decrease from 6.54 percent last year to 2.35 percent.
With Nigeria’s dependence on Crude oil export – which accounts for about 90 percent of the country’s exports and 25 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – there is need to diversify into other sectors such as Agriculture, Manufacturing, Tourism and Culture. Agriculture which employs about two-thirds of Nigerian population is not at its full potential due to poor policies and insufficient infrastructure.
Despite efforts to eradicate polio, about 80 percent of Nigerians still do not have access to basic health care. With an average life expectancy of 54 years, Nigeria ranks one of the countries with the lowest life expectancy.
Poverty and hunger
Nigeria ranks 8th on the list of countries living in poverty. Over 60 percent still live on less than a dollar, and about 80 percent live on less than 2 dollars a day. In 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization rated Nigeria 14.6 percent on the hunger index, which shows a very high level of hunger threat in the country. Over 20,000 people reportedly die of hunger per day.
The literacy rate in Nigeria is just above 60 percent and there are over 70 percent of primary school aged children who are currently not in school, especially in the Northern areas.
The Millennium Development Goals implemented in 2000 should have been achieved or well under way in Nigeria, but the country is still lagging behind. President Buhari should canvass for necessary support in order to achieve these goals and eliminate all forms of deprivation in the country.
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