By our Reporter
Looking at events on the global context, President Muhammadu Buhari has described threats to peace and security, political instability and the adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the economies as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine as the biggest concerns of the region.
‘According to him, ‘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 instance, at the height of the pandemic, heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appointed me as the ‘ECOWAS Champion’ on COVID-19,” Buhari said.
He reminded legislators of the ECOWAS Parliament on the need to align their programmes to those of the founding fathers of the sub-regional body.
And the president, at the opening session of 2022 Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament Monday, said “the vision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS was to have a West Africa sub-region that is integrated economically with harmonised policies, enjoying free movement of persons, goods and services, as well as seamless right to establishment.
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In his words, “We must continue to strive harder to attain those objectives. Let us take advantage of existing mechanisms and our enterprising population to turn our dreams into reality.
He added: “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 Let us collaborate more and remove our outdated physical and psychological boundaries and other colonially-inspired differences so our region can fully attain its full potential.’’
Also, on the election of members of the ECOWAS Parliament by direct universal suffrage, Buhari in a statement signed by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, declared his support for the process, provided it is conducted with minimum or even at no cost at all, to the community.
He emphasises that the ECOWAS Parliament could only fulfill its true mandate when it has a set of directly elected and dedicated members.
Hence he said, ‘‘I believe that a membership of the ECOWAS Parliament, not drawn from serving members of parliaments of member states, would be a good step towards injecting our regional integration with new energy and initiative.”
Buhari then 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.
He stated that, ‘‘We are convinced that the sustenance of democracy and the rule of law should remain the norm in this promising region.
Continuing, he explained, “There will be multiple political activities in some ECOWAS Member States, including Nigeria, where general elections are due to be held in February and March 2023, saying, ‘‘Let me seize this opportunity to reiterate my commitment to free, fair and transparent elections and smooth transitions.
Buhari stressed that, “This is one legacy that I want my administration to bequeath, not only to Nigeria, but to the region as a whole.”
Again, citing upcoming elections in Sierra Leone and Liberia, President Buhari declared Nigeria’s readiness to stand by any country in the region that is committed to organising free and fair elections.
Then the president highlighted that the global economic downturn has deeply affected the economies of member-countries and resulted in dire economic hardships for the citizens of the community.
Thus, in this context, the President urged the parliament to perform their sacred responsibility of considering the Community budget with diligence, conscious of the sacrifice of various countries in the payment of Community Levy.
He said further that, “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.
Expatiating, the president alluded that, ‘‘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.”
Additionally, Buhari noted 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.’’
He, therefore, lauded the organisation for evolving in many aspects, since its formation 47 years ago.