President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Tuesday in New York condemned the deliberate denigration of the religious beliefs of others, warning that freedom of expression should never be construed as a licence for actions that may lead to violence and disorder.
Addressing the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations against the background of recent protests in Nigeria and other parts of the world over the recent publication on the internet of a video which denigrates Prophet Mohammed, President Jonathan said that freedom of expression and religious tolerance must complement each for the peaceful coexistence of people of varying faiths and religious beliefs.
“Events of recent weeks have demonstrated how interconnected our world is and the extent to which one incident can spark off general mayhem and conflagration. Freedom of expression should not be a licence to incitement. The freedom that we all hold dear and true should be exercised wisely and cautiously. Freedom of expression and religious tolerance must not be mutually exclusive but should be complimentary to each other.
“Much as we eschew violence and deplore the needless losses of lives and destruction of property, we also condemn the deliberate denigration of religious beliefs and sensitivities which in turn lead to counter reactions,” President Jonathan said.
The President also told the global assembly that his Administration had adopted a multi-faceted strategy in dealing with the threat of terrorism and militancy.
“Our response has been multi-faceted, as we seek to address the root causes of these threats, exploring opportunities for dialogue, improving law enforcement to ensure public safety and security.
“International cooperation has also been a key factor in tackling our security challenges. We have signed agreements with our neighbours, Cameroon, Niger and Chad bilaterally, and multilaterally, on the platform of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
“These efforts are aimed at safeguarding the security of our individual countries and denying terrorists the use of our region as sanctuary. We are confident that these measures will stem the flow and access to small arms and light weapons, which have indeed become Africa’s weapon of mass destruction,” he said.
Remarking that it was a matter of great concern that many regions of the world, including the West African sub-region, are inundated by political crises, insurgency or terrorist activities, President Jonathan reiterated his call for the establishment of a Conflict Mediation Commission under the Office of the Secretary-General to further strengthen the peace building initiatives of the United Nations.
“Experience elsewhere gives us reason to believe that there is value in the creation of this mechanism. Nigeria stands ready to work with other countries to make the protection of innocent civilians caught in conflict situations a priority of the United Nations,” he said.
The President called for the adoption of a global, legally-binding arms trade treaty, saying that it would galvanise the international community to regulate the transfer of conventional weapons and curb the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
“There is no doubt that the absence of a global consensus to control the flow of such weapons, including small arms and light weapons, is fuelling conflicts, constraining growth and development and increasing human rights violations,” he said.
On other matters, the President said that the imperatives of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 are still top priorities for his Administration.
“We shall intensify efforts to ensure that the health- and education-related aspects of the MDGs are addressed continuously to ensure their successful implementation. While we have made considerable progress on basic education and poverty alleviation, challenges remain in the areas of maternal and infant mortality. We will not rest on our oars until further progress is made in these areas,” he said.