In the month of August, Nigeria takes up the rotational presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Nigeria was elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC in 2013 for the period of 2014-2015. In a somewhat historical election, this is the first time that a member of the council assumes leadership for the fourth time in two different tenures in the space of five years. Nigeria can therefore harness important institutional memory here as the same Nigerian Ambassador to the UN, Joy Ogwu, has held this position before. While this presidential leadership of the UNSC only lasts a month, it provides a strategic platform for Nigeria to illustrate its commitment to international issues of peace and security and demonstrate its capability as a contender for a permanent seat, should a reform of the UNSC ever offer an African seat(s). More importantly, it could provide Nigeria with an opportunity to advocate for greater international support for the fight against Boko Haram.
While President Muhammudu Buhari has opted for a diplomatic offensive which prioritises more domestic military strategies and an integrated regional approach to fighting Boko Haram, international support is still important. The regional response to Boko Haram has been a key and necessary development and Nigeria has done well to take the lead but also to mobilise neighbouring countries as seen with Buhari’s visits to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. These regional efforts feed into the establishment of a new Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF), possibly under the leadership of the African Union. In addressing the threat to the region, the approximately 8700 strong MJTF will consist of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin. The operationalisation of the MJTF has however been met with certain challenges around a lack of funding and political will from member states. Furthermore, there are questions around how to sustain the alliance of the coalition of countries in the fight against Boko Haram especially with historical tension between states like Nigeria and Cameroon. Encouraging international support through the UNSC platform to the regionally led intervention could therefore be helpful in terms of the provision of resources and mitigating some of the more politicised challenges, to a certain extent.
The UNSC has emphasised its interest and stance on the eradication of Boko Haram seen most recently with the blacklisting of alleged Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau and affiliated faction, Ansaru. This effectively means that a travel ban has been imposed and assets have been frozen. The former UNSC president, Ambassador Gerhard Jacobus of New Zealand also issued a presidential statement calling on President Buhuri to swiftly bring an end to attacks by Boko Haram. Although the rotational presidency of the UNSC is short, Nigeria should take hold of this strategic position to promote peace and security in its own region and perhaps this position will also assist Nigeria in re-establishing its leadership role in the region, which is important in coordinating an effective response to the Boko Haram threat.