By Michael Olugbode
The Presidents of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have expressed concern over growing terrorism and piracy violation in West Africa sub-region.
They also called on member nations to pay up their commitments to the fund set aside to fight terrorism in West Africa.
A communique issued yesterday after the 58th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS, which was held on January 23, 2021 via videoconference, under the chairmanship of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana, stated that the act of terrorist attacks in frontline countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, despite the intense efforts deployed by these countries has become worrisome.
It further noted with concern the increased spate of attacks, in the form of reprisals, against the civilian population as seen in the attack perpetrated in Nigeria by the Boko Haram on November 29, 2020, in the vicinity of Maiduguri, in Borno State, during which dozens of farmers and fishermen were killed, and in Niger Republic January 2, 2021, when armed individuals killed around 100 people in attacks on two villages in the Tillabéri region along the border with Mali.
The heads of state also reaffirmed their determination to relentlessly combat this scourge and expressed solidarity with the affected member states and their populations.
They noted that diligent and effective implementation of the 2020 – 2024 Action Plan to eradicate terrorism in the region has become a matter of categorical imperative.
They also appreciated the contribution of Ghana and Nigeria to the fund dedicated for the plan but however appealed to all member countries to pay up their pledges in other to eradicate terrorism.
In the light of this, Ghana’s President and Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, were appointed to lead the financial and technical resource mobilisation efforts.
The ECOWAS Presidents were also worried over the state of maritime security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea, noting that the significant contribution of maritime activities to the economic and social development of member states in the region is being jeopardised with the increasing number of illegal activities at sea, including maritime piracy, toxic waste dumping, illegal and unreported fishing.
They urged member states to fully implement the measures adopted at national, regional and continental levels to ensure maritime security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea.
They also called on member states to ratify the African Charter on Maritime Security and Safety (Lome Charter), which was adopted on October 15, 2016, and promote maritime cooperation among themselves.
The statement urged host countries of the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centres (MMCCs) and the West African Regional Maritime Security Centre (CRESMAO), to set up the necessary administrative and logistics arrangements that would ensure the full operationalisation of the centres, including the provision of accommodation for international staff deployed to the maritime centres in their respective countries.
They, however, welcomed the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on January 1, 2021 and the ratification of the agreement by 12 out of the 15 ECOWAS member states.
They called on member states that are yet to ratify the agreement to do so in order to promote harmonious trade liberalisation in the region and maintain the integrity of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff.
They instructed the commission to continue to support member states in the development and implementation of national strategies for adaptation to the rules of the AfCFTA, while ensuring their consistency with the regional strategy developed to that effect.
They also urged the commission to commence advocacy campaigns in member states to ensure greater involvement of all stakeholders (governments, private sector and civil society).
They also charged the commission to continue to coordinate the positions and approaches of member states in negotiations under the AfCFTA.
They also endorsed the Declaration on Zero Tolerance for Sexual and Gender Based Violence and the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women and Girls in the ECOWAS region, advocation for the promotion of cooperation and collaboration across national borders between the ECOWAS’ member states and third countries, with a view to preventing and combating this scourge.
They congratulate the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the reopening of its land borders with its neighbours and also called on member states to continue their efforts in the effective implementation of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment.