Author Archives: Oluseyi Soremekun

UN Security Council Press Statement on Acts of Terrorism in Northeast Nigeria

The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack on 27 July 2019 in the Nganzai Local Government Area in Borno State, northeast Nigeria, which resulted in at least 60 killed and others injured.

The members of the Security Council expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of Nigeria. The members of the Security Council wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

The members of the Security Council commended the efforts of countries in the region, including through the Multinational Joint Task Force, to effectively combat terrorism, and encouraged further progress in this regard.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Government of Nigeria and all other relevant authorities in this regard.

The members of the Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the need for all States to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist attacks.

The Wildfire of Hate Speech

Around the world, hate is on the march.  A menacing wave of intolerance and hate-based violence is targeting worshippers of many faiths across the globe.  Sadly – and disturbingly – such vicious incidents are becoming all too familiar. 

In recent months, we have seen Jews murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayer, their churches torched.

Beyond these horrific attacks, increasingly loathsome rhetoric is being aimed not only at religious groups but also minorities, migrants, refugees, women and any so-called “other”. 

As the wildfire of hate spreads, social media is being exploited for bigotry. Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements are growing.  And incendiary rhetoric is being weaponized for political gain.

Hate is moving into the mainstream in liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes alike – and casting a shadow over our common humanity.

The United Nations has a long history of mobilizing the world against hatred of all kinds through wide-ranging action to defend human rights and advance the rule of law.  Indeed, the very identity and establishment of the Organization are rooted in the nightmare that ensues when virulent hatred is left unopposed for too long. 

We recognize hate speech as an attack on tolerance, inclusion, diversity and the very essence of our human rights norms and principles.

More broadly, it undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values, and can lay the foundation for violence, setting back the cause of peace, stability, sustainable development and human dignity.

In recent decades, hate speech has been a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide, from Rwanda to Bosnia to Cambodia.

I fear that the world is reaching another acute moment in battling the demon of hate. That is why I have launched two United Nations initiatives in response. 

First, I have just unveiled a Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech to coordinate efforts across the whole United Nations system, addressing the root causes and making our response more effective.

Second, we are developing an Action Plan for the UN to be fully engaged in efforts to support safeguard religious sites and ensure the safety of houses of worship.

To those who insist on using fear to divide communities, we must say: diversity is a richness, never a threat.

A deep and sustained spirit of mutual respect and receptivity can transcend posts and tweets fired off in a split second.  We must never forget, after all, that each of us is an “other” to someone, somewhere. There can be no illusion of safety when hate is widespread.

As part of one humanity, it is our duty to look after each other.

Of course, all action aimed at addressing and confronting hate speech must be consistent with fundamental human rights. 

Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech. It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous, particularly incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, which is prohibited under international law. 

We need to treat hate speech as we treat every malicious act: by condemning it, refusing to amplify it, ountering it with the truth, and encouraging the perpetrators to change their behaviour.  

Now is the time to step up to stamp out anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, persecution of Christians and all other forms of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance.  

Governments, civil society, the private sector and the media all have important roles to play. Political and religious leaders have a special responsibility to promote peaceful coexistence.  

Hatred is a danger to everyone – and so fighting it must be a job for everyone.  

Together, we can put out the wildfire of hate and uphold the values that bind us together as a single human family. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UN General Assembly Elects Nigeria as President, Guterres Hails the President-Elect

The United Nations General Assembly on 4 June 2019, in New York elected Nigeria’s Professor Tijjani Mohammad-Bande as the President of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande has had an outstanding career as a scholar and diplomat. He received a B.Sc (Political Science) from Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria (1979); MA (Political Science), Boston University, USA (1981); and Ph.D (Political Science), University of Toronto, Canada (1987).

He started at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria, rising from Graduate Assistant in 1980 to full Professor in 1998, and ultimately to Vice-Chancellor, in 2004, a position he held for five years. Between 2000 and 2004, he served as the Director-General of  Le Centre Africain de Formation et de Recherche Administratives pour le Dèveloppement (CAFRAD), in Tangier, Morocco. From 2010 to 2016, Professor Muhammad-Bande held the position of Director-General of Nigeria’s National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, the country’s most reputable policy institution for training leaders from the public and private sectors, including high echelon officials of Nigeria’s Armed Forces.

As Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, he worked with colleagues from all regions of the world to achieve common objectives. He served as the Vice-President of the General Assembly during the 71st session and remains active in several fora, including as Chair of the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34), Member, Advisory Board of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre and Chair of the ECOWAS Group (2018-2019).

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has congratulated Professor Mohammad-Bande, who will assume duties in September.

“It is my pleasure to congratulate Professor Tijjani Mohammad-Bande as President of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. From your years as Permanent Representative of Nigeria, you know the United Nations well.” The Secretary General said, “As a Nigerian and an African, you have invaluable insights into the continent’s challenges – such as the Sahel and Lake Chad basin – and more broadly into the challenges our world faces across the three pillars of our work, peace, sustainable development and human rights.”

Guterres noted that Prof Mohammad-Bande would be in office as the United Nations geared up to commemorate her 75th anniversary – an occasion that he hoped could be used to reaffirm the value of international cooperation and the vision of the Charter.

September, according to him, would see a crucially important series of meetings, including the Climate Action Summit and the Sustainable Development Goals Summit, and the high-level meetings on universal health coverage, Small Island developing states and financing for sustainable development. 

The Secretary General commended Her Excellency María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, for her outstanding work as President of the 73rd session.  “I am most grateful for her support, especially for her support, of the United Nations reform and her overall stewardship of this body.” He added.

EU-UN Spotlight Team Begins Implementation Workshop to End Violence Against Women and Girls

The European Union – EU and the United Nations (UN) in Nigeria on 26 May 2019, kick-started the implementation of the EU-UN Joint Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, with an Inception Workshop held at Sokoto, North-West Nigeria. The team was received on arrival by the Governor of Sokoto State, H.E. Aminu Tambuwal at the Government House, who noted that the State would continue to key into the development initiatives of the EU and the UN in Nigeria.

Declaring the workshop open on 27 May 2019, the Governor expressed his delight at the inclusion of the State amongst the 5 selected for the Spotlight project. Represented by his Deputy, Hon. Maniru Muhammad Dan’iya, the Governor acknowledged that the Spotlight Initiative project inception workshop was critical as it would enhance the engagement of all stakeholders in Sokoto State.

Addressing the participants, the Head of the UN Nigeria delegation to the State, Mr Kwasi Amankwaah, explained that the EU-UN Joint Spotlight Initiative was a global, unique, multiyear initiative focussed on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. The Civil Society, according to him, were expected to play a more active role in the spirit of leaving no one behind.

The initiative, he added, would engage community-based, grassroots CSOs across Nigeria. UNDP in Nigeria, UN Women Nigeria, UNFPA Nigeria, UNICEF Nigeria and UNESCO Regional Office Abuja are working with the European Union in Nigeria, Government and Civil Society partners on the Spotlight Initiative.

Urgent Efforts Needed To Protect Bees – Amina Muhammed

Amina New DSG Portrait

“Urgent and wide-ranging efforts are needed to protect bees across wild, agricultural and urban habitats,” said the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Muhammed in her message on World Bee Day commemorated every 20 May.

The Deputy Secretary General observed that the decline and disappearance of bees and wild insects would have drastic consequences for global ecosystems and human well-being. “Bees are clearly crucial for our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet populations of bees and other pollinators have decreased significantly. Intensive agriculture and pesticide use are placing bees in ever greater danger. Bees are being exposed to new diseases and pests.” She explained, “Our non-governmental organizations, as well as beekeepers’ associations, research organizations and academia, have a key role to play.

Drawing a parallel with UN field staff, the Deputy Secretary General acknowledged that bees were among the hardest working creatures on the planet. “I would say, much like our UN staff we have in the field, peacekeeping and humanitarian.” She noted.

Muhammed therefore called on everyone to work together to ensure that these hard-working creatures could thrive so that the ecosystems and humans that depend on them could do the same—today and for future generations.

To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the United Nations designated 20 May as World Bee Day. 20 May coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard, while needing so little attention.

 

Defend the Rights of Journalists – Guterres

Defend the Rights of Journalists – Guterres Urges Everyone

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on everyone to defend the rights of journalists whose efforts ‘help us to build a better world for all’. He said in his message on World Press Freedom Day presented by the Director of the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Nigeria, Mr Ronald Kayanja at the observance organised by UNIC and the Centre of Excellence, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos on Friday, 3 May 2019 in Lagos.

The Secretary-General observed a growing number of attacks and the culture of impunity which according to UNESCO led to the death of 100 journalists and hundreds imprisoned in 2018. “When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.” Guterres noted, “A free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights. No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information.”

Mr Kayanja had before presenting the message of the Secretary General appealed to the Nigerian press to shun avoid reinforcing negative stereotypes about Nigeria but rather look for something good and positive to report about Nigeria. According to him, there were many rumours and unsubstantiated reports on the social media concerning the situation of things in Nigeria which unfortunately also found their way into the mainstream media. “Nigeria is a great country. Things are not as bad in Nigeria as portrayed by the Nigeria press.” He added.

The Chairman of the event, Professor Ralph Akinfeleye, called on the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists to rise up to their responsibilities, regulate their ranks and clean up the journalistic space which he observed had been contaminated. Prof Akinfeleye called for a socially responsible free press in deepening democracy and strengthening professionalism.

The Keynote Speaker and Senior Fellow, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Dr Fassy Yusuf, called on media practitioners to eschew corruption, disinformation and misinformation. “The Nigerian media should eschew corruption, tinted and fake news and other unethical practices for it to live up to its billing as the fourth estate of the realm.” He said, “If the media is to play a pivotal role in deepening and sustaining democracy, it must be socially responsible while its freedom should be non-negotiable”.

Earlier, the HoD Mass Communication, UNILAG, Prof Abigail Ogwezzy Ndisika, had urged the media to be responsible  and patriotic in their reporting.

This year’s theme “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” discusses current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.

140 NIGERIAN BLUE HELMETS AWARDED UNITED NATIONS MEDAL

140 Nigerian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were awarded the United Nations medal on 18 April.

The Deputy Chief of the United Nations Police Component (UNPOL), Brigadier General Jean François VOILLOT, presided over the ceremony that was held in the historic city of Timbuktu. 

The medal recipients, including 40 women, were members of the Nigerian Formed Police Unit (FPU). 

The UN medal rewards the courage and commitment of peacekeepers who have spent 90 days in MINUSMA, particularly in northern Mali, in the service of peace.

Given the current context of the region, and in accordance with its mandate, this unit of the UN Police conducts daily, long and medium range patrols with the Malian Defense and Security Forces (FDSM), including the Police and the Gendarmerie, in the city of Timbuktu and the surrounding villages. It conducts escorts and security operations allowing people to go about their business in serenity.

UNPOL Deputy Chief Voillot congratulated the recipients for the professionalism that allowed them to honorably perform their missions with determination and integrity “You will receive the UN medal which is both a testimony and a mark of recognition of the international community for your participation in the efforts and work done for the stabilization and maintenance of peace in Mali,” he said.

The ceremony was held at the UN Mission Integrated Camp, in the presence of Acting Head of Office Mamane Sani Moussa, UN Force Commander for Sector West, UNPOL Regional Commander Colonel Chérif Sami, representatives of the local and administrative authorities of Timbuktu and Taoudeni, as well as the hierarchy of the Defense and Security Forces of Mali (FDSM).

Earth Hour: Lights-out at UN House Abuja, as Guterres Advocates Greener Future for All

To underscore the United Nations’ continued support for climate action, the United Nations in Nigeria on Saturday, 30 March 2019, participated in a global lights-off event tagged ‘Earth Hour’, by switching off the lights in and outside the UN House, Abuja from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, had in his message on the Earth Hour, noted that the Earth Hour was an opportunity to show support for ambitious climate action, by turning off your lights on Saturday, March 30th, at 8:30 p.m. local time.

He expressed optimism that “It is still possible to limit climate change, protect our planet and safeguard our future.” Guterres called on everyone to “Let’s build a cleaner, safer and greener future for everyone.”

According to the Secretary General,“Technology is on our side. I am convening a Climate Action Summit in September. And I am telling global leaders to bring concrete plans.” He disclosed.

The Earth Hour event, which started as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, is now one of the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring millions of people to take action for our planet.

 

Slavery: We Must Never Forget the Crimes and Impacts in Africa and Beyond – Guterres

“The transatlantic slave trade was one of history’s most appalling manifestations of human barbarity. We must never forget the crimes and impacts in Africa and beyond. We honour them by standing up against ongoing forms of slavery, by raising awareness of the dangers of racism,” said the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his message on the 2019 International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the TransAtlantic Slave Trade commemorated in Nigeria on 25 March 2019 at Badagry, a Slave Trade port over 400 years ago.

The UN Secretary General, in the message read by the National Information Officer of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Nigeria, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, explained that the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme was aimed at ensuring that the lessons of Slavery were learned and heeded today. “We need to tell the stories of those who stood up against their oppressors, and recognize their righteous resistance.” He added, “On this International Day of Remembrance, we pay homage to the millions of African men, women and children who were denied their humanity and forced to endure such abominable cruelty.”

Organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Nigeria and Lagos Education District V, the Observance held at Badagry Grammar School, was attended by 1,200 students, School Principals, Teachers, Traditional Rulers and some parents. The educational programme featured a visit to the Mobee Royal Family Slave Relics Museum, Badagry and the Badagry Heritage Museum; Poster Exhibition and series of drama presentations by the various schools in attendance.

Speaking further, the National Information Officer who represented the Director, Mr Ronald Kayanja, called on parents and guardians to shun all forms of modern day slavery including child labour and human trafficking. ‘The grass is always not green on the other side’, he added.

Slave trade, according to him, was racism and prejudice in practice as Africans were the main targets leading to an extensive exodus of Africans spread to many areas of the world over a 400-year period which was unprecedented in the annals of recorded human history.

Dr Soremekun disclosed that in commemoration of the memory of the victims, the General Assembly, in its resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007, declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually, to inculcate in future generations the “causes, consequences and lessons of the transatlantic slave trade, and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice.

In her address, the Tutor General/ Permanent Secretary of Lagos Education District V, Mrs Anike Adekanye, noted that Slavery in any form was evil and should not be condoned in the modern society. She urged the students to be bold to report teachers, parents, uncles and anyone that attempted to subject them to any form of abuse or inhuman treatment be it in school or at home.

She, therefore, shared with the students and other members of the audience, the telephone numbers of the Police in the Badagry area and the Lagos State child protection office with the audience.

The Observance of the International Day of #RememberSlavery at Badagry Grammar School was indeed a memorable one, as students highlighted the brutality of slavery, the harms of modern day slavery, human trafficking and forced labour through dance, music, poetry and drama.

In the exhibition of twenty-one posters titled, “Remember Slavery: Say It Loud”, the students were briefed on the contribution of architects of African descent to various sectors of the American society and promoting their professional development. The various designs have also given voice to the African diaspora consciousness.

The students later visited the Mobee Royal Family Slave Relics Museum, Badagry, the Badagry Heritage Museum and the Royal Palace Mobee of Badagry Kingdom where they came into contact with the relics of Slavery. The visit to the museum was significant because Badagry was a slave trade commercial centre and a major port for the transportation of enslaved African people.
Badagry is a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) designated Slave Trade Route and widely noted as a major port in the export of slaves to the Americas.

Climate Change: gods are not angry, Watch your actions – Student Poets say as UN marks Poetry Day

Sequel to the widespread misconceptions in the African traditional society that climate change and its impacts manifest only when the gods are angry, some students have, through poetry, debunked the notion and submitted that human actions and inaction were mostly responsible. “We made it happened, burning of bushes, felling of trees and we accused the gods of chiding us in wrath, clean the land, clean the earth, stop the smoke in every form. If we all turn deaf ears, where shall we go from earth?” said Basit Saba of Ikotun Senior High School Lagos, in his presentation at the Poetry competition on “Combating Climate Change and its Impact in Nigeria”, to commemorate the World Poetry Day.

The 2019 World Poetry Day observance held on Thursday 21 March 2019, was organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Nigeria and Lagos Education District One. The poetry competition involved all the ninety-nine schools in the District. However, only fifteen finalists from fifteen schools made it to the finals.

In line with the objectives of the World Poetry Day, especially as related to restoring a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, the fifteen finalists in their presentations, demonstrated the convergence of poetry, theatre, dance and arts to convey the message of climate change and its impact in Nigeria. Most of the poetic recitals were either preceded by drama or accompanied drums and dances.

“Climate change, who are you?” asked Miss Omoyemi Sodiq of Stadium Junior Grammar School, “You are a global challenge. You respect not all national borders. A threat to humanity! Your threat requires urgent climate action’’.

In her presentation titled, ‘Mother Earth’, Miss Bolanle Bolaji of Ijaiye Housing Estate Senior grammar School, noted that “Mother earth sits quietly and in pains, suffering through high temperature, through global warming, through malnutrition, through heavy rainfall, through sea level rising, and through rising infectious diseases.”

In a highly poetic flow, Miss Saidat Lamina of Iju Senior Grammar School said, “What about our plants and trees? Mother earth needs some bees; on the trees and some honey bees. Global warming is everywhere; Climate change is already here; there is a lot of things we can’t bear. Let us save our mother nature; Let’s give it a perfect structure.”

Speaking at the occasion, the Director of UNIC, Mr Ronald Kayanja, called on schools and stakeholders in the education sector to revive the oral traditions of poetry recitals.

Mr Kayanja who was represented by the National Information Officer, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, explained that poetry not only unlocks the creative potentials in people, it also contributes to language skills development, builds confidence in public speaking and asserts people’s identity.

Poetry, according to him, has no particular language. “Poetry is universal. It can be written and recited in any language, including indigenous languages.” He noted, “Poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.”

Addressing the audience comprising of students, School Principals and teachers, the Tutor General/ Permanent Secretary of Education District 1, Dr Mrs Olayimika Ayandele, expressed gratitude to UNIC for its consistency in educational programmes and FABE International Foundation, for providing prizes made of upcycled wastes recovered from the environment.