Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,
I am honoured and pleased to visit Nigeria for the second time as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I am here to recognize such great achievements, greater stability and peace in this country under the leadership of President Buhari. And I have congratulated him on his election but more importantly on the peaceful and credible elections which have been carried out in this country. I hope this example will be emulated by many countries around the world and that this message of hope could be spread far and wide.
Mr. President, I am here at a moment of complex challenges, but also a time of promise and hope. I want to commend the people of Nigeria on the peaceful, free and fair elections. I salute the statesmanship and example of both President Buhari and former President Goodluck Jonathan. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, a sitting President peacefully ceded power to an opposition candidate in a democratic election. The election sent a strong global message of respect for democracy and the rule of law.
President Buhari has embarked on an Agenda for Change and I commend him highly for prioritizing insecurity, anti-corruption and unemployment issues.
My message is simple: The United Nations supports your efforts to advance hope, peace, sustainable development and human rights in a comprehensive way.
I am convinced that when you change Nigeria, you also change Africa. Nigeria has been a source of stability in West Africa and the wider continent. You are a key contributor to UN peacekeeping operations – including the successful missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria is also once again playing a crucial role in the UN Security Council, over which Ambassador Joy Ogwu is presiding this month, as President of the Security Council.
President Buhari and I discussed the full range of issues covering development, human rights and peace and security including of course the troubling levels of violence and terror perpetrated by Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria – and beyond. I express my strong solidarity with the Nigerian people and government and with affected families and victims. I express my solidarity again with the Nigerian people – and that the United Nations will work together in countering extremism and terrorism.
This week will witness the 500 day of the kidnapping of the Chibok school girls. I want to reiterate my support for the Chibok girls, and so many other innocent abducted girls and boys, whose names and fate remain unknown. It is intolerable that their lives and schooling has been disrupted in this way. The whole world has been moved by their fate.
I once again call in the strongest possible terms on those responsible to unconditionally release these girls and the many other abducted children. I will have more to say this afternoon in my speech. Terrorism knows no bounds or boundaries.
Today I laid a wreath in memory of the Nigerian and other victims. Now, more than ever, collaboration is indispensable in addressing this menace and in addressing these crimes.
The President has led regional engagement efforts and I am hopeful for the rapid operationalization of the Multinational Joint Task Force.
In his inaugural speech, President Buhari eloquently recognized that human rights are an important part of the counter-insurgency response and that operations would be conducted with full respect for human rights, humanitarian and refugee law. At the same time, we know that a military approach alone will not be sufficient.
President Buhari and I discussed efforts to address root causes by tackling socio-economic grievances in the north-east, in particular the need to expand educational and employment opportunities for young people. The recent agreements by UN Member States on a new sustainable development agenda and on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda will provide further financing vehicles to help Nigeria achieve its agenda for change.
The humanitarian situation in the north-east is particularly worrying. We are working with partners on the ground to scale up humanitarian operations. I congratulated President Buhari on the efforts to protect and uphold the rights of displaced persons.
Once again, Mr. President and ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to be in Nigeria – and to pledge the full support of the United Nations to advance the shared and universal goals of peace, development and human rights.
Thank you very much.