Buhari Calls For Stronger Regional Cooperation At ECOWAS Summit

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President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking the possibility of putting in place a well-run regional mechanism for the evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS migrant citizens abroad.

He made the call yesterday in Abuja  at the  Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States.

President Buhari lamented that in West Africa, citizens live in constant threat of violent terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, AQIM and Al-Qaida.

According to him, nearly every week we see and hear the horror of human trafficking perpetrated by trans-border syndicates, who lure  youths to slavery through irregular migration.

He said “We see the consequences, on our young men and women and on our economies, of drug trafficking and capital flight. Accordingly, it is imperative that we take urgent action to address these challenges.

“In collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration, we, in Nigeria, have been evacuating our compatriots who are stranded in Libya. Returnees have been receiving needed support including from state governments and   some  non-governmental organisations.

“I have instructed the National Emergency Management Agency to speed up the evacuation of all Nigerians stranded in Libya and facilitate their resettlement.

“In view of the enormity of this challenge, may I suggest that we look into the possibility of putting in place a well run regional mechanism for the evacuation, resettlement  and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS citizens abroad.

“Meanwhile, we should step up dialogue with our European partners in our efforts to jointly address this challenge which affect us all.”

President Buhari contended that  the long term solutions to these challenges is to create conditions of peace and security in ECOWAS countries and sustainable development of our economies.

Only through this, he noted that  the countries can create jobs and other conditions in which the  youths will have little or no excuse to embark on the suicidal venture of irregular migration.

Regrettably, Buhari observed that  there is growing reluctance from the region’s development partners to be more proactive in support of  efforts of the countries in the trgion.

He, however, said, the region’s shared  challenges make it imperative for the cooperation to be developed and intensified.

According to him, “Thanks to the foresight of our predecessors, this Authority of Heads of State and Government adopted, in 2001 the “ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. Since then, our region has been steadily developing the culture of democratic  practice, including good governance and respect for the rule of law.

“This trend has just been demonstrated in Liberia. I salute the people of Liberia for the manner in which they conducted themselves during and in the aftermath of the just concluded general elections.

“It is my fervent hope that the same attitude prevails in the coming run-off election scheduled to hold on 26 December, and a new president is inaugurated  in January, 2018 as per the provision of the country’s constitution. My dear sister, Your Excellency Sirleaf-Johnson, we appreciate the leadership you demonstrated in this electoral process.”

While appealing  to Togolese citizens to continue  to embrace dialogue in efforts to resolve their political differences, he  urged  the government to widen the space for dialogue and mediation.

With regards to Guinea-Bissau, Buhari said it was worrisome that the continued political deadlock is taking its toll on the people, on good governance and the resources of member states, particularly troops from contributing countries to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau.

He urged  all the stakeholders in Guinea Bissau to respect their undertakings in plans to resolve the political impasse.

He said “In the wake of the recent recession and economic challenges faced by ECOWAS Member States, as evidenced by the severe drop in real growth rate for ECOWAS from 6.1 per cent in 2014 and 3.3 per cent in 2015, to an alarming rate of 0.2 per cent in 2016, there is an urgent need to review the spending patterns of all the community institutions, to ensure that dwindling resources are put to good economic use for the optimization of strategic goals of the community.

“In this regard, I urge the Commission’s leadership to practice probity and accountability in the management of our resources. Equally important is the need to consolidate the efforts made so far on the ongoing reform of ECOWAS Institutions and Specialized Agencies, and to emphasize the importance of good governance, sound financial management and cost reduction as the underlying factors for a successful reform.”

The gains and savings made should be invested on greater integration projects, as well as on security and development initiatives,” he said.

Meanwhle the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWA) Authority of Heads of States and Government at the weekend in Abuja shattered Morocco’s hope of admission as the 16th member of the West Africa regional body.

At its 52nd Ordinary Session, which took place at the Transcorp Hilton,  Abuja,  the 15-member Economic Group,  kept mum when the communique of the summit was read,  despite the fact that Morocco’s request was listed for discussion.

The ECOWAS leaders had at its 51st Ordinary Session which took place in June 2017” in Monrovia, Liberia, granted Morocco  membership in principle and mandated the commission to understudy the consequences of such decision,  pursuant to the provision of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty and submit its findings at the Abuja 52 Session.

The group also received request for re-admittance from Mauritania, a former member.

Tunisia, a North African country,  was granted ‘Observer Status.’  However, the leaders mandated ECOWAS to ensure  all rules and procedures,  relating to Tunisia’s observer status are strictly followed.

In a goodwill message, the United Nations secretary general, Antonio Guterres,  represented by Muhammed Ibn Chambas, who is Guterres’ representative to West Africa and the Sahel,  regretted the myriad of challenges facing West African countries.

“The roots of these crises must be dealt with,” Guterres said. He urged African leaders to leverage on the UN fashioned Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and the African Union (AU) backed “Agenda 2063’’ to improve the lots of their citizens.

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