By Harry Awurumibe, Editor, Abuja Bureau
Worried by the continued terrorists activities within the territorial boundaries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria has doled out the sum of $20 million pledged by the country to the pool account of the ECOWAS Action Plan to fight terrorism.
Also, Nigeria said the sum of $80 million is to be disbursed for the fight against terrorism in the Northeast and banditry in the Northwest of the country for the year 2020 while promising commitment to meeting her obligations for the remaining period of the Action Plan.
Nigeria’s position was made public late Saturday by Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Geoffrey Onyeama who addressed the press at the end of the virtual Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government meeting attended by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister:
“I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari. Let me commence by commending the Chair of Authority for convening this virtual ordinary summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, which is taking place under this circumstance because of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic ravaging our region and the world in general.
I will like to also commend the President of the ECOWAS Commission and his staff for their untiring efforts to make sure that this summit is held in such a difficult period. I also want to use this opportunity to commiserate with the ECOWAS Commission on the demise of Secretary General, Dr Nelson Magbagbeola, who was a committed, hardworking and dedicated officer of the Commission. May his soul rest in peace.
Your Excellencies, on terrorism and violent extremism, the increase in the spare of violent attacks by terrorists and other criminal elements across the region is worrisome. Nigeria strongly condemns all forms of terrorism and violence that usually result in the displacement of citizens, destruction of the economy and the loss of lives. In addition, Nigeria wishes to express its solidarity with affected member states. It is now more important than ever for the region to work together and combat this menace.
The region needs to commence immediate implementation of ECOWAS action plan on the fight against terrorism. We urge member states to pay their voluntary contribution into the fund dedicated to the implementation of the 2020/2024 Action plyan.
We have already directed the immediate remittance of the sum of $20 million pledged by Nigeria to the pool account of the ECOWAS Action Plan to fight terrorism while the sum of $80 million is to be disbursed for the fight against terrorism in the Northeast and banditry in the Northwest of Nigeria for the year 2020. We are also committed to meeting our obligations for the remaining period of the action plan.
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the ECOWAS region. Your Excellencies may recall the damage that the first wave of the pandemic on the health and the socioeconomic sectors of our region. Now that vaccines are soon to be available, I call on all member states to ensure that we prioritise the acquisition of the vaccines for our citizens while at the same time increasing efforts to develop our own vaccines so that we can build hard immunities against the COVID-19 pandemic in West Africa.
We urge the ECOWAS Commission to work with WAHO, the West African Health Organisation to assist member states in acquiring the vaccines and provide facilities to store and distribute the vaccines within the region.
Efforts should also be accelerated for the region to start producing rapid diagnostic test kits of international standards to be made available to all member states. It is important for the region to evolve effective measures and avoid total lockdown at this critical time that our economies are gradually recovering from the first wave of the pandemic.
The economic challenges that our region faces because of the pandemic will no doubt manifest this year, 2021. As you are all aware, the major source of income for ECOWAS is the community levy, which will significantly reduce because of the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on our economies. Therefore, as the tenure of the current management of ECOWAS comes to an end by February 2020, the organization must adjust to conform with current realities.
A situation where ECOWAS has 23 statutory appointees, of which 13 are Commissioners for this Commission is totally unsustainable. There is need for lean and compact leadership in ECOWAS, which will enhance efficiency and performance of the organization. It will also eliminate overlapping and that is to say tussle between the large statutory appointees and reduce personnel and overhead cost that could be channeled to the execution of developmental projects.
The African Union, our larger continental organization of 55 members has pruned down its commissioners to only six, hence, there’s no basis, whatsoever, for ECOWAS, with only 15 members, to maintain 13 commissioners and 10 other statutory appointees. Accordingly, Nigeria recommends the immediate appointment of a ministerial adhoc committee to review the proposal of the Maxwells Temp Report and submit a recommendation during the mid-year summit for our our consideration and adoption.
If, however, some countries are not in favour of this, then each country must sponsor its own statutory appointee and this is practiced by other organizations such as the European Union and other regional organizations.
Going by the recommendation of the Maxwells Temp Report, it is envisaged that even with the lean number of statutory appointees, each member country will still have a representative on the management of ECOWAS. We believe that this should satisfy our desire to have a sense of belonging the community’s institutions and also to enhance our spirit of solidarity.
Your Excellencies, at 45, ECOWAS is expected to be an accomplished regional organization, therefore it is time for us to be taking the right and bold decisions to enhance the performance of the organization. This is to fulfill the aspirations of its founding fathers and effectively serve the citizens of our community, to consolidate our prime position as the best sub-regional organization on the African continent.