Ban, Ashiru meet as Nigerians protest in U.S.

bankimooN•Minister urges restraint by police, protesters

•FG to work with UN, assures diplomatic community

NIGERIANS in New York have joined the ongoing protests in their country and elsewhere over the removal of fuel subsidy just as the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon held talks with Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Olugbenga Ayodeji Ashiru few blocks away.

The Tuesday rally in front of the Nigerian House in New York followed talks between Ban and Ashiru at the UN headquarters where the Nigerian strikes and protests over the removal of the fuel subsidy became partly a subject.

According to an agency report, recent developments in Nigeria, including progress in the investigation of last year’s bomb attack against the UN offices in the capital, Abuja, topped the discussions.

Twenty-five people, including 13 UN members of staff, died in the attack on 26 August last year.

Ban and Ashiru also exchanged views on how best to enhance the fight against piracy off West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, with the Secretary-General commending Nigeria for its crucial support of neighbouring Benin Republic through the joint patrols the two countries are conducting along their shared coastline in an effort to stem the scourge.

“The secretary general and the Foreign Minister discussed recent developments in Nigeria” and the investigation into the bomb attack on the UN headquarters, said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

The Nigerian minister did not speak to reporters after the meeting.

But Ban and Ashiru also discussed the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Ban “commended Nigeria for its crucial support” to Benin through joint patrols the countries are conducting along their common coastline to tackle piracy throughout the Gulf of Guinea.

Ban also thanked Ashiru for the support Nigeria provided to the recent UN-African Union mission to Africa’s Sahel region to assess the impact of the Libyan crisis on countries in the area, according to a readout of the meeting provided by Ban’s spokesperson.

Discussions between the two leaders also touched on the situation in Somalia, including the need to continue to support the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and the timely implementation of the road map designed to restore peace and stability in the Horn of Africa country. They also discussed the situation in the Sudan’s Darfur region.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Youth Development, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, has urged security agents to exercise utmost restraint in their handling of the on-going protests.

He, according to a statement by his Special Assistant Julius Ogunro, “observes that the excessive use of force by some security agents which has led to the death of few young Nigerians and caused injuries to some others is very unfortunate and regrettable. He noted that the right to protest is fundamental in a democracy, therefore the Police and other security agents have a responsibility to protect this right.”

Abdullahi who is also the Acting Minister of Sports, however, called on the youth to be careful and not allow political opportunists to exploit their genuine grievances to destabilise the country.

According to him, “government recognises that the youth would be affected by the removal of fuel subsidy and that is why a major component of the Subsidy Reinvestments and Empowerment (SURE) Programme is targeted at the youth, who would also be represented in the committee set up by government to manage the programme that is estimated to deliver 370, 000 jobs to the youths across the country.”

He appealed to the youths to give government a chance and take full advantage of the provision made for them under the SURE programme.

Meanwhile, Nigeria is to look the way of the UN in tackling the wave of insecurity and terrorism on its shores.

Making the disclosure yesterday while addressing members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Nigeria, the minister of state 1 for foreign affairs professor Viola Onwuliri said the federal government is unwavering in its resolve to take holistic measures to protect the lives and property of everyone resident in Nigeria.

Onwuliri spoke just as the federal government yesterday warned those it termed as threatening the peace of the land on account of the on-going protests against the removal of fuel subsidy that the full weight of the law would be brought upon them.

The collaboration with the global body is coming in form of  partnering with the United Nations Counter Terrorism office and the Global Counter Terrorism Forum.

The move, the minister explained yesterday is primarily to deal with the boko haram menace.

According to the minister “government has been and would continue to take measures consistent with its determination to ensure the security of lives and property of all resident in Nigeria”.

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