Nigeria: Buhari calls on ECOWAS to focus on improving lives of citizens

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has urged member nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to cut the organisation's administration costs in all its institutions and focus on programmes aimed at enhancing and affecting the lives of the citizens positively.

"The cost of governance must be reduced across all ECOWAS institutions while resources should be devoted to programmes and projects that will have direct bearing on the lives of ordinary citizenry and create jobs fast enough to absorb our teeming youth population," the president said Saturday at the opening of the 50th ordinary summit of the Community's Heads of State in Abuja.

President Buhari also called for the review of the ECOWAS Treaty in order to make the regional bloc responsive to new national, regional and global challenges.

ECOWAS needs to make conscious efforts to improve on governance and accountability at all levels, he said, adding that this calls for the speedy conclusion of the reforms of all ECOWAS institutions to put it on a much stronger footing.

"We should ensure that priority is given to the implementation of development programmes, while ECOWAS Parliament should be entrusted with more functions," Buhari said.

Also worried by the low trade volume in the region, the president called on the member countries to diversify their economy.

"Today most of our countries continue to record low volume of trade, occasioned by declining level of economic activities, caused by the sharp fall in commodity prices.

"While oil prices fell by an outstanding 57% between June 2014 and January 2015 , other commodity prices have also weakened sharply, thereby putting pressure on the current account and fiscal balances of our countries.

"This ugly situation demands that we diversify our respective economies from commodities into other sectors such as banking, construction and telecommunications and most importantly agro-processing, manufacturing and services," the president suggested, pointing to the need for adjustment to a more challenging globalized environment.

"Member states must diversify their economies away from trade in commodities towards developing robust infrastructure that will support manufacturing and industrialization.

"To this end, I urge the community to invest more in infrastructure and human resources so as to unleash the potentials that exist in our respective economies and in our people," the president said.

On the tension in Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso, the president said they have substantially enhanced capacity for dealing with conflict as amply demonstrated in the quick intervention of the community to douse tension and restore peace in these countries.

"As we deepen our democratic experience, promote good governance and address inequality, I urge us to devote more resources to early warning mechanisms in order to develop an effective conflict prevention strategy.

"We also need a stronger political will for peacekeeping operations in our sub-region as we have done in the past," he added.

The Chairperson of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said that ECOWAS is committed to carrying out institutional reforms.

"I can confirm that the President of the commission is taking firm action to rationalize the structure of the commission and to contain cost through more efficient financial management and effective use of resources consistent with the current economic situation.

"The reform process is driven by the Maxwell Stamp Consultants, who have proposed concrete reform processes to decentralize functions and introduce business like services. This is consistent with our vision of providing services that impact the lives of community citizens," she informed the meeting.

On security, President Johnson-Sirleaf said: "We remain very concerned about the Boko Haram recurring attacks in Nigeria and other countries of the Lake Chad Basin."

She added that there was equal concern regarding terrorist attacks on civilians and military targets in Mali.

According to her, the negative impact of these attacks did not affect the significant progress made by President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita and his Government in the implementation of the Malian Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.

She however said that the Chiefs of Defence Staff at recent regional meetings have formulated strategic security interventions to address these terrorist activities.

Another challenge in the region, she said, was the Transhumance security, which has resulted in the loss of lives and negative impact on regional food security.

"I am pleased that the Commission has taken the necessary actions to address this challenge from a human security perspective. In this regard, the Authority expects an integrated approach which will support the Commission’s efforts at deepening Regional Livestock Movement Management Control System," she said, noting that the Nigerian approach to managing its Transhumance challenges "is a model that can be shared at bilateral levels with other member States encountering the same problems."

On the situation in Gambia, the Liberian leader said: "With respect to the Gambia, on December 1, the people of the Republic of The Gambia voted decisively for a change in the political leadership of the country by electing the candidate of a seven-party Opposition Coalition.

"On the same date, the incumbent President conceded to the result of the election and congratulated the elected President. On December 10, the incumbent President rescinded his concession and called for a fresh vote.

"In response, on December 13, an ECOWAS Mission which I headed and comprising Presidents John Mahama, Muhammadu Buhari and Ernest Bai Koroma, accompanied by Dr. Mohamed Chambas, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to West Africa and the Sahel, proceeded to Banjul to mediate with the concerned parties toward a resolution that would respect the will of the people.

"The Mission was successful in its consultative effort by holding meetings with the President, the President-elect and all the other relevant stakeholders. It is now important that the Authority, at this Summit, considers recommended measures to bring this matter to successful conclusion before January 19, the constituted date when the mandate of the incumbent President expires.

"I would like to thank President Buhari, President Mahama, President Koroma and Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas for their strong support and commitment and for joining me on the Mission aimed at finding a solution to the political impasse in The Gambia," she added
-0- PANA MON/AR 17Dec2016

17 december 2016 16:28:21

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