President Muhammadu Buhari departed Nigeria just after his second term inauguration ceremony to attend the meeting of the 18-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Saudi Arabia. He also gave a speech at the event marking the 50th anniversary of the organisation.
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu, in a statement, took a bit of time addressing many critics (this does not really matter to us and we have redacted them). But, according to him, here is why the trip is important.
- President Buhari, leading other African leaders, got key support for many issues of concern or interest to Nigeria and African continent at the meeting. Top on the list is strong condemnation of terrorist acts. The meeting agreed that fighting terrorism is a major priority, resolving to work together to “prevent and suppress terrorist acts through strong international solidarity and cooperation in full recognition of the UN’s central role in that regard.”
- At the conclusion of the meeting, there was a resolution to support the “G5” Sahel countries (Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, established in 2014) in their efforts to fight terrorism and ensure development.
Humanitarian Assistance and recharging of the Lake Chad Region:
- In the specific case of countries of Lake Chad Basin facing “grave security challenges and vicious insurgency arising from Boko Haram terrorism and insurgency,” members agreed to increase humanitarian aid. To this end, the regional humanitarian office of the OIC in Niamey, Niger Republic will be upgraded to a Regional Representative Mission to “mobilize political commitment and undertake development and humanitarian activities.”
- President Buhari equally got reassuring support for recharging of Chad Basin, a goal he has consistently promoted on the global stage. The Lake had shrunk to 10 per cent of its size due to effects of climate change, with dire economic consequences for many. The OIC members assured that they will support the ongoing project of recharging the lake, in view of the socioeconomic benefits to neighbouring countries.
Poverty Eradication and the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development:
- Members saw the need, and made strong commitments to assisting less privileged member-countries to tackle poverty and hunger. To this effect, members that had not pledged to the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development were asked to do so and those that pledged contributions deemed to be low in view of current reality were requested to increase.
- The solidarity fund aims to reduce poverty among member-states by “promoting pro-poor development and human development.” The Islamic Organisation for Food Security was charged to address challenges of agriculture, rural development and food insecurity. Soon, there will be a framework for development of OIC renewable energy in terms of both access and distribution.
Women and Youth, Culture, and Trade Cooperation:
- Going forward, OIC members agreed to boost trade with a target of 25 per cent trade exchange. To push this, a frame work for Trade Preferential System will be worked out.
- Nigeria, a country with bubbling and versatile cultural heritage, stands to gain from measures that will support cinematic productions, including a planned launching of an OIC film festival. In this regard, the leaders commended the Secretariat for the initiative of the OIC Film Award for Peace and Co-existence which debuted in February this year at the African Film and TV Festival at Ouagadougou, Mali.
- The leaders accepted a recommendation by the Council of Foreign Ministers for the setting up of a unit for youth issues that will focus mainly on their empowerment.
- There was a landmark adoption of a plan for women advancement with implementation mechanisms. There will be an OIC Women Consultative Council that would, among other issues, seek to strengthen the marriage institution, and discourage marriage of underage girls.
Health, Environment and Innovation:
- Another vision of President Buhari which got attention and support at the 14th Summit in Makkah is on environment. Members will promote environmental education because it will help countries to deal with degradation. The meeting agreed that this will also raise health standards.
- The OIC meeting encouraged members to take necessary steps in promoting science, technology and innovation “with the aim of addressing global challenges linked to issues of environment, climate change, human health, energy sources and water resources.” The summit agreed to hold a second science and technology summit in 2020 at Uzbekistan.