Alex Enumah in Abuja
President Mohammadu Buhari on Saturday disclosed that his tenure as Chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would focus mainly on two key issue – peace and security in order to realise the vision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS and also improve upon the living standard of the people of the community.
Noting that terrorism and insurgency is a major threat to the economic development and stability in the region, Buhari has also called on leaders in the region to unite both in will and resources to defeat the menace of terrorism currently ravaging the West African region.
He made the call Saturday in a welcome address at the 54th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government holding in Abuja.
Buhari while extolling the region’s leaders in efforts at pursuing development and peace in the region, noted that the issue of terrorism and insurgency coupled with other challenges had continued to make nonsense of whatever successes the region had recorded.
“As we all know, the primary objective of ECOWAS as set out in its treaty, is to promote cooperation and integration , leading to the establishment of an Economic and Monetary Union in West Africa, in order to raise the living standards of our people and contribute to the progress and development of the African continent.
“Indeed as a community, our aspiration is to create a borderless, peaceful, prosperous and cohesive region, based on good governance and where our people have the capacity to access and harness its resources through the creation of opportunities for sustainable development, job creation and environmental preservation.
“These lofty ideals are however not attainable without peace and security. That is why I have decided to make the issue of peace and security, the major focus of my Chairmanship”, he said.
The president said his efforts in this area had started yielding dividends following the dousing of tension and restoration of confidence in places like Guinea Bissau, Togo and Mali.
He therefore called on his fellow presidents to show similar concern to the issue of terrorism and violent extremism by joining in the fight to eliminate the menace.
“This would require that all hands are on deck and that all Member States ensure the payment of the Statutory Community Levy as and as when due. By so doing, we will empower and enable the commission to implement the Integration Agenda, as we march towards the year 2020, and actualise our vision of building an ECOWAS of Peoples and not of states.
Also speaking Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, commended the region for efforts at actualising the dreams of the leaders, adding that West Africa is now being referred to as “a shining example of peace consolidation and democracy on the continent.
Chambas identified the successful conduct of elections as a contributing factor to the progress made by the region of recent.
He however, stressed that more efforts needed to be made to address contentious issues related to conduct of elections in order to prevent and mitigate electoral violence, human rights abuses and promote respect for the rule of law.
He said, “Upcoming elections in the sub-region will present opportunities for further consolidating democracy. UNOWAS is coordinating efforts with ECOWAS Commission to ensure appropriate support to these countries in their efforts to organise free, credible and peaceful elections.”
He however charged the leaders to continue to work together on the implementation of the regional strategy for stabilization, recovery, development and resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin, which according to him, constitute a comprehensive and sustainable response to the challenges facing the region.
He also stated that more concerted efforts were also needed to improve on the situation of women, girl and youth to ensure they were adequately represented in decision making positions across the region, thereby harnessing the region’s full human resources potential.