Nigeria to campaign for creation of UN agency for youth development

The Nigerian government on Friday in New York announced it would push for the creation of an agency to cater for the peculiar needs of youth in the world during the 71th United Nations General Assembly.

Speaking during a press briefing at the UN secretariat in New York, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the country will push for the establishment of the organisation to provide more opportunities for youth and help counter their indoctrination by fundamental organisations.

Mr. Onyeama said the creation of such organisation will be particularly beneficial to the teeming Nigerian youth. According to the UN, more than 70 per cent of Nigerian population are under 35-years.

“Nigeria will be pushing as part of the reform of the UN, the possibility of setting up an agency to deal with youth issues globally,” he said.

Mr. Onyeama said the press briefing was intended to inform journalists of some of the areas the Nigeria delegation will be paying attention to during the event that brings leaders of the world together.

He said Nigerian will pay special attention to the refugee crisis in the north-east of the country caused by a seven-year insurgency led by the Boko Haram.

“The issue of terrorism is one of the issues confronting Nigeria we would be pursuing.

“As you know we have one of the deadliest terrorist groups, Boko Haram, that has absolutely caused havoc in our country. We have over 2 million internally displaced persons and between 60 and 70 thousand in neighbouring countries.

“The situation is extremely dire because the area in which they are most prominent, people have not been able to farm for a number of years. We are dealing with real humanitarian crisis in the North East of the country.

“We would be engaging a number of countries within Africa and outside Africa to come up with a strategy to engage this global phenomenon of terrorism.


Mr. Onyeama added that the government plans to seize the opportunity created by the General Assembly to woo officials and investors from across the world to invest the country. He lamented the devastating effect the drop of oil prices has had on the country’s economy.

He said the government is working to improve transparency in order to ease the burden of investors as well as working to diversify the Nigeria economy to break from its reliance of proceed from oil export.

“This government came into power when the price of oil, our main export dropped dramatically from over $100 a barrel to just under $30 per barrel, so this has had a catastrophic effect on the economy.

“It was extremely unfortunate, the timing. We already had good programmes for the country and you have your price of your main commodity just crashing like that.

“Of course, it highlighted the mistake we have made as a country not to have diversify our economy. So we are diversifying and looking to attract foreign direct investment as much as possible into the country.

“One of the main events we would be organising during this period would be a US/ Africa forum during which Nigeria is going to be one of the countries to be focused on and it would be an opportunity to have an investment drive and to showcase the benefits and advantages we as a country have to offer to foreign investors.

“There will also be other side events our ministry of trade and investment agency will be in full force.

“We are trying to change the climate of the country to make Nigeria a much more business environment to make Nigeria a more attractive place. We know for a fact it is one of the most profitable in the world to make return on investment.”

Human rights

The minister said Nigeria will also be participating in the human rights events during the General Assembly in order to address the accusation of human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings against the military.

“He said the government has created a human rights desk in the military and troops found to have committed abuses have been punished.

“Human rights is an issue that often comes up with the mention of Nigeria and here again the government is determined to enthrone respect of human rights in the country. We are doing that in form of putting institutional mechanism to ensure, respect and promotion of human rights.

“An area that has often been mentioned is in our fight in the north east with terrorists and Boko Haram. We are engaging with the military (and) we have put in a human rights desk embedded with the military and we have a human rights commission that is really independent and we are ready to address any human rights issues that comes up.”

However, while the military may have sanctioned few soldiers for rights abuses, the government has largely failed to address impunity in the country’s armed forces.

Despite reports by groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch detailing widespread abuse by the military in the north-east and against pro-Biafran agitators in the South East, the military is yet to name and punish soldiers and top officers accused of operating detention camps, extra-judicial killings and the torture of civilians.

During the briefing, PREMIUM TIMES pressed Mr. Onyeama on why the leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zazaky, and his wife were still being held in detention after over 300 of its members were massacred in Zaria and secretly buried by the military after an altercation over right of ways with some members of the group.

The minister said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is not willing to disrupt the process of inquiry initiated by the Kaduna State government and has decided to allow the full process of the law prevail in the case.

He however, said the government is in possession of the report of the judicial panel of inquiry into the killings and will soon take a decision based on the rule of law.

He said Mr. El-Zazaky is being well taken care of even as he did not say when he would be released or whether it was lawful for the government to continue to detain him in a secret location nine months after he was allegedly shot and wounded by soldiers who ransacked his house.

“The government will study it, the Attorney General will look at the report and whatever measure needs to be take will be taken.”

“He (Mr El-Zazaky) is getting all the medical attention he requires. This I can say with certainty.”

Climate Change

Mr. Onyeama said climate change is another area the government will pay particular attention to during the General Assembly. He announced that Mr. Buhari will sign the Paris agreement on climate change also known as the United Nations Climate Change Conference, (COP 21).

COP21 sets a goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement calls for zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century. On 22 April, 2016, 174 countries signed the agreement with the commitment to carry out necessary legislations in their countries for its successful implementation.

“We subscribe fully to COP and for us we are facing the reality of climate change such as desertification and flooding, soil erosion. We are fully committed and we are playing our part.”

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