The Light at the End of the Tunnel for Nigeria: Reflections from a UN Resident Coordinator


“When I arrived in 2016, I set out to go beyond traditional commitments to governments, the diplomatic and business communities, to get involved and interact with people and their diverse cultures and traditions. It has been an incredible journey, one of great progress and legacies. on which to continue working.

During these five years, in my endeavor to make this vision of the UN a reality, I have enjoyed tremendous support and goodwill from the government and from people at both the federal and state and local levels. For this, I will always be grateful to them, since my work would not have been possible without their help and advice.

UNIC Lagos / Oluseyi Soremekun

Edward Kallons, UN Resident Coordinator for Nigeria (left), UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (right).

Nigeria: the two sides of the coin for the African region

Nigeria, being the most populous country in Africa and the fastest growing economy in the region, offers great financial and development opportunities not only for the country but for the entire African region.

However, Nigeria is also at a crossroads, with multiple and complex challenges that have implications for peace, development and stability across the continent.

The African country represents both great possibilities and a threat to the region as a whole. It must address five critical risk factors to guarantee peace, security and stability in the country: social cohesion, equality and non-discrimination; internal security; economic stability; justice and rule of law; and displacement and migration.

A multitude of challenges

Nigeria faces a number of negative trends, such as multidimensional poverty, poor governance and human rights, climate change, slow economic growth at a time of high population growth, low participation of women in civil society and politics, youth unemployment, and hotbeds of conflict, banditry, crime and terrorism driven by ethnic-religious differences, and increased incitement to hatred.

Conflicts between farmers and herders became part of greater tensions between various agents; the proliferation of small arms and light weapons continues to threaten national security, and Nigeria accounts for 70% of the roughly 500 million illegal weapons believed to be circulating in West Africa.

The United Nations response

The partnerships forged by the United Nations with the Nigerian government have been fruitful over the years and I am proud of the success in raising international awareness of the impact of the atrocities committed by Boko Haram against innocent civilians, and the joint efforts to bring hope to those affected by the insurgency.

Together, we averted a famine in 2017, we tackled cholera outbreaks, we alleviated human suffering by providing humanitarian assistance to more than five million people in northeast Nigeria every year. We mobilized more than $ 3.2 billion for humanitarian response in the northeast of the country from 2017 to date. We went through the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects that the Boko Haram insurgency had on millions of people. Thanks to One-UN Basket Fund From Nigeria, which raised $ 73.3 million for the pandemic response, the United Nations procured about 40% of the medical supplies to deal with the coronavirus in the African country.

UNIC Lagos / Oluseyi Soremekun

Edward Kallons, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria.

Take advantage of youth

The 41 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 29 make up approximately 40% of the population of the country and about 20% of the youth population in Africa.

To take advantage of this demographic dividend, Nigeria must empower its young people to play a constructive, unifying and innovative role, and include them fully in the country’s development process. Young people must have equal access to economic opportunities and decent livelihoods. They are Nigeria’s present and future, and they need to be made the nation’s engine of change for sustainable development.

I am pleased that the United Nations supports the government’s efforts through many activities – including Generation Unlimited, a new public-private-youth partnership platform that will provide 20 million Nigerian youth with training and opportunities for economic empowerment and social impact — and the Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Program, a joint initiative of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the empowerment of young people, which aims to connect 20,000 talented graduates with local job opportunities.

UNIC Lagos / Oluseyi Soremekun

UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria Edward Kallon receives medical supplies for COVID-19 at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

The light at the end of the tunnel

In the midst of all this situation, I have hope for Nigeria, with the surrender of the Boko Haram fighters, the development of a pact to improve collaborations and political commitment with the government, as well as with the increase in the actions of the Commission. of Northeast Development and the expansion of stabilization activities.

Nigeria must continue on its growth trajectory, which must be accelerated with significant investments in equity capital. The ongoing counterinsurgency effort of the Nigerian Air Force and the Multinational Joint Task Force must be complemented by dialogue and a peace-building process.

Likewise, the country must continue working on the promotion and application of humanitarian aid, development and peace.

Nigeria should capitalize on work done at the regional level, initiated by the United Nations and other stakeholders, to address the root causes of insecurity; as well as strengthening public-private partnerships, private sector participation, and North-South and South-South cooperation and impact investing.

Passion, humility and patience

As I review my five-year tenure in Nigeria, I feel that it was a complex, challenging and interesting period serving the people of this country, one that I have carried out with passion, humility and patience.

Looking ahead, I want to encourage the Nigerian government to take an all-ruler and society-wide approach as the best way to overcome the recurring security hurdles currently facing the country.

The year 2030 is just around the corner, so it is imperative to accelerate investments to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and build a sustainable future that benefits all Nigerians.

Resident coordinator

  • The resident coordinator is the highest-ranking representative of the UN development system in a country.
  • UN News has invited you to write articles on issues important to the United Nations and the country where you serve.
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