By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Federal government has advised the new leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, to be prudent in the management of resources in the pursuit of development and full integration of the sub-region.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Ibrahim, who gave the advice at the handing over ceremony of the President of ECOWAS Commission, Marcel De Souza to Jean-Claude Brou, in Abuja, particularly harped on the need for the new leadership to focus more on budget improvement and institutional reforms, if it must meet the needs and aspirations of the ECOWAS citizens.
“We must focus on budget that impacts positively on the citizens as emphasised in the institution’s report, which stated that 60 per cent of the budget must be devoted to such programmes,” she said.
Mrs. Ibrahim, while admitting that ECOWAS had achieved a lot in the last four decades of its existence, however said much still needed to be done.
“In the course of this journey, the organisation has recorded some achievements which have made its membership and programmes to be desirable to all and sundry,” she said.
“ECOWAS, just like any other regional organisation, has also had its fair share of challenges, some of which are still evident till date. Some of these include human trafficking in the Sahel Region especially Libya, transhumance and the negative activities of cattle herders, poverty, among others.
“It therefore lies within you to mobilise your team to proffer solutions to these and other challenges. You are also to encourage, and where necessary, to work with national institutions on regional programmes and projects that can fast-track the process of integration and improve the living standard of the people of the region”, she added.
While commending the outgone administration for their successes, particularly in the implementation of institutional reforms, fighting terrorism within their two years tenure, she expressed confidence in the new president and his team’s ability to drive programmes and projects that would bring development in the region.
She assured the new leadership of Nigeria’s support in pursuit of the goals of ECOWAS and appealed to the commission to also reciprocate the kind gesture from Nigeria.
On his part, former President, De Souza, while noting that his administration worked under very stringent conditions due to inadequate finance and irregular levy payment by member States, thanked Nigeria and President Mihammadu Buhari for all the support given to the commission.
“Nigeria has never contributed so much, In 2016 Nigeria contributed $54m and that covers the community levy for 2015. In 2017 Nigeria again disbursed $51m which covers the community levy for 2016”, he said.
De Souza, however advised Brou to deepen relations with the president and Nigeria in general if he wanted to succeed in the new assignment.
He however, advised the new leadership to take the issue of non-respect of decision of the ECOWAS court seriously.
“There is also non respect for the decision of the Court of Justice, we have a Court of Justice but, its decisions are not applied. We want to see a situation where the decision of the Court of Justice are enforced,” he said.
The new President of the commission, Jeanclaude Brou noted that ECOWAS had recorded remarkable progress in the areas of politics, security and others.
He commended measures taken to facilitate the implementation of the single currency, institutional reforms and efforts at establishing peace in the region by his predecessor and promised to consolidate on the gains.
“My government will resort to continuity and consultation with all stakeholders and to always adapt and commit to advancement of the community. I shall spare no efforts in achieving this,” he pledged.
Among the new appointees are Nigeria’s Halima Ahmed and Stanley Okolo as Commissioner for Finance and Director General, West Africa Health Organisation, respectively.
They are to be in office for the next four years.