2019 - Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See

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A Lecture by
H.E. Ambassador (Gen) Godwin George Umo  OON
Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Vatican
on the occasion of Carità Politica International Association Meeting
Rome – Italy (05 June 2019)


1. At creation, God, in Genesis 1 vs.10-12, created the Earth, the Seas and  caused  herbs and grass to produce seeds of their kinds and trees to produce fruits in their kinds also. He saw that it was good. In other words, God never underrated the importance of ecology to mankind. He knew that man’s survival depended on it and to give expression to the significance of it, the Garden of Eden came to existence. Until the unfortunate disobedience of God’s commandment not to eat of a particular fruit in the Garden, Adam and Eve were living in comfort. Man’s travails began with the expulsion of Adam from the Garden of Eden.

2. In today’s scenario, ecology plays a significant role in the sustenance of mankind. Not just mankind, but both the biotic and abiotic elements of the ecosystem. It is indeed the symbiotic relationship between these two groups that ensures the sustainability of the environment. What this means is that the environment, on which mankind depends, must be treated with respect. It must not be denuded, exploited and polluted. The environment must be taken care of, otherwise, the human race ceases to exist.

3. Indeed, His Holiness Pope Francis captured it succinctly when, in his Encyclical letter "LAUDATO SI", he stated that "The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together". In other words, the treatment meted out to the natural environment will elicit a direct proportional effect on the human. Unfortunately when and if that happens, the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of despoliation of the natural environment are the poor.

4. I do not intend to underestimate the intelligence of this august audience by defining the key concepts of this discourse because they are commonplace. I would however remark that we have to deliberately ensure ecological prudence, that is, the proper use of natural resources to guarantee fairness to all the inhabitants of our common home – the Earth. The realization of fairness in the utilization of natural resources can only come through love. The love of God, of your fellow human being, and, of course the environment on which our collective lives depend.


5.  The aim of this discourse is to discuss critical factors that could ensure the sustainability of our common home – the Earth.


6.  I intend to cover this short discourse by considering the following:
    a.  Ecological issues and consequences.
    b.  Prudent utilization of natural resources.
    c.  Impact of the Environment on Justice.
    d.  Cooperation through human brotherhood.
    e.  Sustainable Development.
    f.   Sustainable Development Goals.
    g.  Diplomacy of Values.


7. Anthropogenic activities have continued to dominate discussions on ecology; and this is necessarily so because of the adverse consequences these activities have on the environment. From bush-burning to industrial production, to pollutants resulting from carbon emissions from various sources, the harm on both the biotic and the abiotic elements of the ecosystem are inestimable. Indeed the consequences have now manifested in various areas, some of which are irreversible; and that is why mitigation of such consequences are no longer discussed but adaptation is now preached.

8.  Some of the consequences of human activities on the ecology would include:

a.  Deforestation. Especially in the developing world, where subsistent farming is very well practiced, deforestation is well pronounced. Usually, the bushes have to be cleared before the planting season .ommences. It is not so much the clearing of the overgrowth that is at issue here, but the method employed in doing this. In the developed  climes, mechanized farming is the practice; but in the developing countries, the bushes are most likely to be set on fire.  These fires, .over a period of time, set off chain reactions. Carbons and other gases are liberated into the atmosphere and these would include CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), CO (Carbon Monoxide), CH4 (Methane) and N2O (Nitrous Oxide). These are generally called the Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). The consequences are that deforestation sets in, there is concomitant depletion of oxygen required by humans to survive, top soils of the burnt bushes are destroyed leading to the destabilization of the ecosystem in those environment

b.   Greenhouse Gases Emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions arelargely responsible for global warming because when they float up theatmosphere, they deplete the Ozone Layer, which is responsible for the prevention of the full heat intensity of the Sun from hitting the Earth surface. As a result of the thinning off of the Ozone Layer, the ice caps melt, seas and oceans get warmed up and overflow their banks. These lead to flooding, destruction of lives and properties and the destruction of the ecosystem.

c.   Air and Water Pollutions. When these gases are emitted from all the sources, earlier mentioned, coupled with effluents from factories, the air and water get polluted. The rich in the societies can afford health care if faced with these pollutions, it is the poor and the vulnerable of such societies that are left to grapple with the health challenges resulting from these pollutions.

9. Notwithstanding the consequences of human activities, many measures have been devised to safeguard the global environments. These include the many summits on global warming in Rio De Janeiro, London and so on, to innovative technologies to mitigate the consequences. On Carbon Dioxide emission, clean renewable energy and Carbon Entrapment technology have been employed. Furthermore, on the issue of desertification and deforestation, Artificial Water Seeding and Hydro-Oxygen Vapour Launch have been employed to cause artificial rains to fall. The latter was demonstrated in Mississippi, USA, recently.


10. In his Encyclical Letter LAUDATO SI, His Holiness Pope Francis had cautioned that "the deterioration of natural and human environment goes pari-passu". This requires no further emphasis as the human, and indeed, all living and non-living things depend on the natural environment for survival; so, if the natural environment is destroyed, life ceases to exist. Since natural resources are not infinite, it behoves its users to ensure systematic replacement of used natural resources in other to ensure sustainability.

11. The synergy between the developed and the developing world is necessary. The former is completely unable to employ harmless technology to prevent harmful fallouts of its activities, while the latter employs its own within its environment. Since it is the same Earth that the two segments of the world both use, the harm done in one segment will sooner or later manifest in the other. So, it is necessary that the war against environmental degradation, in any form, must be won together by sharing requisite technologies to stem the consequences.


12.  Quite often the rich do not cry. It is indeed the affluent segment of a society that are culprits in the destruction of the environment; and when the consequences of their abuses occur, they are the first to evade them. Take for instance there is a flood, perhaps warnings had been sounded by the Weather man, the rich have all the means of getting out of harm’s way before it comes. Can the same be said of the poor? The answer is NO. They will be left to face their fate. Nothing can be more unjust.

13.  This perhaps informed Pope Francis’s observation when he said that the lack of response to tragedies occasioned by Climate Change, which essentially impact the poor more, signposts the society’s laissez-faire attitude towards the wellbeing of its fellow men and women.

14.  This insensitivity on the part of such society is premised on the fact that the few rich people think more of their personal satisfaction and would care less about what their consumerist attitudes do to the larger society. In other words, Consumerism is one of the pull factors for production and production models that encourage the abuse of the environment.

15. It has since been recognized that eradicating the effects of years of environmental abuses would be impossible, as some of these actions are largely irreversible. Consequently, measures are being taken to mitigate the effect; and where mitigation fails, adaptation becomes the only option, Some of the measures include substituting fossil fuels with renewable energy and Carbon Capture technologies; unfortunately though, methods to mitigate the Greenhouse Gas effects are not common, as I earlier stated. It would, therefore, mean that deliberate policies must have to be churned out to mitigate GHGs effects on the environment.


16. Pope Francis in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, CHRISTUS VIVIT reminds that Friendship is "One of life’s gifts and a grace from God". Furthermore, the Holy Father advises that Friendship must be stable, firm and faithful and that it matures as time progresses. To underscore the importance of friendship, our Lord Jesus Christ in John 15:15 told his servants that he would be calling them friends from then on. This was done for Jesus to demonstrate his appreciation for their loyalty and the reciprocal love he had for them. He also enjoined them to extend the love to others.

17. From the preceding paragraph, it is clear that love is the foundation stone for bonding. Brotherhood entails cooperation, irrespective of colour, race or background, bound by love – the love of God, the love of mankind, the love of the environment, our Common Home, that sustains every member of the brotherhood. It is therefore safe to say that the collective cooperation in how we treat the environment, will ensure its sustainability.


18. The Bruntland Commission Report, also known as our common future, published in 1987, defines Sustainable Development as the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while, simultaneously, sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend. In other words, it is the development that is conducted without the depletion of natural resources. So, Sustainable Development is about social programmes, economic development and the care of the planet and environment. Like I have always said, there is no development, if environmental sustainability is not guaranteed.


19.  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are the blueprint, containing 17 global goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. The SDGs are designed to address the global challenges confronting the world including those related to poverty, inequality, climate and the environment, to mention a few. It was put together by UN General Assembly 2015. Barely 11 years to the target date, poverty which was supposed to be eradicated by 2015, throughout the world, has gone extreme. This means that inequality, which impinges on the human rights of the poor and which the SDGs sought to eradicate, is still very much alive. The Catholic Church, more than any other, has advocated the restoration of human dignity through the respect of individuals’ human rights. This therefore calls for the committed implementation of the SDGs if inequality is to be eradicated.


20.  According to Brian C. Rathburn, Diplomacy is a game of high stakes poker in which states have no incentive to show their cards or believe the cheap talks of others. However, he contends that good diplomacy is chess rather than poker. Furthermore, Rathburn submits that diplomacy could also be viewed as a reasoned dialogue, which is sometimes referred to as enlightened, civilized diplomacy of a liberal variety. The application of any of these varieties depends on individual diplomats.

21. Anupam Ray in an article "Values in Diplomacy" defines values as principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgment of what is important in life. It connotes, among other things, the existence of right and wrong, of good and evil, it equally implies the existence of choice between them. I want to believe that, we as Ambassadors to the Holy See, will always identify with those values that promote ecological prudence, fairness and human brotherhood in order to uphold the sustainability of our Common Home.


22.  In the past 20 minutes or thereabout, I have tried to discuss some critical factors that could foster the sustainability of our Common Home – the Earth. In doing so, I argued that anthropogenic activities have continued to have very dire  consequences on our Common Home and highlighted some of the measures employed in the mitigation of the consequences. Consequently, I advocated the prudent utilization of natural resources and stressed the need for synergistic collaboration between the developed and the developing segments of the world.

23. The paper argued that most of the anthropogenic activities are driven by Consumerism, the rich being at the driving seat. When however the impact of their activities hit the environment, they are most likely not to share in the consequences, but the innocent poor would be left to bear the brunt. This serves as injustice to the poor and the vulnerable. Consequently, the paper argued that these consequences could be averted through cooperation and love brought about by human brotherhood.

24.  Though development is desirable as it brings with it changes, those changes must be in the positive sense. Development that does not enlist environmental sustainability is a development on the negative slope of a graph; and to ensure the development that would bring good to all, the UN SDGs were brought on board to eradicate extreme poverty, inequality, mitigate the effects of Climate Change and preserve the environment – our Common Home.

25. Finally the paper encourages the Holy See Ambassadors to help propagate the values the Holy Father continuously emphasizes in order to promote ecological prudence that would remove inequality. It is inequality that ends up disenfranchising the poor. Therefore, we must preach human brotherhood towards sustaining our Common Home – the Earth.



1. I would like to thank the organizers of this epochal conference and especially, Senator Roberto Salerno and my Chief Host, Honourable Andrea Tronzano, for inviting me. I must confess that my joy does not only derive from having the opportunity of participating in this conference, but in the life-time privilege of savouring the unique landscape and the beautiful weather of Torino. My experience in Torino is further enlivened by the sheer warmth of the people; for all these, I am sincerely grateful.

2. The theme of this conference is rested on a tripod – Economy, Security and Immigration. I must say that the subject of discourse was not only well thought out, it is current and very relevant to the diplomatic relations of Italy and Nigeria.


3. The interconnectedness of the three concepts of this conference cannot be downplayed. Italy and Nigeria have had a bilateral relationship dating back to over half of a century. This relationship has economic dimension tied to it; and that explains the presence of Italian businesses in virtually every facet of the economic life of Nigeria. There are Italian companies doing businesses in Agro-allied sector, Oil and Gas sector and the Construction sector of the Nigerian economy. Ready examples of such Italian companies are Boroni-Proni, Eni Petroleum, AGIP and ESSO, to mention a few.

4. The Italian companies investments in Nigeria have been symbiotically beneficial to the peoples of the two countries and I would like to use this forum to encourage the Italian entrepreneurs to leverage the many Nigerian government’s incentives to invest more in the Nigerian economy. Besides Agriculture, the Mining industry remains largely untapped; and, there is a galaxy of important solid minerals, ranging from Marble to Gold. Investing in the many sectors of the Nigerian economy would, definitely, promote the economic wellbeing of both countries, ensure the security of the peoples and stem irregular immigration.


5. Security shares an umbilical chord with economy. Let me quickly define the aspect of security I am referring to. Security has been largely misconstrued to mean the preservation of nation states, governments and regimes from danger. This, of course, is the Westphalian conception of security, which is the Hard Security. I am, however, talking, here, about the Soft Security aspect of Security. Specifically, I am saying that when the basic needs of man are met, as espoused by Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs, security is guaranteed. The economy of the nation has to be bouyant to sustain security, and that is why I earlier asserted that security and economy share the same umbilical chord. Consequently, the choice of the theme could not have been more apt in addressing the many socio-economic problems plaguing the two countries.

6. It is when there are distortions in the economy that people begin to feel insecure; and, the next reaction is to seek where their security can be guaranteed. The exploration of a more conducive environment in the face of economic insecurity leads to migration. Though an age-long phenomenon, migration will continue to take place, especially given the interconnectedness and the globalization of the modern world. Migration could result from political persecution, natural disasters, wars and adverse economic conditions, to mention a few.


7. People are bound to migrate from places that do not guarantee safety from harm, hunger and climate. In the early 1930s, the global economic meltdown saw people migrating to where they felt they had some form of security. Italians were no exception. Another economic downturn in Italy in 2007/2008 saw many Italian companies relocating elsewhere they considered more economically-friendly. It is natural.

8. In a good part of Africa, where Nigeria belongs, there has been a combination of factors responsible for the migration of its youths to Europe and America. Besides those causative factors earlier mentioned,  Consumerism has been fingered as one of the reasons fuelling Irregular Immigration. Immigration on its own is not a bad thing, but it is the Irregular Immigration that people talk about. Most times, discussions on Irregular Immigration do not go over the entire Push-and-Pull factors. I would like to believe that this conference shall look at the entire spectrum of the Push-and-Pull factors of Irregular Immigration with a view to proffering lasting solutions to the problem.


9. I would like to end my short remarks by thanking the sponsors and conveners of this important conference, which seeks to address the Economy, Security and Immigration issues confronting our world. In discussing these issues, we must focus on solutions that would not only provide a healthy economic environment, these solutions must assure us of our security. Consequently, if those two parameters are guaranteed, the knack for Irregular Immigration will be much reduced.

10. Whilst wishing you a very exciting conference, I wish to thank you for the privilege granted me and the attention. God bless.


Your Excellency Msgr Giovanni D’Ercole, the Bishop of Ascoli Piceno, our host. I am General Godwin George Umo (Rtd), the Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See. Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors or their representatives of:
        a.  Cameroon.
        b.  Ghana.
        c.  Mexico.
        d. Nicaragua.
        e. Venezuela.
        f.  Any other ones not mentioned.

It is, indeed, a privilege to say the following few words on behalf of my colleagues. When the idea of coming for this visit was mooted to me, I asked the organizers what the import of the visit was and who was going to be the host. A letter was sent to me with H.E. Msgr Giovanni D’Ercole as our chief host. Immediately, the name struck a chord in my head because the Bishop, we are so fortunate to be guests to, in other climes, ought to be one of the national heroes. For the benefit of those of us, who had not followed the Earthquakes in Aquila and the recent one in Ascoli Piceno in 2016, Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole played a very active part in helping to salvage the victims and survivors of the earthquakes. This is one feat that stands Bishop Giovanni out as first amongst equals.

Talking about the two earthquakes, there were severe destructions of infrastructure and monuments that defined the culture of the people. Though efforts have been made to rebuild the colossal damages to the infrastructure and monuments, the psychological restitution may never be achieved. This situation therefore calls for global solidarity with the victims and their families in their harrowing experiences. We would like to reiterate that we are in solidarity with the victims and their families of these unfortunate disasters.

Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole knows full well that the total person cannot be separated from the politics of the environment he or she finds himself or herself; so, he partakes in several political discourses all in an attempt to proffer solutions to the engaging challenges. Disturbed by the political firestorms that defined the 2018 Italian Elections, he opined that the harsh tones used by the various political gladiators during the electioneering campaigns were worrisome and cautioned, after the elections, that they should bury their political hatchets and seek to be responsible. The Bishop succinctly captured this in a very few words. “Now it is time to rebuild, like after an earthquake”.

Born in Morino on 05 October 1947, Bishop Giovanni was ordained priest on his birthday in 1974. H.E. Msgr Giovanni D’Ercole is a polyglot; specifically, he speaks English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. Barely 2 years after ordination, the Bishop was posted to Grand-Bassam in Côte D’Ivoire as a Parish Priest and an Episcopal Vicar. Later, he served as a Professor of Moral Theology at the Major Seminary located within Anyama City. He was, therefore, in the West African country from 1976-1984.

In 1987, Saint Pope John Paul II appointed him the Deputy Director of the Holy See Press Office, then directed by Joaquín Navarro-Valls. In 1990, he joined the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and in 1998 he was appointed Head of the First Section of General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, a position he held until 2009. He was ordained Bishop in December 2009, appointed and installed Bishop of Ascoli Piceno on 10 May 2014. Before then, the Bishop had been the Archbishop of Aquila. Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, we are fortunate to be hosted by a rare gem who has devoted more than 45 years of his life to priesthood and has been a Bishop for some 10 years.

Your Excellency, Msgr Giovanni d’Ercole, the Bishop of Ascoli Piceno, our host, Your Excellencies, I believe I will be saying your minds if I say that this auspicious visit to the highly revered Bishop is another milestone in the art and practice of Diplomacy. It is not entirely surprising to us that Carità Politica has put this together, as the Association has been at the forefront of giving values to diplomacy at the Holy See. This exercise goes to reinforce the tenets of diplomatic communications, which have been eloquently expressed by the organizers of this visit and our host. Your Excellencies, our host is a well known figure in and outside Italy.

When one ponders on the raison d’être of diplomacy from its inception at the Vatican to its conceptualization in the United Kingdom in 1645, the import of the unique visit comes to the fore. Frequent diplomatic communications and interactions would eliminate rancour, friction and misunderstanding. It is, indeed, the absence of these diplomatic ingredients of symbiotic existence that lead to war and violence. When therefore peace reigns, both bilateral and multilateral relations are boosted.

It is this type of cordial atmosphere that promotes and gives vent to the proper employment of instruments of diplomacy to the benefit of the parties concerned. Here then lays the significance of this visit, which you have generously given the nod to take place.

We, the Ambassadors, will not take your kindness and compassion for granted. More than anything else, we shall see this visit as a means of further deepening the diplomatic relations between our respective countries and the Holy See.

Let me end these few remarks by expressing our sincere thanks and appreciation to Carità Politica, especially Professor Alfredo Luciani, who has continued to remind us of the values of diplomacy. Whilst not forgetting other contributors like Heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia to this important programme, our appreciation goes to our host, H.E. Msgr Giovanni D’Ercole, who has not only educated us on the nexus between Diplomacy of Values and Development, but has laid bare his chest of hospitality for our comfort. It is our prayer that the good Lord shall reciprocate your kind gestures in no distant future. We thank you; and, God bless you all.

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