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UN’s Guterres Meets with Nigerian Leaders After Visiting Volatile Borno State 


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is introduced to Borno state officials by Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum on arrival at Maiduguri International Airport Borno, May 3, 2022.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres met with Nigerian leaders Wednesday at the end of a two-day visit to Nigeria and three-nation trip to Africa. On Tuesday, he visited internally displaced people (IDPs) in northeast Nigeria and called for them to be safely returned to their homes. Nigerian authorities plan to close all IDP camps in the next few years despite security concerns.

Antonio Guterres arrived the United Nations house in Abuja around 9 a.m. Wednesday and met with U.N. local coordinators before holding talks with Nigerian women’s representatives.

The delegates, led by Nigeria's minister for women’s affairs, Pauline Kedem Tallen, discussed gender equality and the inclusion of women in politics with the U.N. secretary-general.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is welcomed by a woman as he arrives the UN house in Abuja during his two day visit to Nigeria, May 4, 2022. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is welcomed by a woman as he arrives the UN house in Abuja during his two day visit to Nigeria, May 4, 2022. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)

"His coming to Nigeria today has given us hope, because we know that he will lend his voice to all the issues affecting women, gender-based violence, early marriage, lack of implementation of some of our laws," said Tallen.

Guterres afterwards met with Nigeria's religious leaders and later attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the U.N. house to remember the 23 people killed during the 2011 bombing of the building.

He began his three-nation Africa visit Sunday in Senegal as part of his Ramadan solidarity tour, and later went to Niger.

On Tuesday, he visited northeastern Borno state and met with the state governor as well as IDPs and families impacted by the Boko Haram conflict.

Guterres also visited repentant Boko Haram fighters and praised authorities' reintegration program for more than 1,000 former fighters.

A woman attends to her malnourished child at the United Nations Nutrition Center in Banki, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria, May 3, 2022.
A woman attends to her malnourished child at the United Nations Nutrition Center in Banki, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria, May 3, 2022.

He also commended authorities’ efforts to resettle displaced people back to their communities and called for more support to rebuild the region.

"The Borno that I found today is the Borno of hope, the Borno with future and I was very impressed to see the policy that is being deployed here, recognizing that you don't fight terrorism just by military means, you fight terrorism addressing the root causes of terrorism," he said. "The people that I met today in the IDP camps want to go back home in safety and dignity. The way to address terrorism effectively is to provide not only hope but a future of reality."

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres delivers a speech on Wednesday afternoon during a wreath-laying ceremony to honour victims of the August 26, 2011 UN building bombing, May 4, 2022. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres delivers a speech on Wednesday afternoon during a wreath-laying ceremony to honour victims of the August 26, 2011 UN building bombing, May 4, 2022. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)

Nigerian authorities have been closing IDP camps since late last year and want to close all camps by 2026. More than 2 million people have been displaced from their homes since the start of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2009.

But aid groups have been warning some communities may still be attacked.

"There are multiple solutions when it comes to resettlement. We need to get people stabilized," said Adenike Oladosu, a climate justice activist, met with the U.N. secretary-general. "Climate change is leading to the rise of armed conflicts affecting people in the region and around and the need for us to see that we have more climate action and not always military action."

The U.N. secretary-general ended his visit at the Abuja presidential village, where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari and his top Cabinet members.

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