Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
As Nigeria gets ready to embrace the Fifth Generation (5G) technology, the United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed has warned that though it comes with a lot of benefits, the technology will consume more water and power, two critical resources the country is still struggling to make available to its people.
Mohammed who was in the presidential villa on a courtesy call on President Muhammadu Buhari, took time out to field questions from State House Correspondents.
She also spoke on the hate speech bill, saying though the global body was not in support of death penalty for hate speech, however, there was need for checks and balances on the social media space.
Purpose of visit:
Gentlemen of the press, It’s very nice to be back home, my visit is actually on a personal level but of course I am always the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and the support that we have always have from Nigeria demands that I pay a courtesy call on President Muhammadu Buhari and that is what I did with my colleagues from the UNDP led by the head of women.
We’ve paid a courtesy call, we expressed appreciation of the Secretary-General for the present leadership not just in the country but within the region with the number of challenges that we have given the conflict and the climate change and some of the political issues around elections within the region.
We also touched on the many vast issues of the humanitarian crisis that we have, this, of course, has stretched across from the North East to the North West of Nigeria, the support that we are giving.
We also spoke about the 16 days of activation on gender-based violence which started yesterday (Monday), commended his call and the condemnation that it had, the recent loss of life of a woman in politics in Kogi State. But we also had the launch of a report on irregular migration in which a number of countries were researched as to the root causes and offering solutions to finding pathways to normalising migration and Nigeria is one of those countries.
How President Buhari’s received her?
Other than he was welcoming his former minister, he expressed appreciation for the support of the United Nations.
Did the gruesome killing of Mrs Salome Achejuh Abu, Woman Leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Wada/Aro campaign council, in the recent gubernatorial election in Kogi State, come up in your discussion?
Mine was to commend him for condemning the dead of the politician in Kogi state we did not go into a discussion around it but the fact that he has shown zero tolerance for it and insisted on an investigation. For us, it’s important especially as we start this week on gender-based violence in all its ramifications.
How how the UN is intervening to address the issue of IDPs?
The resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is a serious issue. The government has put an enormous amount of resources in trying to do that. As with other countries, reintegration is always a challenge and this has to come with extensive planning and resources across different areas. It’s a multidisciplinary approach that one has to take and this, as I have said, is complex because you are dealing with different people, you are dealing with different communities and this has to be done in a careful way.
So the United Nations provides support for that through its own humanitarian agencies and ensuring that in that reintegration, that we are looking at also – livelihood, normal access to education and health overall.
Remember that when we talk about IDPs coming out of conflicts, in a situation of crisis, this has to be managed also within an existing context. In many cases, the human development index also needs to be improved, so it’s quite difficult. But I imagine that the President’s concerns are of course that we don’t exacerbate the situation that is already existing.
Will the UN support a bill presently before the Nigerian National Assembly on gender-based inequality?
Yes, we were together with the chairperson of the senate on this. it’s a very important law and it’s one that will receive non-partisans support across the board. This is about all women and Nigeria and we should bring an end to violence against women. We have a number of programmes that support countries including what happened with the legislation, how to improve upon policies, laws, regulations that would help to protect the environment.
There is the EU-UN project which actually addresses gender-based violence and Nigeria is a recipient of some of that funding and would soon be launched here in the country and I would be there to give the support. It’s not for the national level but how we would domesticate that in all the tiers of government so that you have a truly national response to laws when it comes to implementing them.
Abuse of the social media especially for the spread of fake news and misinformation has become a global concern even to the UN. How best should authorities tackle this challenge? Doea she subscribes to the idea of social media censorship as proposed by the Nigerian government?
First, we need to know that globally, we are in a space that hates speech has reached an all-time high and so many checks and balances we can put into the society, into a country, into a region to bring an end to that is welcome.
Again, the way the legislation is being followed to try to put that in place, I think is commendable. We, of course, do not support the death penalty and I am also happy to see that yesterday (Monday) I understood that portion was taken out of the legislation that was being put forward. The Secretary-General had also put in place a special envoy on hate speech. So there is a strategy for that now and we are looking at that globally. I think this frameworks is important for multilateralism and we can go much much further if we do this things together many of these issues are crossing borders through technologies.
In the spirit of no one is left behind, what is the UN doing to bridge the technological gap between developed and developing countries, especially with the migration to 5G?
It a good side to technology, there is a side that is not too good, and all we need to is to put in place checks and balances to ensure that it doesn’t do any harm to people which we see of course hate speech doing every day. With technology, of course, this is a thing of the future, it would be about cities, it would be about young people and it will be about technology. Here, Nigeria can leapfrog in terms of how we now look at education, what is the skillset that we teach our children? Whereas before we might have been going through enroute curriculum, today we will be thinking about coding for children and it becomes the norm. So I think here we have to look at education again, look at the curriculum, see what sort of investments we need so that our children, our young people are able to have the skills necessary to join that world of technology that is the line I want us to leapfrog.
Of course, telecommunications is incredibly important. It’s important that we have 5G, it is incredibly fast technology but at the same time we have to make sure that the climate footprint is recognised.
Because, with 5G comes an enormous usage of water and also power. And I’m both cases we have to find ways to balance that so that you are profiting from the technology but not at the expense of the environment which you know now that climate change is a big part of our existential threat.