Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the United Nations [UN], Professor Tijjani Muhammad Bande, was on Tuesday last week elected as President of the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Bande, who was the sole candidate for the job, was elected by acclamation at the 87th plenary meeting of the Assembly in New York. He is the second Nigerian to hold the office after Joseph Garba, a retired Major General and diplomat who presided over the organization between 1989 and 1990.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has already assured the incoming General Assembly President of his support to actualise his vision. Guterres said, "It is my pleasure to congratulate Professor Tijjani Muhammad Bande as President of the 74th session of UNGA. Professor Bande, you bring many important and remarkable qualifications to the job. From your years as Permanent Representative of Nigeria, you know the United Nations well. And from your wide-ranging academic pursuits, you are an expert in political science and public administration." Guterres added, "And as a Nigerian and an African, you have invaluable insight into the continent's challenges such as the Sahel and the Lake Chad basin, and more broadly to the challenges our world faces across the six pillars of our work."
President of the 73rd Assembly Ms Maria Espinosa also praised Bande, describing him as the right man for the job. She said, "Ambassador Tijjani Bande's career and experience both as a scholar and a diplomat should serve him and the General Assembly well in a session that promises to be pivotal. Ambassador Bande is well seasoned to provide the strong and creative leadership our august assembly requires as it positions itself to be relevant in a world in rapid change. Your presidency comes at a very critical moment for the United Nations and multilateralism. I am confident that under your able leadership, we will make meaningful progress to advance the implementation of 2030 agenda for sustainable development, in sustaining peace and conflict prevention as well as the promotion of human rights and the empowerment of women and girls."
In his acceptance speech, Muhammad Bande thanked the Federal Government for nominating him for the position and the African Group for endorsing his candidacy. He pledged to provide a vibrant and purposeful leadership anchored on accountability and transparency, saying "As I announced in my mission statement, the implementation of existing mandates and the 2030 agenda with particular focus on peace and security, poverty eradication, zero hunger, quality education, climate action and inclusion will constitute the major priorities of my presidency." He also said openness, inclusivity and transparency will guide his actions as President of the 74th General Assembly.
Bande's election was witnessed by a federal government delegation led by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mustapha Sulaiman. It included Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency Ahmed Abubakar; former INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega and Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, Dr. Bello Aliyu Gusau.
Professor Bande was a former Vice Chancellor of Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto in 2004-2009. He was Director General, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru [2010-2016]. He was also Director General, Centre African de formation et de Research Administrative pour le Development [CAFRAD] in Tangier, Morocco in 2000-2004. Bande was also Vice President of UNGA during the 71st session, and Chairman of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, C34.
With 51 members at inception in 1945, the UN now has 193, of which more than two-thirds are developing countries. Resolutions passed by UNGA are not binding on member nations but the Assembly may take action if the Security Council fails to act in cases of threat to world peace or acts of aggression. While the office of UNGA President is largely ceremonial, it is very influential and we urge Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad-Bande to make optimal use of it in order to ameliorate socio-economic and security challenges of African and other developing countries. We wish him a successful tenure.