President Muhammadu Buhari has described threats to peace and security, political instability, and the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine as the biggest concerns facing the West African region.
The president spoke yesterday at the opening session of the 2022 Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament.
“It is on record that the region has not rested on its oars as we have always striven to evolve effective regional mechanisms to address these challenges.
“For example, at the height of the pandemic, Heads of State of ECOWAS appointed me as the ECOWAS champion on COVID-19.
“Working with three Ministerial Committees comprising Member States’ Ministers of Health, Finance and Transportation, we developed an effective response by mitigating the effect of COVID-19 on our citizens.
“Our efforts yielded positive results as the ECOWAS region became one of the sub-regions least affected by the pandemic, in terms of mortality rate,” he said.
Buhari said that in spite of several challenges, the regional bloc “has continued to wax stronger as a community and has remained strong and resilient and shining example of regional integration and solidarity.”
The president, however, reminded legislators of the ECOWAS parliament on the need to align their programmes to those of the founding fathers of the sub-regional body.
He said that the vision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS was to have a West Africa that is integrated economically with harmonized policies, enjoying the free movement of persons, goods and services, as well as the seamless right to establishment.
“Let us take advantage of existing mechanisms and our enterprising population to turn our dreams into reality.
“We have the capacity to do so. Let us collaborate more and remove our outdated physical and psychological boundaries and other colonially-inspired differences so our region can fully attain its full potential,” he said.
On the election of members of the ECOWAS Parliament by Direct Universal Suffrage, Buhari declared his support for the process, provided it would be conducted with minimum or even at no cost at all, to the community.
He reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to ECOWAS efforts, with the support of partners, to keep the region peaceful, secure and politically stable, pledging that the country would continue to support the restoration of democratic rule in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
The Nigerian president assured the parliament that the ground-breaking ceremony of the ECOWAS Commission’s headquarters in Abuja to be constructed by the Government of the Peoples Republic of China will take place on December 5, 2022.