President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday reiterated his call for stronger and more effective regional, continental and global alliance to rid the West African sub-region of terrorism, piracy and violent extremism.
Jonathan made the call in his welcome address at the 46th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS.
He said though the West African sub-region had recorded much achievement in democracy and economic growth, it must admit its security and public health challenges, especially the Ebola epidemic.
The president, who described these challenges as worrisome, noted that they had direct negative consequences on the continued peace, stability and prosperity of the region.
“Worrisome is the ravaging scourge of terrorism, which now threatens the peace and security of our sub-region.
“In the Sahel region, we have witnessed increasing proliferation of small arms and light weapons. As a result, countries in the region are today threatened by insurgents or terrorists.
“These actions have direct consequences for the continued peace, stability and prosperity of the region.
“In the Gulf of Guinea, the increasing incidents of piracy have assumed a worrisome dimension.
“This is confounded by drug trafficking, oil bunkering and human trafficking; all of these require urgent and concerted actions from all of us.
“I, therefore, call for stronger and more effective regional, continental and global alliance to rid our region of terrorism, piracy and violent extremism.’’
Jonathan, however, assured other participants of Nigeria’s “steadfast commitment” to supporting peace and stability in the West African region.
He expressed joy that West Africa was one of the fastest growing regions in the continent as it recorded an economic growth rate, averaging 7 per cent in 2013 compared to 6.6 per cent in 2012.
The president attributed this to the region’s huge markets and various integration programmes that continued to attract regional and foreign investors.
He urged the ECOWAS Commission to continue to coordinate the full implementation of various economic integration programmes of the organisation.
This, according to him, is to fast-track the economic development of the region in the years ahead.
Jonathan said that beyond politics, the economic development and integration of the region must remain the fundamental objective of ECOWAS.
To this end, he urged member states to accelerate their efforts toward monetary union by “striving to meet the convergence criteria and achieving the harmonisation of tariff regimes’’.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that one of the 15 heads of state at the summit is the interim President of Burkina Faso, Mr Michel Kafando.
Jonathan described his appointment as the interim leader of his country as a reflection of his high standing with his people.
“It is also an affirmation of ECOWAS commitment to democracy and good governance as well as its zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government.
“We are pleased that we have remained engaged with the situation in the country and that we were able to find a common voice in seeking to resolve it,’’ Jonathan said.
In his opening address, President John Mahama of Ghana, pledged the commitment of ECOWAS to the process of peace and stability in Burkina Faso.
Mahama, who is the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, urged member states to continue to work together to address the security threats facing the region.
According to him, deeper integration is a must for the sub-region to achieve the much desired speedy and sustainable socio-economic development.
He described 2015 as a challenging year for Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire in view of the impending general elections and wished them well.
The opening session of the one-day summit witnessed the launch of the Common ECOWAS External Tariff (CET).