Abuja - Nigerians on Tuesday in Abuja welcomed President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to engage more countries to comply with the UN Arms Trade Treaty, amid concerns over use of illicit weapons in West Africa.
The global arms trade treaty regulating international trade in conventional arms was adopted in April this year and Nigeria is the first African country to ratify it.
In his address to the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, Jonathan warned that “unfettered access by non-state actors to small arms and light weapons’’ had sustained terrorism in the region.
“For us in Africa, these are the weapons of mass destruction,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Jonathan highlighted terrorism and piracy as menaces of “worrisome proportions” in Africa.
He reiterated his call for concreted international action to address the scourge of global terrorism, piracy and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
Prof. Chudi Umwazuruike, a lawmaker, representing Okigwe South Federal constituency, told NAN that “Jonathan’s speech at the UNGA could be described as incisive and to the point.”
“It demonstrated a clear grasp of contemporary geopolitics in its focus on the dangers of irrational terrorism as a global menace to be fought and destroyed.”
“As well as on the equally growing menace of international piracy so disruptive of global trade.”
He said it was pungent for the president to describe small arms as “weapons of mass destruction’’ for people in Africa, given that they had been used to foster insecurity and instability on the continent.
Uwazuruike also lauded the Nigerian president, who has addressed the annual meeting for the fourth time since he became president in 2010, for drawing attention to the crisis in Syria.
“Drawing attention to the looming Armageddon in the Middle East, with its collection of piles of dangerous weapons and tensions to match, was a statesmanlike concern.”
"An accidental explosiveness in Syria, Iran, Israel, Iraq and the other Gulf region states, could have grave worldwide implications,’’ the lawmaker said.
NAN reports that Jonathan had used the occasion of his address to condemn the use in Syria, of chemical weapons which are prohibited by International Conventions.
Jonathan applauded the current diplomatic efforts to avert further escalation of the crisis and urged all parties in Syria to end the violence and seek a negotiated solution.
He also challenged leaders to rid the world of nuclear arms and “push towards an international system that is based on trust, mutual respect and shared goals."
Also speaking to NAN, an Abuja-based public policy analyst, Chika Nwaozuzu said: “As a Nigerian, I would say that this is one of the best speeches of our president.”
“I saw a more organised, more relaxed president compared to what we saw last year and he also tried to bring in issues that are relevant in our world of today.”
“The issue of the post 2015 development agenda is important and he expounded on Nigeria’s leadership in the West African region.”
On Nigeria’s bid for a non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council, Nwaozuzu said it was instructive for Jonathan to announce before the world body that Nigeria had received endorsements from the AU and ECOWAS.
“The endorsement is a validation of Nigeria’s foreign policy thrust which is African integration and economic diplomacy,” he said.
In his reaction, Jake Epelle, the Founder of Albino Foundation Nigeria, expressed regret that the plight of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) was not mentioned during the president’s near 20-minute speech at the UNGA.
“Thirty-two million PWD in Nigeria was missing in the speech.”
“The president had an opportunity to draw attention of the world community to the plight of 32 million PWD under this year’s theme at the UNGA which is: Post 2015 Development Agenda,” he said.
He however acknowledged that government sponsored some PWD in Nigeria to New York to attend the summit.
“However, I cannot say to what extent they influenced the president’s speech at UNGA,” he said.
Epele described the president’s emphasis on the “eradication of poverty” as a major plank of Nigeria’s post 2015 development agenda as a “tall order”.
“When we say eradication of poverty, it is a tall order; reducing poverty is more of a goal that is achievable than eradication.”
“The UN has always focused on eradicating poverty through the years but at the end of each target they simply scratch the surface.”
“I think that the Nigerian government should focus more on judicious use of funds voted for poverty alleviation in the country,” he said.