WELCOME REMARKS BY H.E. MUHAMMADU BUHARI PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON THE OCCASION OF 52ND ORDINARY SESSION OF THE ECOWAS AUTHORITY OF HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT ABUJA, TRANSCORP HILTON HOTEL 16 DECEMBER 2017
Ø Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government of Member Countries of ECOWAS,
Ø Your Excellency, Mohamed Ould Abdel – Aziz,
Ø Your Excellencies, former Heads of State,
Ø Your Excellency, Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission,
Ø Your Excellency, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General,
Ø Your Excellency, President of the ECOWAS Commission and other Appointees of the organisation,
Ø Honourable Ministers,
Ø Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
Dear colleagues and invited guests, may I welcome you all and your delegations to Abuja, for this Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States.
2. In West Africa, we live in constant threat of violent terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, AQIM and Al-Qaida. Nearly every week we see and hear the horror of human trafficking perpetrated by trans-border syndicates, who lure our youths to slavery through irregular migration.
3. We see the consequences, on our young men and women and on our economies, of drug trafficking and capital flight. Accordingly, it is imperative that we take urgent action to address these challenges.
4. In collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration, we, in Nigeria, have been evacuating our compatriots who are stranded in Libya. Returnees have been receiving needed support including from State Governments and some non-governmental Organisations. I have instructed the National Emergency Management Agency to speed up the evacuation of all Nigerians stranded in Libya and facilitate their resettlement.
Your Excellencies Dear Colleagues,
5. In view of the enormity of this challenge, may I suggest that we look into the possibility of putting in place a well run regional mechanism for the evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS citizens abroad. Meanwhile, we should step up dialogue with our European partners in our efforts to jointly address this challenge which affect us all.
6. The long term solutions to these challenges is to create conditions of peace and security in our countries and sustainable development of our economies. Only through this can we create jobs and other conditions in which our youths will have little or no excuse to embark on the suicidal venture of irregular migration.
7. Regrettably, there is growing reluctance from our region’s development partners to be more proactive in support of our efforts. However, our shared challenges make it imperative for the cooperation to be developed and intensified.
8. Thanks to the foresight of our predecessors, this Authority of Heads of State and Government adopted, in 2001 the “ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance”. Since then, our region has been steadily developing the culture of democratic practice, including good governance and respect for the Rule of Law.
9. This trend has just been demonstrated in Liberia. I salute the people of Liberia for the manner in which they conducted themselves during and in the aftermath of the just concluded general elections.
10. It is my fervent hope that the same attitude prevails in the coming run-off election scheduled to hold on 26 December, and a new president is inaugurated in January, 2018 as per the provision of the country’s Constitution. My Dear Sister, Your Excellency Sirleaf-Johnson, we appreciate the leadership you demonstrated in this electoral process.
11. May I also appeal to our Togolese brothers and sisters to continue to embrace dialogue in efforts to resolve their political differences. I therefore urge the Government to widen the space for dialogue and mediation.
12. With regards to our sister nation, Guinea-Bissau, it is worrisome that the continued political deadlock is taking its toll on the people, on good governance and the resources of member States, particularly troops from contributing countries to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau.
13. I therefore strongly urge all the stakeholders in Guinea Bissau to respect their undertakings in plans to resolve the political impasse.
14. In the wake of the recent recession and economic challenges faced by ECOWAS Member States, as evidenced by the severe drop in real growth rate for ECOWAS from 6.1% in 2014 and 3.3% in 2015, to an alarming rate of 0.2% in 2016, there is an urgent need to review the spending patterns of all the Community Institutions, to ensure that dwindling resources are put to good economic use for the optimization of strategic goals of the Community.
15. In this regard, I urge the Commission leadership to practice probity and accountability in the management of our resources.
16. Equally important is the need to consolidate the efforts made so far on the ongoing Reform of ECOWAS Institutions and Specialized Agencies, and to emphasize the importance of good governance, sound financial management and cost reduction as the underlying factors for a successful reform.
17. In this regard, Nigeria welcomes the approved institutional reforms of our organisation, and we are looking forward to their comprehensive implementation. The gains and savings made should be invested on greater integration projects, as well as on security and development initiatives.
Thank you and God Bless