Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed appreciation to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his visit to the country, emphasizing that Nigeria has not been forgotten by the world in spite of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Guterres, who is visiting Nigeria for the first time as secretary-general, said he visited the country “to express his solidarity with victims of terrorism,” according to a statement from his office.
Buhari had been concerned that the war in Ukraine could distract the world’s attention to the war against terror, but said Guterres’ visit showed that “the world has not forgotten us,” according to a statement released Wednesday by Buhari’s special adviser Femi Adesina.
Nigeria is grappling with the decades-long battle against Islamist groups that have left thousands dead and millions displaced in the country’s northern region. Boko Haram fighters and its affiliate terror groups continue to carry out brutal attacks across swaths of the region in their quest for control.
Sambisa, a vast forest reserve in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, has served as a hideout and stronghold for Boko Haram operatives, whose notorious activities have caused the deaths of more than 37,000 people and displaced more than 2 million since 2011, according to data from the Council on Foreign Relations.
“When we assumed office, the North-East was the major security problem we inherited in 2015, but we have been able to make people understand that you cannot kill people and shout ‘Allahu Akbar,'” Buhari said according to Wednesday’s statement, referring to the Arabic phrase often translated as “God is greater.”
“It is either you don’t know what you are saying or you are simply stupid. God is a God of justice, so you cannot kill people and say God is great. Luckily the people understood our message and it has made a great impact,” he added.
When he visited Borno State in Nigeria on Tuesday, Guterres said he was pleased with the willingness of surrendering terrorists to be reintegrated into society.
“I was amazed to see today, in the center, that those that have been terrorists want to integrate in and contribute to society. The policy that is in place here is a policy of reconciliation and reintegration,” he said at the center.
According to the Borno state government, more than 35,000 insurgents and their commanders have surrendered to authorities.
The visit of the UN chief comes nearly 11 years after the bombing of a UN building in Abuja the Nigerian capital, which claimed the lives of 23 people, including UN staff, and injured more than 60.