President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has charged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to address the myriads of challenges bedevilling the West African region.
President Buhari made the call during the 62nd Ordinary Session of the Summit of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Abuja, Nigeria’s Capital.
He noted that this year’s summit is the 8th edition which Nigeria, under his leadership since 2015, has had the distinct honour to host.
The President added that all of those occasions, including the 62nd summit, have brought honour and respect to Nigeria as the country continued to be at the centre of sustained solidarity and collaborative efforts to maximise the relationships in order to address common challenges with ECOWAS countries and the community citizens.
He recalled that in July, the immediate past management team of ECOWAS Commission led by Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, took leave of him as host country for the organisation and in return, received the management led by Dr. Omar Alieu Touray.
While thanking the outgoing management for their services to the organisation and wishing them well in their future endeavours, President Buhari extended warm welcome to the new management and assured them of Nigerian’s unequivocal commitment to ensuring their collective successes for the sub-regional organisation.
According to President Buhari: “When I formerly received the new management team, I had cause to stress to them, on behalf of the authority, that they were assuming office at a period of multiple challenges that would task their collective abilities to be both innovative and creative.
“Recording successes in these areas that would advance the vision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS, is located in their collective resolve to ensure that the reforms of our organisation that have commenced, are executed faithfully by the new Management and across all of ECOWAS institutions.
“There is no alternative to a smart organisation that delivers services to her citizens. The new management must therefore, work round the clock for sustainable solutions to the multiplicity of challenges that bedevil our sub region. Articulating clearer and implementable solutions would find the favour of the Authority’s political will for strategic implementation to satisfy the yearnings of the community citizens through projects that have immediate and direct positive impact on them.”
Buhari, in his parting words in hosting the summit, thanked ECOWAS for the excellent working relationship he enjoyed with each and every one of the leaders in the last seven and a half years.
“During this period, we collectively achieved a lot for the region despite emerging challenges requiring that we re-commit ourselves to doing so much more now and in the future.
“Let me specifically thank you, brother Heads of State and Government, for the confidence you reposed in me by choosing me to be the regional Champion on COVID-19, an opportunity that brought me to working closely with sectoral Ministers, ECOWAS Commission as well as the West Africa Health Organization to develop regional mechanisms that mitigated the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Without doubt, the commitment shown by Member-States, yielded very positive results as West Africa emerged as one of the regions with the least mortality rate, not only on the continent, but globally.
“Regrettably, some of our gains, especially in fully democratising our governance space has faced and continue to face severe challenging threats from unconstitutional change of governments as witnessed in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.
“The Commission must therefore, work more assiduously to complete the review and harmonisation of the Protocols on Good Governance and Democracy, as this would enable our sub-region to sustain our collective efforts to deepen not only Democracy but her dividends through good governance to the Community citizens.
“Related to this is the urgent need to fully bring into operation, the Regional Action Plan on the Fight Against Terrorism and other acts of criminalities in the sub-region as enhanced safety will sustain national governance efforts that would ensure the growth and progress of our sub-region,” Buhari also said.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, in his remarks, said the response of ECOWAS to challenges bedevilling the region cannot be business as usual.
Dr. Touray also said the new ECOWAS management assumed duty at a critical juncture in the regional integration efforts.
He added that just as the region was recovering from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, the community is yet again confronted with major security and economic difficulties.
“Average growth rate has declined from 4.2 percent in 2001 to four percent in 2022; Inflation has jumped from 10.4 percent in 2021 to 12.5 percent in 2022. Most of our countries registered increasing budget deficits, rising public debt and wider balance of payment challenges.
“Sources of insecurity in the region continue to grow, from terrorism and violent extremism to unconstitutional change of government, organized crimes ecological crises and fake news. Terrorism in particular has continued to threaten our region, spreading from the Sahel to the coastal states. Equally, the spate of coup d’état and counter coup d’état continues to reverse the democratic gains made over the years. Indeed excellencies, never before has our region been faced with so many difficulties at the same time. Our response as a community cannot be business as usual,” Touray said.
“It is towards this goal that we have identified four strategic objectives that would be the focus of our Management in the next four years. We call these the Commission’s 4 by 4 (4 x 4). “These are: Enhanced peace and security in the region; Deeper economic and social integration; Good governance and leadership; Inclusive and sustainable development.” he added.
Another highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of the ECOWAS Excellence Award to deserving citizens, during which the First President of the Republic of The Gambia, the Late Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, was awarded the Eminent Persons Award. His widow, Lady Chilel Jawara and his sons, Dawda Jawara Junior and Ebrima Jawara, represented the family to receive the honour.
Late Sir Dawda was recognised for his leadership, restoration of peace in the subregion, the establishment of ECOMOG and for championing and making Banjul the home of human rights.
The Award includes a cheque for $20,000, a plaque and a certificate.
Other recipients were Senegalese singer Omar Penn, two Nigerians, writer, Wole Soyinka, and Business tycoon,Tony Elumelu.