By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has commended the African Parliamentary Union (APU) for promoting democratic culture and human rights in Africa.
The president made the commendation at the opening of the 41st Conference of Speakers of the National Parliaments of the African Parliamentary Union on Thursday in Abuja.
Buhari also commended APU for choosing to look at the issues of terrorism and organised crimes in Africa.
“Since its foundation, the African Parliamentary Union has continued to champion the objective of bringing African Parliaments together to join the challenge of finding solutions to the many problems confronting the continent.
“And at the same time helping to develop parliamentary practice in the continent toward the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedoms and the realisation of the objectives of the African Union to achieve durable peace.
“I am delighted that the 41st Conference of Speakers, as part of its meeting, will be considering the role of parliaments in the fight against terrorism, armed gangs and organised crimes in Africa.
“Terrorism, armed banditry and organised crimes have continued to be a security challenge for member states of the African Union.
“The proliferation of arms aided by abuse of the ease of movement of persons across freer borders, which have been historically in place to encourage African unity, have contributed to acts of terrorism by groups like Al Shaabab, ISIS and Boko Haram.”
According to the president, Nigeria has done a lot in tackling the menace of Boko Haram and the country is still working hard to address other security challenges.
The president, however, noted that the terrorists had resort to ransacking villages and small farming communities for survival.
He said: “Here in Nigeria, we have done a lot to reverse the terror trend and halt the advancement of Boko Haram.
“We have, in collaboration with our neighbours, strengthened our armed forces to effectively confront terror groups and have also initiated programmes to address widespread poverty, which has been identified as a significant factor fuelling unrest and boosting terror recruitments.
“In spite of this progress, we are not unmindful of the remaining challenge of armed invaders who ransack villages and small farming communities and commit terrible acts including the cold-blooded murder of women and children.
“We are also making progress in addressing this challenge.’’
He, therefore, commended the efforts of African governments in dealing with terrorists groups and advised the APU to develop strategies that would help Africa completely destroy the monster of terrorism.
“While I commend the actions of African governments in dealing with these evil groups, it is my strong belief that the APU will develop strategies to assist governments in confronting this menace,’’ he added.
Buhari pledged that as Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he would fast-track the APU’s resolutions for deliberation and adoption at the ECOWAS sub-region and the much larger African Union.
On the recently concluded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in China, the president noted that many trade and cooperation agreements running into hundreds of billions of dollars were signed between China and individual African countries.
He expressed hope that the agreements would hasten the efficiency of the business and investment climate in Africa.
“I am pleased that the Conference of Speakers will also consider the promotion of private investment.
“The dynamics of global trade are changing fast; Foreign Direct Investments are a key index of economic performance,’’ he said.
The President reiterated his call on African countries to look into ways of improving their economies.
“As the global economic superpowers redesign and restructure the global economy, Africa cannot afford to be caught off guard.
“We have to navigate these uncertain economic times with realistic plans in which the private sector is key.
“Barriers that restrict ease of doing business and private sector growth must be addressed by legislation and it is hoped that your resolutions will aid the efforts of African governments in developing a more robust private sector to attract necessary investments in our economies.’’
He also praised the decision of the APU to critically look at the issue of girl-child education and early marriage, which had affected many girls in Africa.
“I am also delighted that the promotion of girls’ education as a way to address early marriages will be the focus of the APU Committee of women parliamentarians.
“This is another subject that requires close attention and I assure you of the support and cooperation of the government of Nigeria.
“A few months back, four girls from a high school in Anambra State, in South East Nigeria, won the first prize for innovation at an international competition held in the United States of America.
“The success of these girls, some as young as 14, is a success for Africa as a whole, but more importantly, it is a demonstration of what can happen when the girl-child is given opportunity,’’ he said.
According to him, education should not be seen as a government programme only, but as a human right, a social imperative and educating girls increase the probability of having more women innovators, entrepreneurs and chief executive officers.
He, therefore, assured the APU of the desire of the government of Nigeria and others to consider the union’s input on this subject with a view to improve the condition of the African girl-child.
In his remarks, President of APU, Senate President Bukola Saraki, stressed the need to share ideas and to device new strategies of address challenges facing the continent.
Saraki also urged African Parliamentarians to support the Executive arm of government with strong legislations that would uplift the standard of living of the people. (NAN)