· Urges member states to contribute to $1bn security fund
· Calls for more commitment to the fight against terrorism
Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The Chairman of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, Nana Akufo-Addo yesterday lamented that terrorism and piracy “are still major challenges to the member states.”
Akufo-Addo, also the President of Ghana, pleaded with the member nations to continue to contribute financially towards the $1 billion ECOWAS Regional Security Fund (ERSF).
He made this appeal at the 58th Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Government virtually held yesterday, seeking more commitments towards the fight against terrorism and piracy in the West Africa sub-region.
At the summit, Akufo-Addo said the sub-region had preserved and strengthened the gains of regional integration, particularly in the area of consolidating democracy, pursuing the free movement of goods, and developing economic infrastructure.
He lamented that terrorism and piracy continued “to be major challenges. We continue to face critical security challenges with deadly terrorist attacks in Mali, northeastern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
“I reaffirm our strongest condemnation of these attacks in our region and community, and deplore the activities of these criminal, terrorist groups. We sympathise and extend our deep condolences to affected countries and the families of the victims.”
He, however, said the development “reinforces the conviction of the ECOWAS leaders. We must pursue, even more vigorously, the actions we have begun, with the rapid implementation of the decisions of our Extraordinary Summit on Terrorism, held on 14th September 2019.
“This concerted effort, which must be a major priority objective of the community, is the best way for us to collectively address the security challenge, and give ourselves the means to ensure the security of the populations of our community. Our dignity and our sovereignty are at stake.”
Akufo-Addo called on member nations to continue to contribute financially towards the $1 billion ECOWAS Regional Security Fund (ERSF).
He said raising the fund, created in support of the 2020-2024 Anti-Terrorism Action Plan, has to be a high priority for all because “it enables us to act independently in this crisis.”
“We also need to engage in the growing menace to the maritime security of our region. Acts of piracy and maritime destabilisation are on rapid increase in the Gulf of Guinea, illustrated by the data, which indicate a 40% rise in pirate activities in the Gulf in 2020 over 2019. This calls for a strong regional response.”
On the critical issue of the single currency for the community, the ECOWAS chairman disclosed that member states had agreed on a revised convergence policy, about which a report would be presented to them at the meeting.
He added: “I am of the view that the difficulties involved in meeting the convergence criterion should not stand in the way of the rapid establishment of a payment and settlement system in ECOWAS, which will enable a rapid expansion of trade and investment in the community. We will receive, at this Summit, a report on progress on this matter.”
Also at the summit, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas said electoral and indeed political processes anchored on consensus and inclusiveness with full participation of women and youth could significantly contribute to prevent conflicts and address some of the peace and security challenges in the sub-region.
He said most presidential elections conducted in the sub-region were generally successful but with some disagreements and tensions, sometimes leading to violence and the loss of lives.
He said: “This is a demonstration that elections continue to be a source of conflict, and violence, principally due to the lack of consensus in addressing contentious issues around them.
“It is therefore crucial to ensure that in the post-electoral phase, dialogue is prioritized to resolve political differences and build consensus and ensure inclusiveness in governance.
“I am very encouraged by the positive signs and initiatives already taken in some of the concerned countries
“As several other countries prepare for various elections in the coming months, including presidential elections in Benin, Cape Verde, The Gambia; and Niger (second round); legislative elections in Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, and a constitutional referendum in The Gambia, the United Nations will continue to collaborate closely with ECOWAS and other partners, to support the efforts of these countries to ensure that these polls contribute in the consolidation of democracy in the sub-region.”