After months of canvassing for Nigeria’s inclusion in the United Nations Security Council, the country, Thursday, finally got elected to occupy one of the non-permanent seats on the council. Also elected were Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Saudi Arabia.
According to the Washington Post, Saudi Arabia and Chad easily won the seats despite criticisms from human rights groups.
Nigerian and four other candidates, endorsed by regional groups, faced no opposition, as there were no contested races for the first time in several years.
Hailing Nigeria’s inclusion as a Security Council member, President Goodluck Jonathan welcomed the development and conveyed Nigeria’s appreciation of the support of all member countries of the UN who voted for the country’s election.
The five new non-permanent members were elected in the first round of voting by the 193-member General Assembly.
Lithuania was the top vote-getter with 187 votes followed by Nigeria and Chile with 186 votes, Chad with 184 votes and Saudi Arabia with 176 votes.
Security Council seats are highly coveted because they give countries a strong voice in matters dealing with international peace and security in places like Syria, Iran, North Korea as well as the UN’s far-flung peacekeeping operations.
The 15-member council includes five permanent members with veto power – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms.
The five countries elected yesterday will assume their posts on January 1, 2014 and serve through the end of 2015. They will replace Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo.
Philippe Bolopion, United Nations Director for Human Rights Watch, denounced the election of Chad, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
“The prestige of a seat at the world’s foremost diplomatic table should prompt the new members to get their houses in order,” he said.
“Chad should put an end to the recruitment of child soldiers, which earned it a spot on the UN list of shame,” he said. “Saudi Arabia should end its crackdown on human rights activists and grant women their full rights,” he added.
Bolopion also criticised Nigeria, saying it should “end the chronic abuse by security forces and better protect civilians in the north” from attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist network.
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, accused Saudi Arabia of denying women the right to vote, drive a car or travel without the permission of a male relative.
He also accused it of “praising and shielding Sudan” whose president, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Neuer said Chad should not have oversight on UN peacekeeping operations as long as it employs child soldiers.
Chad, Saudi Arabia and Lithuania have never served on the UN’s most powerful body, while Nigeria and Chile have both been on the council four times previously.
Seats in the Security Council are allocated by region, with regional groups nominating candidates. These are often hotly contested races.
This year, there were initially two candidates for a West African seat but Gambia dropped out last week in favour of Nigeria.
To win, each country must obtain support of two-thirds of all General Assembly members present. Because balloting is secret, there is intense lobbying for votes by candidates, even in uncontested races, to ensure they get the minimum number needed for victory and to see who gets the highest vote.
Hailing Nigeria’s inclusion as a Security Council member, Jonathan welcomed the development and conveyed the country’s appreciation of the support of all member countries of the UN who voted for Nigeria’s election.
A statement issued by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said: “On behalf of the federal government and people of Nigeria, President Jonathan wishes to convey his sincere appreciation of the support of all member-countries of the United Nations who voted for Nigeria’s election to the Security Council.
“The president believes that today’s endorsement of Nigeria’s candidature for the Security Council seat by the vast majority of member-countries is a glowing expression of support and encouragement for Nigeria’s active participation in the promotion of peace, security and political stability in Africa and other parts of the world.
“This is the fourth time since it became independent in 1960 that Nigeria is being elected to the UN Security Council. It is also the second time (2010-2011 and 2014-2015) that Nigeria will be elected to the Council under the Jonathan presidency.
“The president is particularly delighted by this historic victory and assures the global community that Nigeria, under his leadership, will continue to make very significant contributions towards the achievement and sustenance of global peace and security.”
Also the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described Nigeria’s election as an unprecedented feat and a testament to the achievements of the Jonathan-led PDP administration.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said the development had clearly shown that the world recognises the efforts of the present administration in repositioning our country through the president’s transformation agenda.
“Today, Nigeria has taken its rightful place in the comity of nations. The winning of the UN Security Council Seat is indeed a clear indication that the world recognises the untiring efforts of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP administration in repositioning our country through its Transformation Agenda.
“The securing of the UN seat is clear evidence that the world acknowledges President Jonathan’s efforts towards security, the economic wellbeing and political stability of our dear country.
“President Jonathan has indeed distinguished himself as a statesman and world leader who has given his country a strong voice in matters dealing with international peace and security.
“Nigerians the world over, can now hold their heads up high. We are indeed very proud of our dear president who has remained focused on delivering on his mandate; a commitment that has today resulted in the restoration of the dignity of our country and her pride of place in world affair.
“We therefore call on all Nigerians to continue to support the PDP-led administration and its Transformation Agenda.”