President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called on member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure the timely payment of the Statutory Community Levy due to enable the regional body tackle issues of insecurity, climate change and economic development.
The Nigerian leader stated that the organisation’s determination to create a safe and stable sub-region must be predicated on a strong and capable ECOWAS, adding that no institution can function effectively without adequate funding.
Buhari, who is the current chairman of ECOWAS, made this call while declaring open the 54th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS in Abuja.
He said by meeting their financial obligations, the member states will empower the Commission to implement its integration agenda
He said, “This would require that all hands are on deck and that all Member States ensure the payment of the Statutory Community Levy as and 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 actualise our vision of building an ECOWAS of peoples and not of states,’’ he said.
The president particularly paid special tribute to President Nana Akuffo-Addo of Ghana, President Alpha Conde of Republic of Guinea and ECOWAS facilitators in the resolution of the Togolese political crisis, for their tireless endeavours towards a peaceful settlement.
“I’m 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.
“We have also extended electoral support and assistance to several countries and acted pro-actively to neutralise 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,’’ he said.
President Buhari, however, noted that in spite the successes, the regional organisation was still confronted by several challenges, saying that the sub-region had continued to face difficulties in the economic, governance, peace, security and humanitarian fields.
He observed that the lofty ideals of ECOWAS, including the promotion of cooperation and integration leading to the establishment of an economic and monetary union in West Africa, as well as the creation of a borderless peaceful, prosperous and cohesive region, would be unattainable without peace and security.
According to him, that is why he decided to make the issue of peace and security the major focus of his chairmanship.
Buhari noted that his efforts had started yielding dividends as the organisation had been able to douse tension and restore confidence in some potentially disruptive situations, particularly in Guinea Bissau, Togo and Mali.
On the forthcoming national elections in Nigeria and Senegal in 2019, the Nigerian leader said he had already pledged 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,’’ he added.
He, however, expressed concern that terrorism and violent extremism had continued to threaten peace and security in the sub-region.
The president said: “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.’’
He also stressed the need for member states to join forces to eliminate those factors that were militating against a secure, conducive and prosperous environment for the benefit of the people in the sub-region.
The president noted that such actions would enable them (member states) address the continuing fragility of the sub-region’s economies linked closely to commodity prices, nascent democracies, negative effects of climate change on farming systems and the globalisation of crime and terrorism.
“These realities remind us of the need for even stronger intra-ECOWAS solidarity in order to address emerging challenges. This is indeed the very essence of our Union,” he said.