Nigeria: Buhari reels out ECOWAS' successes on regional bloc's 40th "birthday" anniversary

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - On the occasion of the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja on Thursday, Nigeria's leader Muhammadu Buhari, has said that the achievement of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff and Trade Liberalisation Scheme is a vital sign post in the Convergence Criteria required for the Common Currency regime in West Africa.

Welcoming fellow heads of state and other delegates to the celebration, Buhari said the occasion would provide stakeholders the opportunity to reflect on the progress so far made towards achieving the objectives of ECOWAS over the past 40 years, "the challenges confronting our Community and the way forward to fast tracking deeper integration.

"Records and the reality on the ground indicate that considerable progress has been achieved. We have gone beyond the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods, realizing incrementally the harmonisation of trade and our customs codes.

"Our people can now reside in and freely move from one country to another in our region without the stress of visas, thanks to the Protocol on Free Movement that was signed in 1979; and the region’s infrastructure deficit has been substantially reduced."

He said "These and many other achievements are clear indication of the community’s resolve to shift emphasis to economic integration, while still keeping focus on peace and security, another area where tremendous achievements were  also recorded," recalling that ECOWAS had demonstrated commitment and leadership in the successful resolution of the crises in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau.

Buhari restated that a lot more work still needed to be done. "We need to fast track the  integration process, and the most effective way to do so is through accelerated and focused investments in key development sectors including but not limited to energy, transportation, as well as road and rail networks. We should therefore push existing initiatives and adopt new ones. Insufficient power supply has been identified as a major obstacle to investments in the region.

"As we make individual efforts to boost power supply in our respective countries, we should accelerate the implementation of critical infrastructure such as the West African gas pipeline project, while remaining committed to the promotion of alternative and renewable energy sources. Urgent steps need to be taken to encourage intra-regional trade among member states in order to boost employment generation and trade relations."

On the consequences of climate change, Buhari said "we must continue to coordinate our actions with the other African countries including through the African Union, in working with the rest of the world to reduce global warming without compromising our industrial development drive.

On violence, the Nigerian leader noted that the West African region continues to be confronted with the daunting scourge of transnational organized crime including arms trafficking, drug trafficking, as well as piracy and criminality at sea.

He said "Equally worrying is the rising scourge of violent extremism and terrorism. All this constitute serious threats to peace and security in the region, and therefore require sustained focus and concerted actions."

He called on fellow leaders to continue to enhance their system of governance and, "working with our partners, accelerate the implementation of our joint initiatives and mechanisms that were created to address these daunting but not insurmountable risks.

"We must enhance cooperation with other regional and continental organisations such as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), and the African Union particularly in the fight against violent extremism, terrorism and piracy."

He warned "As we celebrate today, let us not forget that beyond politics, the economic integration of our region must remain the fundamental objective of this Organisation. We need to accelerate our efforts towards achieving monetary union by meeting the convergence criteria while member–states should strive to key into the Common External Tariff, which came into being this year."

He stressed the urgent need for structural reforms and capacity building in order to enhance efficiency, improve transparency and build confidence within the Commission and other institutions of the Community.

"Accountability and doing more with less should be the hallmark of the ECOWAS Commission, he said, adding that "The ECOWAS Parliament needs to be empowered to make laws rather than operating as an advisory body, while the ECOWAS Court of Justice should be strengthened to enable it deliver on its mandate."

To the ECOWAS founding fathers, Buhari saluted their vision, wisdom as well as their courage to establish "ECOWAS that has over the years evolved to become a leading regional economic community in Africa".

ECOWAS, founded on 28 May 1975 with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos, in Lagos, Nigeria, was established to promote cooperation and integration, as well as economic growth and development in West Africa,
-0- PANA VAO 17Dec2015

17 december 2015 15:20:07




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