President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, warning that trafficking in nuclear materials remains a potential threat to international peace and security.
In a video message to the United Nations (UN) high-level meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, President Buhari restated Nigeria’s commitment to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
He, however, expressed concern about the “slow pace” of States possessing nuclear weapons in disarming and decommissioning their existing nuclear facilities.
“We are concerned about the slow pace of progress by nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, in accordance with their legal obligations and undertakings under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” President Buhari said.
Reiterating the need for the United Nations to continue engaging the Nuclear Weapon States to speed up their efforts in disarming and decommissioning their existing nuclear facilities, the Nigerian leader said: “The best approach to avoid damage associated with nuclear materials such as humanitarian crisis, accidents, disasters, and criminality is the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”
President Buhari told world leaders at the virtual summit that the universalisation of the NPT was dependent upon strict compliance with its three pillars, namely, disarmament, non-proliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
He, therefore, enjoined the other Member States to ratify the Treaty, noting that Nigeria had played a major role in negotiations leading to the coming into force of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty).
“We will continue to galvanize the other African States to abide by the tenets of the Pelindaba Treaty. This is to ensure that the entire continent remains nuclear-free.
“While there are no easy solutions when we confront one of the gravest existential threats to the survival of the human race, we must remain undeterred and committed to a world of safety and security, one without the volatility posed by Nuclear Weapons,” he said.
President Buhari said it was noteworthy that this year marks the 75th Anniversary of the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan that terminated the lives of thousands of people with severe long-term damages to the environment.
“The Anniversary is a forceful reminder of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons which undermine global, national, and human security. Hence, there is a need for all states to comply with applicable international laws and conventions to ensure a world free of nuclear weapons.
“We must, therefore, redouble our efforts to implement the provisions of the Nuclear NPT being the basis of the Non-Proliferation Regime. This is to enable us to achieve our desire for the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” he said.
President Buhari used the occasion to highlight how Nigeria had demonstrated support for multilateral efforts towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The President recounted that as one of the countries in the vanguard of the campaign for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, Nigeria signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 20th September 2017 and recently ratified it on August 6, 2020.
He noted that Nigeria joined like-minded states to sponsor the resolution, titled, “Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations,” which led to the legally binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
“Nigeria has been involved in the promotion of the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology at national and international levels. Accordingly, Nigeria ratified several international treaties and conventions in the area of nuclear safety and security.
“We have also expressed political commitment to the IAEA Code of Conduct on safety and security of radioactive sources. More so, we have developed and approved the first International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Nuclear Security Plan for the period 2010-2012 with further review to cover the 2019-2021 period.
“In this connection, Nigeria commends the continued efforts of the IAEA, particularly its role in monitoring and inspecting nuclear facilities. We urge States to ensure compliance with IAEA safeguards and standards at all times as well as nuclear verification disarmament measures,” he said.
The President added that in order to facilitate the development and peaceful deployment of nuclear technology, Nigeria regulates and implements its energy aspiration through the relevant agencies.
“In addition, we are reforming the National Nuclear Security Sector to make it robust and reliable. These reforms involve the domestication of The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism; Review of Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act; and Review of Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority Act.
“To further demonstrate our commitment to nuclear security, Nigeria successfully converted the Nigeria Research Reactor (NIRR-1), a 31 kilowatts miniature neutron source reactor from highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium fuel.
“Also in 2019, the administration set up Nigeria’s Nuclear Security Support Centre and developed a Nuclear Security Detection Architecture to serve as a sustainable safeguard for maintaining nuclear security and detection of radioactive materials out of regulatory control,’’ he said.
President Buhari also reminded the Summit that the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice affirms that the threat or use of nuclear weapons constitutes a crime against humanity and a violation of international law, including international humanitarian law.