President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja called for stronger partnerships among ECOWAS leaders to tackle challenges facing the region, noting that political, economic, security and COVID-19 issues will require collective action.
The president, who spoke at the 60th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the region faces renewed threats with the COVID-19 pandemic, political tensions, terrorism and economic challenges.
“All of these challenges require our collective action to work in concert with each other to pragmatically address and provide our people better prospects in life. Today’s realities remind us of the need to continue to forge stronger solidarity in order to address the new challenges, including the current third wave of the pandemic and its new Omicron variant.
“I am glad that the ECOWAS and the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) are continuing to work with our respective National Disease Control Centres to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our people and sub-region,” he said.
President Buhari commended chair of Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government and Ghanaian president, Nana Akuffo-Addo, for the purposeful leadership, commitment and energy he continues to exert to resolve the challenges confronting the organisation.
“Despite the enormity of these challenges, our chair has navigated us well and continues to do so. We owe him enormous gratitude,” he said.
The president noted that the challenges of COVID-19 and its catastrophic consequences on the socio-economic environment had continued, adding that the regional resilience, determination and resolution of working together, in solidarity with each other, assisted greatly to lessen the burdens of the Pandemic.
“Excellencies and dear colleagues, without doubt, the occasion for which we have gathered here today is a clear demonstration of our resolute commitment to the effective integration of our sub-region.
“As a people, we aspire to create a borderless, peaceful, prosperous and cohesive region, built on good governance and where people have the capacity to access and harness its resources through the creation of opportunities for sustainable development, job creation and environmental preservation,” he added.
Buhari said the sub-region continues to face socio-economic, political, security and environmental fragilities linked to COVID-19 pandemic and the military coups in Mali and Guinea.
According to the president: “Furthermore, threats are looming around environmental degradation and climate change in our farming system. We are facing a network of criminals, including terrorism.
“At this 60th Ordinary Session, we have before us several issues of critical importance to the Community, as listed on our Agenda. I would, therefore, urge us to carefully consider the issues to be presented to us and take well-informed concrete decisions for the welfare and wellbeing of our peoples and the future of our Community.”
In his remarks, Akufo-Addo said about 10,000 people had died from the COVID-19 pandemic in West Africa, and only two percent of the population had been fully vaccinated, while six percent got one dose.
He said the emergence of a new variant poses fresh challenges, adding that the sanctions and restrictions on travelling were unjustified.
The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean Claude Brou, apprised the heads of state and government on economic, political and security challenges facing the region, calling for concerted efforts to tackle the difficulties.