Nigeria has mostly voted in support of the United Nations General Assembly’s resolutions on colonialism, human rights and Isreali-Palestinian conflict, among others, since the country’s independence in 1960, an analysis of data sourced from an international broadcaster, Al Jazeera, shows.
The General Assembly (UNGA) is the main deliberative and most representative organ of the United Nations, consisting of all the 193 member-states and the two permanent observers – the Holy See (Vatican City) and Palestine. Yet, UNGA resolutions are scarcely carried out on matters, unlike those of the Security Council, the most powerful organ of the intergovernmental organisation.
A president is elected annually from among the permanent representatives of the member-states, traditionally excluding the United Kingdom, the United States, China, France and Russia, who wield veto powers in the Security Council. UNGA presidency also traditionally excludes Japan and Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The current president is a Nigerian, Tijani Mohammad-Bande, elected in June 2019 from the African group. Other blocs include the Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europ, Latin America and Carribean, Western Europe and others. Before Mr Mohammad-Bande, the only other Nigerian to preside over the UNGA was the diplomat and senior army officer, Joseph Garba, in 1989.
Since the first session held in London in 1946, the deliberations of the UNGA have been on six broad subjects, namely colonialism, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, human rights, economic development and arms control.
As the data obtained shows, between 1946 and 2019, the body had made 6,112 resolutions, but Nigeria has only been a part of such resolutions 5,038 times since 1960. On 4,831 resolutions, Nigeria voted ‘Yes’, ‘No’ 25 times and abstained 204 times.
Of the total 6,112 resolutions, 1079 resolutions were made on arms control for peacekeeping across the world and 1,047 on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, followed by 1,001 on human rights. Then, resolutions on colonialism, nuclear weapon, and economic development were 941, 838, and 749, respectively.
Nigeria’s voting pattern over the decades
Nigeria is a product of colonialism and, following independence, articulated a foreign policy that focused on Africa as ‘centrepiece’ with a commitment to freeing the continent from the shackles of colonialism and minority rule.
Nigeria’s Afrocentric foreign policy, most radically pursued in the 70s, reflected in the country’s voting pattern at the UNGA. A total of 731 times, it voted in support of resolutions to end colonialism, 920 times on Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Then, it voted in support of arms control resolutions 997 times and 788 times on nuclear weapon resolutions. On human rights and economic development resolutions, it has voted ‘yes’ 752 and 643 times, respectively.
Shortly after gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria under the leadership of late Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa joined the United Nations as its 99th member. In 80 times, Nigeria voted in favour of resolutions on stopping colonialism in Africa. That period, it also contributed forces to the peacekeeping effort in Congo.
Nigeria supported the UNGA resolutions to condemn the violations of human rights in Apartheid South Africa, the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the US economic sanctions against Cuba.
Thrust into a military government barely six years after independence, Nigeria’s foreign behaviour began to change radically, especially during the Murtala Muhammad-led administration with a focus on Africa. Nigeria joined other Southern countries to support the historical resolution on the New International Economic Order in 1975 to reshape the North-South economic relations. Nigeria also supported the expulsion of South Africa from the UNGA over that country’s apartheid policy.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the most debated topic during the 1980s; though, the call for gender equality of men and women gained ground too. Nigeria despite its unstable political climate, voted in support of the UNGA resolutions condemning the Israeli Golan Heights seizure and its occupation of Palestine, and the killing of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982.
It also voted for condemnation of the Israeli bombing of Iraqi facility in 1981, nuclear weapon and arms control, decolonisation and human rights.
In 1993, the UNGA condemned the Balkan conflict which broke with the killing of the Bosnian Muslims by the Serbian and Montenegro forces. Also, South Africa, after being expelled for 20 years, was re-admitted to the UN in 1994 following the end of apartheid.
Prominent events of the period ranged from the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and call for an end to “honour crime” on women, among others.
Nigeria voted 188 times during UNGA Resolution 64/10 on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Human rights was the most debated topic in the last decade.
In this decade, arms control, followed by human rights, was the most debated topic at the UNGA. The killing of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar triggered yet another strongly-worded resolution from the UNGA in 2017. Meanwhile, in 2015, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced MDGs.
Nigeria’s voting pattern since 2010 went thus: 206 on arms control, 168 on nuclear weapon, 148 on human rights, 119 on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 96 on economic development and 85 on colonialism- all in support of UNGA resolutions; while 36 “abstain” was recorded on human rights resolution.