[The Presidential Blog]: The President will address the 71st UNGA; and I’ve written his speech

Buhari

I’ll be the first to admit that my heading is a little misleading. It’s for good reason. This is an urgent message the President needs to see before his session at the 71st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Fingers crossed hoping it will get to him.

The President will be in New York this week and the next, leading Nigeria’s delegation at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. The UN General Assembly is the highest deliberative, legislative and most  inclusive arm of the 193-member organisation. At the Assembly all member states are welcome to discuss the entire range of international issues covered by the United Nation’s Charter from security to development of each member state.

This year will be President Buhari’s second attendance and he has said he’ll be address the Assembly on the 21st of this month on a number of issues. Minster of foreign affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama gave a run down of the things the President will be addressing the UN about. Having considered the topics, I think they may all be valid considering the current state of affairs in Nigeria. But Mr Onyeama didn’t say what exactly the President will be saying on all the topics. This is where the message is. Below are some of the topics Mr President will address the Assembly about and under each I  have put down my thoughts and suggestions.

Pushing for an Afro-centric Secretary-General

I really do not not know where the President is going with this. I’d rather we pushed for an Afro-centric and dedicated African Union and the UN General Assembly won’t be the platform for that. But then a pro-African head of anything is never a bad idea and the United Nations has only had one Secretary-General from the African UN Regional Group, Kofi Annan.

Of the candidates officially nominated to succeed incumbent, Ban Ki Moon, there are no Africans and the politics of the United Nations is all too complex. Again, not the platform. Besides, who will he suggest? Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo?

Agreement on Climate Change

President Buhari will be signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the Assembly. I think it will be important for the President to hint that Nigeria will probably not incorporate any of its provisions into our laws. For one, those who will do that are on an indefinite holiday. Like the United States that already signed the Agreement, we probably do not intend to do much more about it going by both countries’ treatment of the Kyoto Protocol.

By virtue of Section 12 of the Nigerian Constitution, we’ll ratify the international treaty but that’s probably going to be the end of it like many other treaties before this. If we are lucky, no issue will come up soon to pit the Agreement against an existing Nigerian legislation.

Security

The President will do well not to boast about achievements in this regard. While it is true that some measure of achievements have been recorded in the area of security, the fact is 218 girls are still missing, wasting in captivity by the same group he’ll want to suggest his government has subdued (Boko Haram). Besides, there’s probably already a pending case against his government about his unfair treatment of those who have been working tirelessly to ensure the return of the Chibok Girls. Last week, SERAP threatened to initiate this after the Nigerian police and the #WeStandWithBuhari group harassed #BringBackOurGirls protesters in Abuja.

Governance and the Economy

Good idea! But please President Buhari, TRY NOT TO REMIND US HOW THE PROBLEMS YOU FACE WERE ‘INHERITED’. We know. They know. Instead try to prevail upon the UN to provide assistance to Nigeria in this regard. Maybe try something like this:

“Mr President (of the General Assembly), Nigeria is facing the worst recession in decades. This has not only hit the pockets of my people, it is also threatening to increase the rate of crime nationwide which we have already recorded a huge amount of success in curtailing. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to which most countries have graciously pledged commitment has lofty targets in terms of co-operation among nations. For this, we’d love the United Nations to kick start the actualisation of these goals especially in the area of Prosperity. In Nigeria, we would love for member states to volunteer some of their best economic minds to constitute a committee that will help my country draw up a clear cut and fool proof action plan to get us out of the recession in the most sustainable fashion.”

“Mr President, without this sustainable, clear cut and fool proof action plan, a large section of the Nigerian populace might once again turn  to crime and corruption. This leads me to my next point …”

Anti-corruption

This is one area that the President might well be boastful of. Nigeria has apparently recovered a lot of stolen funds and assets in the last one year. According to a report released in June, “the Federal Government made cash recoveries totaling N78,325,354,631.82 (Seventy eight billion, three hundred and twenty-five million, three hundred and fifty-four thousand, six hundred and thirty one Naira and eighty two kobo); $185,119,584.61 (One hundred and eight five million, one hundred and nineteen thousand, five hundred and eighty four US Dollars, sixty one cents); 3,508,355.46 Pounds Sterling (Three million, five hundred and eight thousand, three hundred and fifty-five Pounds and 46 Pence) and 11, 250 Euros (Eleven thousand, two hundred and fifty Euros) between 29th May 2015 and 25th May 2016.”

We haven’t exactly enjoyed much of this recovered loot for one reason or the other. The latest in this series of excuses is that Switzerland thinks it is King and won’t release our money unless we agree to be monitored in the way we spend the recovered loot. See wahala! First you keep money that was obviously stolen and stashed off in your banks and now your’re giving conditions. If only Fela were still alive to sing about this.

Not that the President needs to say all that. He just must impress upon the Assembly to instruct Switzerland and any other country holding our monies to ransom to release the loot unconditionally or be punished under the crime of Grand Corruption for aiding and abetting our politicians.

Switzerland finally joined the United  Nations in 2000 so it should not be difficult for the United Nations to call the country to order. The United Nations Charter has a strict non-intervention policy which precludes any country trying to demean the sovereignty of another country or in any way instruct a government on how to rule its own country.

Legal luminary, Femi Falana (SAN), has already canvassed solid arguments in this regard. He has based his submissions on Article 57 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption for the return of assets to which Switzerland is a signatory.

“We believe that the conditionality imposed on Nigeria, which allows the World Bank to supervise the spending of returned assets by the Nigerian government breaches international law principles and standards. In particular, Article 57 of the UN Convention against corruption requires states parties to return assets on the basis of a final judgment in the requesting state party. But in circumstances where there is no final judgment, Article 57 allows for assets to be returned on the basis of agreements or mutually acceptable arrangements, on a case-by-case basis, for the final disposal of confiscated property.”

Obviously, Switzerland’s arrangement is not acceptable to Nigeria and Mr. President needs to make this clear. In fact, if this is the only point he gets across to the Assembly, it would be a great submission in and of itself.

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