Mustering energy, consensus and fairness to negotiate the world



Mustering energy, consensus and fairness to negotiate the world

-Bande (the 74th President of the United Nations General Assembly)

It is difficult not to love Nigeria. The people are warm and charming. They can be critical of one another yet still bask in each other’s success.

Having held leadership roles in the country and on the African continent, I have been reminded of this time and again. Observing the enthusiasm generated in Nigeria by my emergence as President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly reinforces my love for the country, and I am grateful to all for their best wishes.

The UN is a difficult place to get your head around. I know this only too well, having served as Nigeria’s permanent representative to the organisation. I now understand how the institution works. Yet since taking up my new role in September, I appreciate there will be many people who wonder what it actually entails.

First, the General Assembly itself: this is the main deliberative organ of the United Nations. It is like a national parliament: each member country’s single vote counts as much as any other and everybody has the chance to put their perspective across.

As President, which rotates on a yearly basis among regional groups, I chair this assembly. I mediate and moderate; I set the agenda for the year; I look at the inner plumbing of the UN, and whether it is assembled to serve the purposes of the organisation – development, human rights, and international peace.

For the 74th session, I chose the theme “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion.” The UN has 17 goals to achieve by 2030 – the Sustainable Development Goals (an evolution of the Millennium Development Goals) – which the General Assembly adopted by consensus in 2015.

These goals interlink and I believe that eradicating poverty, achieving quality education, climate action and inclusion are key in reaching the other goals. Education further stands out for me given my background in academia, for it has the unique capacity to provide an opportunity for all.

The position of the General Assembly within the UN makes more sense when viewed amongst its other organs. The other two best-known bodies are the Secretariat and the Security Council.

The former is like a civil service: it performs the day-to-day running of the UN, administering the programmes and policies the rest of the organisation decides on. The Secretary-General is the head of it and is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General, described it as “the most difficult job in the world”, given the need to balance the competing demands of both the Secretary (administrator) and the General (moderator) functions of the role on a global scale.

The Security Council is the body charged principally with the founding mission of the UN: to safeguard world peace. Yet it is in serious need of reform because it reflects power dynamics that are almost three-quarters of a century old. It’s permanent members (as opposed to 10 non-permanent members, who each serve for two years) are China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA. Each has a “veto”, which means their vote can effectively overrule all other nations will.

This has raised questions of the democracy and legitimacy of the Council.

The reform of the Security Council is within the purview of the General Assembly but requires a two-thirds majority and – crucially – consent of each permanent member. I – as President of the General Assembly – must marshal energy and consensus to ensure more equitable representation, and ensure the council can address key issues instead of becoming deadlocked (a possibility gave the veto).

A key aspect of my position is to represent the General Assembly at international events around the world. For example, last month I attended the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement Head of State and Government in Baku, Azerbaijan. This month I travelled to France for the Paris Peace Forum. And this week I will be returning home to Nigeria for a conference aimed at strengthening human rights for older people in Africa.

Looking ahead, I will attend events in Ireland, Spain, Kuwait and Qatar in the coming weeks. I will use those platforms to advocate for the farthest behind among us. I am committed to visiting countries in Special Situations – particularly Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and nations in conflict – to draw the world’s attention to the existential issues they face. At every occasion, there is a focus on what partnerships can be created, or deepened, to address the challenges.

In a similar vein, I endeavour to increase the presence and relevance of the UN across the world.

Sometimes this global organisation has seemed too remote from those people it serves. That is something all of us who represent this organisation must labour to change. For it is only through collective action we can solve today’s greatest challenges.

I – like many previous holders of this role – am committed to the reform of the UN to reflect the realities of the 21st century, and to ensure that cynicism or apathy does not creep into the organisation.

Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the UN’s formation. In the build-up to this event, we have a chance to stand back and reflect on what this institution has done, should do and how to do it. And I want to hear from all perspectives on what the UN should be – whether that be from Azerbaijan, France or indeed Nigeria. (NANFeatures)

**If used, please credit the writer as well as Nigeria News Agency 


News Analysis: FirstBank accelerates support for SMEs to boost economic growth



An analysis by Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma 

The Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) sector is, no doubt, strategic and essential to accelerating economic growth and development of countries around the world, particularly Nigeria.

The sector is largely considered the backbone of many developed economies as well as an important contributor to employment, economic and export growth.

A survey conducted by PWC indicated that in South Africa, SMEs account for 91 per cent of businesses, 60 per cent of employment and contribute 52 per cent of total GDP. 

In Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48 per cent of national GDP, account for 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of employment.

Indeed, the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently confirmed that SMEs have contributed about 48 per cent to Nigeria’s national GDP in the last five years.

According to NBS, with a total of about 17.4 million, SMEs account for about 50 per cent of industrial jobs and nearly 90 per cent of the manufacturing sector, in terms of number of enterprises.

Experts, therefore, believe that supporting the SME sector in Nigeria to flourish is crucial because it creates a growing middle class with disposable income, and in the long run create market opportunities for new investors. 

Given the potential of SMEs to unlock Nigeria’s economic growth, many of them are, however, faced with the challenge of access to credit.

But the good news is that both the federal government and private organisations have for several years taken proactive steps to mitigate this challenge.

For instance, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has prioritised the promotion of the growth of SMEs for the overall good of the country. 

The bank has spent N170.30 billion between 2017 till date to support SMEs in the form of loans irrespective of product type.

As proof of this, the bank has supported 70,703 small and micro businesses over the last three to seven years.

Apart from the direct support, the bank is still partnering the federal government and Fintechs companies to bring banking services closer to the people.

Consequently, First Bank has been providing technology-enabled services and richer user experiences to petty traders to ensure the smooth running of their businesses.

The bank, also as part of the launch of its specialised SME propositions, recently convened an SME Week for its customers and non-customers to participate in a wide range of activities designed specifically for SMEs. 

The activities range from the SME Masterclass themed, “Designing and Implementing a Growth Strategy for your Business,” to specialised one-on-one sessions with renowned business coaches and the launch of seven unique pillars, which make up SME propositions available via SMEConnect.

The highlight of the week was the launch of the SME portal, a platform through which SMEs can access its unique propositions designed to equip them with the essential tools needed for the growth of their businesses.

The SME portal is also designed to help SMEs identify various gaps that hinder their business growth leveraging the bank’s innovative Business Diagnostics Tool, with a view to proffering tailored solutions and creating opportunities for business improvement, profitability and sustainability. 

The bank also conducted an extensive research over the years and identified seven strategic pillars essential for the sustainability and growth of SMEs.

These include: access to infrastructure, access to talent, capacity building, policy and regulation, access to resources, access to market as well as access to finance. 

Commenting on the development, Mr Gbenga Shobo, the bank’s Deputy Managing Director, said FirstBank would remain committed to the development and growth of SMEs. 

Shobo said the bank recognised that the SMEs were the engine of the economy.

“We are committed to ensuring that we leave no stone unturned as we connect with them in their continued contribution to national development in terms of the employment opportunities they create as well as their contribution to the nation’s GDP amongst many economic values.

“The FirstBank SME Week is driven to promote the Bank’s SME proposition, thereby having SMEs across the country optimally enlightened on how to plug in. 

“We believe this will help SMEs bolster their contributions to the growth and development of the economy,” he said.

Indeed, the bank’s disposition to SME’s is a clarion call to other private organisations to promote the sector, thereby improving the wellbeing of its operators and the economy at large.

Edited by: Salif Atojoko



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NEWS ANALYSIS: Living with disabilities and matters arising



Living with disabilities and matters arising

A News Analysis by Chioma Chukwuemeka, Nigeria News Agency

Jude is a cripple. He imagines how he can move around with the challenges of dealing with daily engagements that his condition has made unfriendly.

In most occasions, he has to call people around to open an unyielding door of public convenience.

In other times, it may be how to get off his wheel chair to reach for a desired floor of a storey building. His challenges are numerous.

Every year, he hopes to listen to useful development from stakeholders on how living can be made easier for persons with disability.

Observers note that persons with disabilities demand attention for their inclusion in events and activities within the society in line with international provisions.

This will involve creation of avenues within the health sector that would accommodate key issues concerning their basic human rights.

Programme Manager of the Nigeria Association of the Blind Ejiro Okotie says inclusion of persons living with disabilities is a right for everybody and not a privilege.

The National Publicity Secretary of Amalgamated Union of Physically Challenged Persons in Zamfara, Alhaji Shehu Sarkin-Fada, also observes that lepers and other physically challenged in the state face isolation and stigmatisation, the situation he describes as “painful’’.

A man in the eastern part of the country living with visual impairment and paralysis says the position of government at all levels and the society are discouraging in that regard, pleading anonymity.

“Government should enact a law providing a reasonable percentage of job placements for people living with physical disabilities in public and private establishments,’’ he says.

Concerned citizens, therefore, observe that the theme of the last International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) –“Promoting the Participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: Taking action on the 2030 development Agenda’’ — is purposeful.

According to them, the yearly observance of the day has not been promising as the last edition, going by the sensitisation and actions by stakeholders to effect a change.

For instance, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi  Gbajabiamila calls on different arms of government to make intentional efforts to promote accessibility of persons with disabilities.

He notes that the observance of the day will enable the government to focus on taking action in line with the United Nations 2030 Development Agenda.

“Of all the objectives set out in the agenda, there is none more urgent, more demanding of our commitment and effort, than that which requires us to jointly seek and achieve a drastic reduction in inequality.

“To achieve equal participation, we must be intentional about promoting accessibility.

“As we promote access to education by building schools and hiring teachers, we must make sure also that those classes are accessible to wheelchair users and the seeing impaired are provided with learning tools that work for them,’’ he said.

With this pronouncement from the National Assembly, many governments, civil society organisations and other private sector are beginning to take the lead in supporting the inclusion of persons living with disabilities in global, regional, national and local activities.

In Enugu State, Mr Gab Nnamani, Chairman of Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disabilities, Enugu Chapter People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs), calls for immediate domestication of the National Disability Law in the state to enhance the living condition and opportunities available to their members.

“We are committed to pursuing the domestication of the law in Enugu State and we will not relent in our efforts to do that,’’ Nnamani said.

The chairman also called on the state government to ensure access of PLWDs to public building and places in order to enhance their participation in state and national programmes and events.

In his opinion, Prof. Jibrin Diso from the Department of Special Education, Bayero University, Kano, observes that inclusion of persons with special needs in public affairs and services in the country will bring a lot of change in the life of the persons with disabilities.

He notes that the nation’s education system, which is the cornerstone of transforming the individual citizen into a veritable human capital, the needs of persons with special needs are seldom considered, stressing  that public facilities are rarely built with people with special needs in mind.

For effective inclusion in programmes, Mr Kola Ogunbiyi, Programme Manager of Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, calls on Enugu State government to pass and domesticate the persons with disabilities’ law.

According to him, the law will make the physically challenged partake fully in activities of government and other activities.

Similarly, the Senate has urged the Federal Government to fully implement the provisions of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018.

It also urged the Ministry of Works and Housing and other government agencies involved in infrastructure and public buildings to adopt codes and standards that were user-friendly to PLWDs.

Nigeria ratified the United Nations  (UN) Convention on the  Rights of People  With Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and its Optional Protocol in 2010.

However, it was only on Jan. 23, 2019, that President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 after nine years of relentless advocacy by disability rights groups and activists.


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Tackling gender based violence in Nigeria



Tackling gender based violence in Nigeria

, Nigeria News Agency

Dec. 10 of every year is globally marked as Human Rights Day. The day was proclaimed in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, via the Universal Declaration of Human Right.

The day was set aside by the United Nations to affirm the inalienable rights of every human being, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, among others.

Nigeria since 1995, established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), to promote, protect and enforce human rights issues in the country.

However, even with establishment of the NHRC, the country is still faced with high rate of Gender Based Violence (GBV) problems.

According to the UN, GBV is any act that results in or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such act, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

GBV, however, is not just about women’s issues, but affects all sexes, even though women are more vulnerable.

Gender based violence in Nigeria remains a challenge, that significantly constraints women’s opportunities, as most of them suffer sexual harassment, physical violence and harmful traditional practices, among others.

According to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA, 28 per cent of Nigerian women aged 25-29 experienced some form of physical violence from the age of 15.

And 45 per cent of women who experienced violence, never sought for help or told anyone about the incident due to fear of discrimination or lack of access to help facilities.

Also, women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience GBV and less able to escape, less likely to speak up, less likely to be believed and less likely to find help services.

To tackle the issues and garner support to end GBV, Mercy Corps Nigeria, with support from the DFID, initiated the Girls Education Challenge (GEC) Fund, which is implementing the Educating Nigerian Girls In New Enterprises (ENGINE) programme to address barriers to girls’ education and gender inequalities.

The programme is focusing on 18,000 marginalised girls in Kano, Kaduna and Lagos states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

It also facilitates Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection in the four states, working with various stakeholders, including federal and state governments, and line agencies.

Under the programme, beneficiaries are trained on reporting protocols for GBV, while families, schools, communities are enlightened on identifying, reporting and managing various forms of abuse and human rights violations when they occur and how to avoid reoccurrence.

Mercy Corps Nigeria, along with Society for Women Development and other relevant stakeholders in Kano, Lagos, Kaduna states and the FCT, are participation in the implementation of ENGINE ll.

Oluwawemimo Onikan, Communication Officer of ENGINE, said the first phase of programme which ran from October 2013 to March 2017, was able to support over 24,0000 marginalised girls between the ages of 16-19 to improve their learning outcomes and economic status in the four states of Kano, Kaduna, Lagos and FCT.

Onikan added that ENGINE ll would run till September 2020 and is providing numerous interventions to ensure that the girl-child is safe.

The interventions include boosting learning; providing opportunities for girls to build functional literacy and numeracy skills, provide them financial support and scholarships.

According to her, the programme also promotes child protection training by building the capacity of community leaders, traditional rulers, teachers, principals and government officials on how to identify and respond to GBV cases.

She noted that people were now more aware and enlightened, thereby helping to break the culture of silence which hitherto emboldened perpetrators of GBV in the society.

Communities and organisations like the Hizba in Kano, vigilante groups have also keyed into the initiative and took it upon themselves to curb the menace of GBV.

Onikan noted that Kaduna State had the highest number of cases reported by survivors, while the state  now have sexual assault referral centres, where they can report and access medical and legal support.

The Nigeria Demographic Health Survey 2013, and ICF International 2014, indicate that 28 per cent of women in Nigeria aged 15–49, experienced some form of physical or sexual violence; 11 per cent experienced physical violence within 12 months prior to the survey.

Also, according to a survey conducted by National Population Commission with support from UNICEF, six out of every 10 children experienced some form of violence.

The survey was conducted on 4,203 children aged 13-24 with 1,766 females and 2,437 males, based on physical violence, sexual violence and emotional violence.

Before the age of 18, one in two children experienced physical violence, one in four girls and one in 10 boys experienced sexual violence, while one in six girls and one in five boys, experienced emotional violence,” the report indicated.

In Kaduna State, 662 cases of abuse against women and children were recorded at the four sexual assault centres in the state, in October 2019 alone.

Out of the 662 cases, 373 were received at Gwamna Awan Specialist Hospital, Nasarawa; 104 at Sir Patrick Yakowa Memorial Hospital, Kafanchan; 114 cases at Yusuf Dantsoho Specialist Hospital, Tudun Wada and 71 received at Gambo Sawaba Hospital, Zaria.

The sexual assault centres provide medical consultation on individual cases and assist with psychosocial management of victims and their families.

Linda John, a GBV survivor in Abuja, said she got married at the age of 18 to a man who promised to send her back to school as she dropped out due to her parent’s poor financial status.

My parents were not financially buoyant and my dad was asthmatic, that is why I agreed to marry the man, hoping that he would send me to school as he promised, but things started changing two weeks after our marriage.

” He started maltreating me and refused to send me back to school. I got pregnant and he locked me up for days without food, I only took water, and as a result I had high blood pressure, “ she said

John said that whenever she escaped to her parent’s house, her husband followed her, and assaulted her and her parents.

According to her, the inability of her parents to return the bride price paid on her by the husband, made her to endure the hardship in order to save her parents from shame.

The survivor, however, commended ENGINE for coming to her community to sensitise and enlighten them on issues of gender based violence, saying it gave her confidence to speak out.

She said that the programme helped her and her family return the bride price to her former husband, and that she sued him for molestation and assault.

” Thanks to ENGINE ll, I am now back in school and I’m doing well,” she said.

Similarly, a community leader in Bwari Area Council of FCT, Mr Akanle Sunday, said members of the community have been suffering different forms of abuse, but were silent due to lack of awareness.

He noted that with the sensitisation by members of the ENGINE ll programme, his community was more aware and enlightened and survivors were able to speak out and get help.

Thanks to ENGINE ll, cases related to gender based violence in my community have dropped by 25 per cent,” he said.

With active participation of stakeholders, GBV would be greatly reduced in the country.



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Punch and its sinister motives for attacks on President Buhari, by Garba Shehu




The reported new editorial policy of the Punch Newspapers to address President Muhammadu Buhari as Major General in his official title and refer to his government as a regime instead of administration, comes to us as totally curious and utterly incredible.

The paper claimed that it is changing President Buhari’s official title to General because of his government’s alleged disregard for the rule of law.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), for that is his title, and he was indeed a Major General, but today retired from that position and now twice democratically elected president of Nigeria – is not the choice of Punch Newspaper’s editors and owners, that is clear.

He is, however, the two-time electoral choice of the voters of Nigeria, those very people who Punch Newspapers described this morning as “lethargic”: a disdaining epithet apportioned to decent, hard-working, everyday Nigerians for not agreeing with, and for not having voted in line with their publication’s editorial and political opinions.

Punch’s editorial today is, however, entirely in line with holding and exercising the right of free speech and freedom of the press, as my friend and colleague, Femi Adesina said earlier today.

Femi, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity said the fact the Punch can insult the President in a front page editorial and they go home to sleep, peacefully, is the best testimony to the prevalence of the freedom of the press and of expression in the country.

To quote him, “rather than being pejorative, addressing President Buhari by his military rank is another testimony to free speech and freedom of the press, which this administration (or regime, if anyone prefers: it is a matter of semantics) has pledged to uphold and preserve.”

In countries around the world where this right does not exist, newspapers do not publish articles such as the one Punch did today; nor do they get to express political opinions contrary to that of government. The exact freedoms Punch claims are missing are self-evident here – in print, on the internet – for all Nigerians and the whole world to see.

There is nothing wrong with expressing contrary opinions to this government – nor being in opposition to the president: this is the right of very Nigerian.

However, calling for the armed overthrow of the democratically elected administration is a different matter entirely: this Punch has in no way done – but others who they seek to defend, have.

There is the difference. Punch: oppose the government as much as you want to.

We welcome your contribution to the debate. But we ask you not to throw insults at the good voters of Nigeria for not agreeing to your choice at the last election.

Oppose in good humour: for that is the mark of the true democrat – that which you purport to be.

It is not within the power or rights of a newspaper to unilaterally and whimsically change the formal official title or the designation of the country’s President as it pleases.

It is unprecedented and absurd in our recent political history. The Punch never changed President Olusegun Obasanjo’s title from the President to General Obasanjo, despite the latter’s refusal to comply with Supreme Court judgment, ordering him to release N30 billion of Lagos State local councils funds.

When General Ibrahim Babangida who wasn’t democratically elected assumed the title of President, why didn’t the Punch challenge him or address him by any title it so desired?

In fact, IBB closed media houses for several months and years, including Punch.

But the paper didn’t stop addressing him as President, despite the fact that he wasn’t elected.

It is obvious that the Punch newspapers are playing partisan opposition politics which has nothing to do with journalism.

The Constitution of Nigeria recognises the President as the formal official title of the occupant of that office. Can the Punch newspapers, in their hubris address the President as Prime Minister as it pleases?

Is it within the paper’s responsibility or power to change the official title of the man who occupies the office of the President? Does that mean any newspaper is free to address the Comptroller General of Customs a Colonel rather than his official title?

The Punch newspaper should separate journalism from partisan politics. What it is embarking upon is purely political and it is designed to play to the gallery and cause confusion.

Punch Newspaper’s double standards in cuddling some of our past dictators and their open contempt for President Buhari clearly show that the paper has sinister motives for its current curious editorial judgment. Its personal hatred for and animus towards President Buhari should not be allowed to becloud its good judgment.

Garba Shehu is theSenior Special Assistant to the President

(Media & Publicity)

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NJ Ayuk’s book Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals now available in Spanish




NJ Ayuk

NJ Ayuk’s Amazon best-selling sophomore book, Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals is now available for purchase in Spanish.

The English version of the book was launched early last month and has since become a huge success on the African continent and abroad.

With a foreword by H.E. Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo Secretary-General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) who describes the book as “a detailed roadmap” of how Africa can utilize its petroleum resources to fuel the growth and development of its economies, Billions at Play takes the public and private sector to task in areas where they fall short in managing and developing the energy sector as a key driver of economic growth.

From the onset, in the first chapter titled It’s High Time for African Oil and Gas to Fuel a Better Future for Africans, author NJ Ayuk takes a frank approach in revealing the fortunes, misfortunes and areas of improvement in the management of the sector.

“Petroleum resources have always represented opportunity for Africans. Again, the problem has been a failure to leverage those resources wisely to develop and capitalize on their value chain, and to protect the interests of everyday Africans where oil and gas revenue is concerned,” writes Ayuk.

The book features chapters on the importance of empowering women to take leadership roles in the sector, the rise of natural gas a key solution to the continent’s power supply issues, the importance of intra-Africa cooperation, local content policy development and implementation, the significance of good governance and American investment in Africa’s oil and gas sector.

“Among other things, Ayuk believes Africans need to have better control of their resource wealth—specifically the riches that lie in the continent’s largely unexploited oil and gas basins. At the same time, he knows Africa is not completely ready to go it alone,” reviews Ann Norman, General Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Pioneer Energy.

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