Buhari laments unpleasant setbacks in West Africa

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President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented that despite efforts by the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) towards deepening democracy, the region has suffered some unpleasant setbacks.

The president made this known on Sunday in Abuja at the 62nd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, saying “Regrettably, some of our gains, especially in fully democratising our governance space, have faced and continue to face severe challenging threats from unconstitutional change of government as witnessed in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.”

President Buhari, therefore, urged the new management team at the ECOWAS Commission led by Omar Alieu Toure to complete the review and harmonisation of ongoing reforms aimed at strengthening the sub-regional body.

He further said, “Related to this is the urgent need to fully bring into operation the Regional Action Plan on the fight against terrorism and other acts of criminality in the sub-region as enhanced safety will sustain national governance efforts that would ensure the growth and progress of our sub-region.”

While welcoming his fellow regional leaders, President Buhari said this year’s summit is the eighth that Nigeria under his leadership had hosted.

He said “All of those occasions, including this one, have brought honour and respect to my country, as Nigeria continues to be at the centre of sustained solidarity and collaborative efforts to maximise our relationships in order to address common challenges to our countries and the community’s citizens.”

He also commended President Nana Kuffour Addo of Ghana, the immediate past chairperson of the authority, for his services, and congratulated President Umaro Embalo of Guinea Bissau on his emergence as the head of the organisation, expressing confidence in his ability to discharge his responsibilities to the sub-region, as well as meet the expectations of the community’s citizens.”

President Buhari, in a statement issued by his media aide, Femi Adesina, thanked the leaders for the support he received as the regional champion on COVID-19 at a time it ravaged the entire world, attributing the successes recorded in the region to their cooperation.

Meanwhile, speaking earlier at the official ground-breaking ceremony of the new ECOWAS headquarters building, President Buhari thanked the Chinese government “for their financial and technical contribution to ensuring that a monument of this nature is built on behalf of our region.”

The building, which would be named the EYE OF WEST AFRICA, with an expected completion period of 26 months, is expected to house the three major ECOWAS institutions: ECOWAS Commission, Community Court of Justice and Parliament.

Speaking at the event, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, said “to sponsor and construct the new ECOWAS Headquarters is a vivid reflection of China’s support to the work of ECOWAS as well as the traditional friendship between China and the West African countries.”

He added “We will continue to promote the common development of China and Africa, and are ready to make new contribution to the building of the China-Africa community with shared future in the new era”.

The Chinese envoy also commended Nigeria’s leadership role in regional and ECOWAS affairs through its restless efforts to maintain regional stability and catalyze region integration.