LAGOS - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says better government would help Nigeria combat Boko Haram insurgents who have ravaged much of the country’s northeast.
In a speech Monday in the capital, Abuja, Ban drew a parallel between the bloody civil war in Syria and Nigeria’s own struggle against insecurity.
“The five-years war in Syria has started from this lack of good governance. Because the leaders have not been paying attention. They were not speaking with the people. It has given perfect breeding ground for extremism to take root. We have to prevent this one,” the U.N. chief said.
Ban's two-day visit marked the fourth anniversary of the August 26, 2011, bombing of the U.N. facility in Abuja. At least 23 people were killed and 60 injured in the attack that is being blamed on Boko Haram. It was the first major bombing of any international organization in Nigeria.
The U.N. chief's visit comes less than three months after Muhammadu Buhari took office as Nigeria’s president. Observers credited his election victory in part to voter dissatisfaction with the previous government’s handling of Boko Haram.
Ban said the U.N. would support Nigeria in its fight against the Islamist extremists, and reiterated calls for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the northeastern town of Chibok last year.
“I once again call in the strongest possible terms on those responsible to unconditionally release these girls and many other abducted children,” Ban said.
President Buhari has pledged to wean Nigeria off its dependence on oil exports, revitalize the agriculture sector and solve the country’s massive unemployment problem.
Ban linked the success of Africa’s most populous country in fighting insecurity and corruption and providing employment to the continent’s success as a whole.
“I’m convinced that when you change Nigeria, you also change Africa,” Ban said
Buhari is expected to travel to New York next month for the U.N. General Assembly.
Ubale Musa contributed to this report from Abuja.