Abuja (WorldStage Newsonline)-- For the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to achieve economic integration and peace, they must be ready to work in unity and cohesion, according to President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria.
Jonathan who will be relinquishing his position as the Chairman of, ECOWAS Heads of states and Government, a position he has occupied since 2010 following the death of Former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and was later elected at the completion of that tenure, said the region needed to continue to demonstrate its cohesiveness and speak with one voice as a region.
Jonathan who was speaking at the opening of the 40th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS said, argued that of the five regions of Africa, West Africa has the highest number of member states; a situation he said should be explored.
He spoke on the backdrop of the recent election for the post of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission in Addis Ababa at the 18th session of the AU Summit where the region’s candidate, Jan Ping of Gabon failed to meet the required votes in his re-election bid, when some ECOWAS member states broke rank with the consensus position of the sub-region.
Jonathan also raised the concern of the rising scourge of terrorism, a situation he said had become a threat to the peace and security of the sub-region.
He said, “Your Excellencies, there can be no overstating the imperative need that our efforts for integration and peace would be hard to achieve if our unity and cohesion are not assured. Indeed, our Organisation has been universally acclaimed as a role model in sub-regional integration.
“However, and unfortunately, this quality is now gravely imperilled as clearly demonstrated by what transpired during the election of the African Union Commission Chairperson in Addis Ababa at the 18th Session of the Assembly where some ECOWAS member states broke rank with the consensus position of the sub-region.
“We need to continue to demonstrate our cohesiveness and speak with one voice as a region. Of the five regions of Africa, West Africa has the highest number of member states. This is an important leverage in our hands. We need to demonstrate it and exploit it to advance the interest of our sub-region. We should not allow such leverage to slip through our hands through advancing individual consideration.”
He also reminded ECOWAS leaders on the fact that besides politics, economic integration of the sub-region remains the fundamental objective of the organisation and therefore all efforts should geared towards achieving the target of the convergence criteria, and the harmonisation of tariff regimes set by the Monetary union.
“Your Excellencies, we must not forget that beyond politics, the economic integration of our sub-region remains the fundamental objective of our Organisation. We must, therefore, accelerate our efforts toward monetary union by meeting the convergence criteria, and achieving the harmonisation of tariff regimes.”
He further added that “internally, within the Community Institutions, there is an urgent need for structural reforms in order to enhance capacity and improve transparency. Activities of our Organisation must conform to global best practices to improve confidence and assure growth. It cannot continue to be business as usual if our Organisation must fulfil the vision of our founding fathers.”
The president who also gave account of his stewardship noted that under his Chairmanship, ECOWAS faced numerous political and economic challenges, most of which were resolved successfully.
He however submitted that despite the successes achieved under him, there have also been serious challenges in the Sahel Region.
“Under my Chairmanship, our Organisation faced numerous political and economic challenges, most of which we resolved successfully; thanks to our collective commitment and dedication to the cause of peace. This was helped by the cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship between our Organisation and international organisations, including the African Union, United Nations, and the European Union.
“This international cooperation was best exemplified during the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, where we found a common voice in the firm and unequivocal application of our Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. This greatly facilitated the resolution of the crisis. At this Summit , we are pleased to welcome in our midst our brother and dear colleague, President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire . His presence strengthens our Organisation and we wish him every success in the governance of his country.
“Your Excellencies, our efforts to consolidate democracy in our sub-region paid off substantially in Liberia , Niger and Guinea Conakry during my chairmanship. In Liberia , an ECOWAS Mini-Summit held in September last year successfully addressed the influx of ex-combatants from Cote d’Ivoire into the country. The resolution of this problem helped in providing a conducive environment for the successful elections held in Liberia in October and November 2011.
“In Niger, the attempts by the then incumbent President to alter the Constitution to elongate his tenure in office were averted. Subsequently, elections were held which paved the way for Niger to return to the ranks of democratic nations.
“In Guinea Conakry , where there had been a series of military interventions, ECOWAS has successfully guided the country to hold elections and a return to democracy.
“On Guinea Bissau , let me condole the government and people for the untimely death of President Bacai Sanhya. Let me also recognize and welcome in our midst the Interim President, H.E. Raimundo Pereira. ECOWAS have charted a path to stabilise the polity through a carefully developed Defence and Security Sector Reform Programme (DSSRP). Our Organisation has invested considerable resources into the Programme and we are confident of success.
“I urge all stakeholders in Guinea Bissau to join hands to ensure the full implementation of the Programme. The Programme was drawn up and approved with the active participation of Guinea Bissau and other regional stakeholders. As an ECOWAS programme, the ECOWAS Commission is responsible for its coordination and full implementation with full participation of other stakeholders.”
“In the Sahel Region, we have witnessed a proliferation of small arms and light weapons, now even more accentuated in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. As a result, countries in the region are threatened by insurgents and terrorists with dire consequences for the peace, stability and prosperity of the sub-region.
In the Gulf of Guinea, the increasing incidence of piracy has reached a worrisome dimension. This is compounded with drug trafficking, oil bunkering and human trafficking. All of these require urgent and concerted actions.”
He also said individuals and institutions who helped ECOWAS towards advancing its vision of a better and greater community of citizens should be honoured and commended just as it did in the last Summit with the honoure bestowed on the founding fathers - Generals Yakubu Gowon, Gnasingbe Eyadema, Prof. Adebayo Adedeji and Mr Edem Kodjo.
Jonathan also reiterated the country’s avowed commitment to the integration objectives of the Organisation.
“ We will not relent in this pursuit. I call upon all member-states to come together in unity to serve our Organisation. We should not allow any division in our ranks to be exploited to the detriment of our regional objectives,” he said.
He further pledge that “as I relinquish the Chairmanship of this esteemed Organisation, I look forward to working closely with the incoming Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of our Commission.
He also urged ECOWAS to give his would be successor the same cooperation and support he enjoined so that the Organisation to realise the laudable objectives set by ECOWAS founding fathers.