By Harrison Arubu
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Nigeria’s Amb. Tijani Muhammad-Bande was the miracle needed by the General Assembly to deliver on its mandate in the face of COVID-19.
Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, is the President of the outgoing 74th session of the Assembly.
He was being celebrated for the remarkable accomplishments of the Assembly in the last one year in spite of unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic.
Guterres spoke during a get-together by ambassadors at the UN headquarters in New York to celebrate the success of the 74th session ending on Tuesday.
He said it was a miracle that the Muhammad-Bande-led Assembly was able to weather the COVID-19 storm to accomplish all that it set out to do.
“When COVID-19 hit, I thought the General Assembly needed a miracle to be able to continue its work. This miracle has a name, which is Tijani Muhammad-Bande,’’ he said.
According to him, the 193-member body is able to carry out its work through novel means that guaranteed business continuity while mitigating the spread of the disease.
He attributed the success story largely to the president’s “diplomatic skills, wisdom and calmness’’ in getting member states together and working through their differences to reach consensus.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the outgoing session churned out no fewer than 70 resolutions and other critical decisions.
Most of the resolutions came through the decision on “silence procedure’’ adopted by the world body since March when the pandemic forced diplomats to go virtual and work remotely.
Noting that the “silence procedure’’ was remarkable among the accomplishments, Guterres said it was a testament to what could be achieved through international cooperation and competent leadership.
“The `silence procedure’ needed the consensus of Member States, and although there were differences during the process, the PGA through his wisdom and diplomatic skills succeeded in getting member states together and closing the gaps,’’ he added.
NAN reports that the event held in hybrid form (virtually and in-person) under strict social distancing guidelines to prevent spread of the virus.
Speaking on behalf of the African group in the UN, the Permanent Representative of Egypt, Amb. Mohamed Edrees, said Muhammad-Bande made the continent proud.
Edrees said with his quality leadership, the Nigerian envoy justified the confidence reposed in him by the African group, which nominated him for the post.
Italy’s ambassador to the UN, Mariangela Zappia, speaking on behalf of the Western European group, described the outgoing PGA as a unifying factor.
Zappia, who also credited Muhammad-Bande’s calm manner and diplomatic skills for the success of the outgoing session, said Africa should be proud for producing a man of such intellect and wisdom.
Responding, the outgoing PGA gave the credit to the ambassadors of member states, the secretariat and staff of the organisation.
He also thanked the Secretary-General and heads of other organs of the UN for their commitment, collaboration and support to the General Assembly during his presidency.
Muhammad-Bande assumed office as the 74th PGA on Sept. 18, 2019 and is the second Nigerian to serve in that capacity after Amb. Joseph Garba, who led the body in 1989.
He will hand over the presidency to Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Amb. Volkan Bozkir, on Tuesday.