President Joe Biden of the United States of America has praised President Muhammadu Buhari for his efforts in deepening democracy in Nigeria, particularly, and Africa, in general.
The US President said this in Washington during his meeting with leaders of six African countries where elections are slated to hold in 2023.
The meeting between Biden and the leaders took place on the sidelines of the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit held in Washington, the US capital.
President Biden said that he has followed the trajectory of the Nigerian leader since 2015 when he was elected President from being an opposition leader at a time he (Biden) was a Vice President.
He described Nigeria as a model for democracy and, instructively, pointed out the fact that President Buhari is not seeking a third term, as many African leaders would have chosen to do.
President Biden encouraged President Buhari and the Nigerian electoral umpire – the Independent National Electoral Commission – to continue to be non-partisan.
The meeting with Biden had in attendance the African leaders including those of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone.
It was, specifically, called to discuss elections and democracy in Africa, share experiences with the United States of America on the forthcoming elections and encourage the countries to continue with the democratic process.
Trying to show that the United States of America is deeply committed to helping African countries strengthen their political institutions, address the challenges of governance, promote an active and empowered civil society and uphold human rights, President Biden said that he understands the challenges facing the countries and expressed the willingness of his country to support them in their areas of needs.
And, without any iota of doubt, the area of elections is one that African states need assistance with. Elections provide a crucial opportunity for citizens to hold their leaders and political parties accountable and to give ordinary citizens a role in determining the future of their nations through peaceful political competition.
The United States of America should, therefore, be committed to supporting credible, transparent and inclusive elections, encouraging respect for the political rules of the game and reducing the likelihood of electoral violence through its spheres of influence in Africa.
Specifically, the United States of America can provide support for voter registration and civic and voter education, build the capacity of election commissions, strengthen political parties, train official and unofficial civil society election observers and facilitate the inclusion of women, youth and people with disabilities at all stages of the electoral process.
Of course, it is gratifying that in Nigeria, the United States of America has provided approximately $51 million over five years to support the conduct of credible and peaceful elections in 2015 and beyond. The United States has worked with other donors to support Nigeria’s electoral management bodies and strengthen the ability of Nigerian civil society to promote electoral reforms, expand voter education and monitor electoral processes in the run-up to the 2015 elections.
Yet, a vibrant and empowered civil society is both a cornerstone of democracy, helping to promote inclusiveness, transparency, rule of law and human rights and a partner to governments and the private sector in delivering services.
The U.S. government, however, should support African countries as they make improvements in the delivery of public and social services to their citizens and commit to policy and regulatory reforms designed to promote inclusive governance and attract investment, including by opening up their governments.
It should also help to protect rights and ensure the participation of all people in civic and political life because they are critical to democratic governance and economic growth. The United States should, therefore, through its active diplomacy, public outreach and programmatic assistance, continue to engage African governments, civil society and international institutions to advance human rights for all people in Africa, including women and girls and vulnerable communities such as persons with disabilities and indigenous minorities.
Remodelling of Presidential Villa Wildlife Sanctuary
As part of efforts to enhance the practice of conservation in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the remodelling and upgrading of the Presidential Wildlife Sanctuary (PWLS).
A wildlife sanctuary is an area where animal habitats and their surroundings are protected from any sort of disturbance. The capturing, killing and poaching of animals are strictly prohibited in these regions. The aim is to provide a comfortable living to the animals.
The Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr Tijjani Umar, stated the approval of Buhari in Abuja while receiving a delegation of wildlife experts from Zimbabwe to the State House, Abuja, on a week-long assessment tour of the PWLS, formerly known as the State House zoo.
He said that given the success of Zimbabwe in wildlife conservation, the interaction with the experts from the southern African country fell justifies the need to partner with a sister African country that is knowledgeable in international best practices on the subject matter.
The Permanent Secretary underscored the importance of safeguarding the wildlife in Nigeria’s seat of government not only for recreational purposes but also for rehabilitation, research and knowledge sharing.
Yet, there are a number of reasons for establishing wildlife sanctuaries.
Some of the reasons include the fact that wildlife sanctuaries are established to protect endangered species, such as the lion which is numbered to be just about 50 in Nigeria, from extinction.
Of course, it is quite difficult to always relocate the animals from their natural habitat thereby making protecting them in their natural environment quite advantageous.
The endangered species are, especially, monitored in the wildlife sanctuaries. If they reproduce and grow in number while under protection, few specimens can be kept for breeding in the conservation parks for their survival.
Of course, as Tijjani has pointed out, biologists, activities and research are permitted in the wildlife sanctuaries so that they can learn about the animals living there. Thus, a wildlife sanctuary is one of the finest ways of preserving endangered species.
A few sanctuaries take in injured and abandoned animals and rehabilitate them to health before releasing them in the forest.
Releasing them in the forest is essential to preserve wildlife and forests because this complex web of life provides the natural systems we depend on – giving us essentials like water, clean air, fertile soils and a stable climate. It gives us food, medicines and materials and supports millions of jobs. It also inspires people around the world – making our lives richer in all sorts of ways.
Regrettably, our planet’s wildlife is in crisis, numbers have fallen by more than half since 1970 and species are going extinct at an alarming rate.
The world, especially the leaders, must, therefore, work hard to reverse this loss of nature and create a future where wildlife and people thrive again.
Thankfully, the State House is endowed with indigenous wildlife, the Permanent Secretary said and notes that it is proper to bring in experts to advise on how best to encourage harmony with nature and decrease interference with wildlife habitat.
“We want a situation where able animals can roam freely and those not able to do that, for obvious reasons, would have enclosures that are internationally acceptable which allow them to, as much as possible, live a free and unencumbered life, raising their young and generally enjoying safety and security of existence,” he said. “They could also have the opportunities to express themselves, exhibit their social behaviour to the fullest and have their young ones in a very safe and secure environment.’’
The Head of Chancery, Zimbabwe Embassy in Nigeria, Tonderai Mutuke, recognised Nigeria’s potential in the wildlife sector and encouraged the strengthening of bilateral cooperation in this area.
Columbas Chaitezvi, a veterinary doctor with ZIMPARKS, pledged that his team would submit a comprehensive report and appropriate recommendations after assessment of the facility and expressing his delight in partnering with Nigeria in an area in which his country has a comparative advantage.