Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari welcomed West African leaders in Abuja on Saturday and told them no development or genuine regional integration can be achieved without peace and security.
The leaders are in the Nigerian capital to discuss peace, security, development, democracy and regional integration.
In a speech, Mr Buhari reminded ECOWAS members of the regional body’s aspiration 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”.
But he added that these lofty ideals would, however, not be 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.
“I am happy to inform this august assembly that our efforts have started yielding dividends as we have been able to douse tension and restore confidence in some potentially disruptive political situations, particularly in Guinea Bissau, Togo and Mali,” Buhari added.
Read full speech.
WELCOME ADDRESS BY THE CHAIR OF THE AUTHORITY, H.E. PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI AT THE OPENING SESSION OF THE 54th ORDINARY SESSION OF THE ECOWAS AUTHORITY OF HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT IN ABUJA ON
22nd DECEMBER 2018
It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Government and People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to warmly welcome you to Abuja, on the occasion of the 54th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
2. Let me again restate my sincere appreciation to you, Excellencies, for the confidence reposed in me, to steer the ship of our sub-regional organization, as Chair of the Authority.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
3. The fact that we have gathered here today is a clear testimony of our continued collective resolve and commitment to the effective integration of the West African sub-region. We applaud the significant progress made by our Community in the recent past, particularly in the areas of political governance, peace and security as well as economic and social fields. These achievements have positioned ECOWAS as an example of a regional economic community on our continent.
4. In this regard, I would like to salute your individual efforts not only for striving to promote peace, stability and development in your respective countries but also for your unwavering commitment to regional issues of interest and concern.
5. I wish at this juncture, to pay special tribute to His Excellency, Nana Akuffo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana and His Excellency, Alpha Conde, President of the Republic of Guinea, the ECOWAS facilitators in the resolution of the Togolese political crisis, for their tireless endeavours towards a peaceful settlement.
6. I am also glad for the significant progress made through our collective efforts towards the resolution of the political and institutional crisis in Guinea Bissau. Within the framework of our regional solidarity, we have assisted the Governments of Togo and Mali in tackling political and security problems while also addressing food challenges in parts of the sub-region.
7. We have also extended electoral support and assistance to several countries and acted pro-actively to neutralize some potential conflicts through preventive diplomacy before they exploded. In this connection, we welcome the successful elections held in Sierra Leone and Mali in 2018.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
8. Despite these successes, ECOWAS is still confronted by several challenges. The sub-region continues to face difficulties in the economic, governance, peace, security and humanitarian fields.
9. 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”.
10. 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”.
11. 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. I am happy to inform this august assembly that our efforts have started yielding dividends as we have been able to douse tension and restore confidence in some potentially disruptive political situations, particularly in Guinea Bissau, Togo and Mali.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
12. It is a matter of concern that terrorism and violent extremism have continued to threaten the peace and security in our sub-region. This threat calls for collective action on our part, if we are to effectively and definitively eliminate it. As we work on new strategies to combat and eradicate this menace, we require the support of our partners to ensure the achievement of our objectives.
13. Still on sub-regional peace, as you are all aware, Nigeria and Senegal will hold general elections in February 2019. On my part, I have already made a pledge to conduct free, fair and credible elections. In the same vein, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and other political stakeholders, have expressed their unwavering commitment to the conduct of peaceful elections devoid of violence, rancour and acrimony, in the higher interest of the nation.
14. Our determination to create a safe and stable sub-region must be predicated on a strong and capable organization. You will all agree with me that no institution can function effectively without adequate funding.
15. 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 actualize our vision of building an ECOWAS of Peoples and not of States.
16. In light of the continuing fragility of our economies linked closely to commodity prices, our nascent democracies, the negative effects of climate change on our farming systems, the globalisation of crime and terrorism, we are required on a daily basis, to join forces to eliminate these factors that militate against a secure, conducive and prosperous environment for the benefit of our people. These realities remind us of the need for even stronger intra-ECOWAS solidarity in order to address emerging challenges.
17. This is indeed the very sense of our Union. To that end, important decisions are taken in the course of our meetings, with the goal of impacting transforming positively on the lives of our citizens.
18. During this 54th Ordinary Session, the task before us is to appraise our Community. In this regard, we are expected to take several decisions on a number of issues I have already mentioned. As is our custom, our Session would consider these matters from the reports on today’s agenda as follows:
a. The 2018 Annual Report of ECOWAS,
b. The Report of the 81stOrdinary Session of the Council of Ministers,
c. The Report of the 41stOrdinary Session of the Mediation and Security Council,
d. The Reports on the Political and Security Situation of the Region, and
e. The Report on the Process for the Establishment of the ECOWAS Single Currency,
19. I wish to commend the Council of Ministers and ECOWAS Commission for the very useful documents which have been circulated.
Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen,
20. I will conclude my remarks by wishing us fruitful deliberations. I hereby declare open, the 54th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
I thank you for your kind attention.
Simon is a renowned international journalist, founder and publisher of TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.