Home / Africa / West African leaders must collaborate to overcome common challenges — Buhari

West African leaders must collaborate to overcome common challenges — Buhari

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday advocated renewed collaboration among West African leaders to overcome the myriad of common challenges, including state of insecurity facing the sub-region.

This is just as the President of Ghana and Chairman of Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Nana Akufo-Addo, said only two per cent of the entire population of the subregion had been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic. President Buhari made the advocacy in his welcome address at the 60th Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, held at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He noted that the sub-region had, in recent times, managed to stay afloat amid a myriad of crises, which include the negative socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, state of insecurity, which has claimed many lives and left millions displaced.

The Nigerian leader, however, charged leaders of the region to be ready to deliberately work together in the task of finding solutions to the challenges, as a region.

Our subregion continues to face socioeconomic, political, security, and environmental realities linked to Coronavirus pandemic. Our democracy is being challenged in Mali and Guinea. Furthermore, threats are looming around environmental degradation and climate change on our farming systems. We are facing a network of criminals, including terrorism.

“All of these challenges require our collective action to work in concert with each other to pragmatically address and provide our people better prospects in life. Today’s realities remind us of the need to continue to forge stronger solidarity in order to address the new challenges, including the current third wave of the pandemic and its Omicron variant.

I am glad that the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States and the West Africa Health Organization are continuing to work with our respective national disease control centers to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our people and subregion,” President Buhari said.

He, however, thanked the Ghanaian President and Chairman of ECOWAS, President Nana Akufo-Addo, for providing the needed leadership to member states, as they mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

In his opening remarks, President Akufo-Addostre-ssed the need for the subregion to take local production of COVID-19 vaccines more seriously, pointing out that with all the efforts so far made in the fight against the virus, only 2% of the population of the subregion had been completely vaccinated.

He said:   “As of 8th December, our region has recorded 674,556 cases of infections with some 10,000 deaths. This scourge has impacted our humanitarian, social and economic sectors, and it continues to rage with the emergence of a new variant and the risk of a new wave in our region.

“The new variant Omicron has already been found in three member states, and has led to unfortunate imposition of travel bans by some countries, which are unjustified and unacceptable. Meanwhile, the availability of vaccines continues to remain a problem. Despite our efforts, we have only 6% of our population receiving one dose, with 2% of the population fully vaccinated.

“Whilst we remain grateful for the support from friends of the community, we must continue to pursue national and regional efforts to fight COVID-19 and move rapidly into the domestic production of vaccines for the protection of our citizens and for the growth and development of our economy”.

The ECOWAS Chairman, also called for continued mobilization of troops for peace keeping in areas where peace is fragile, noted that all is being done to restore democratic governance in Mali and Guinea, where there were undemocratic change of power

Akufo-Addo restated ECOWAS’ resolve to promote good governance in West Africa, through the sustenance of democratic institutions.

“We continue to be faced with security trials in the forms of deadly terrorist and kidnapping attacks, particularly in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, causing numerous casualties amongst civilians and security forces, resulting in a significant number of displaced persons.

“Recent events in Burkina Faso are matters of the greatest concern. Increased coordination, however, on the part of coastal nations, have

recently led to an improved maritime security situation in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Let me on behalf of the authority, condemn in the strongest terms, these attacks that continue to plague our region. Significant efforts are being made at both national and regional levels to fight terrorism and extremism.

“We must step up our efforts to deal with these tasks which will be imposed upon us and we must act in such a way that no one will doubt our resolve to protect our peoples and the peace and stability of our countries”, Akufo-Addo said.

He congratulated President Jose Neves of Cape Verde, who was attending the summit for the first time, as well as Adama Barrow of Gambia, who recently got re-elected.

In a goodwill message, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, represented by the Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Annadif Saleh, pledged more support for ECOWAS, as he sued for more cooperation among member States.

Guterres commended Cape Verde and the Gambia, for holding peaceful Presidential elections recently.

In another goodwill message, the African Union represented by its Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Nigeria’s Bankole Adeoye, hailed ECOWAS for sustaining democracy in West Africa.

The AU pledged to continue to work closely with ECOWAS to ensure the promotion of good governance within the region.

The two-day summit was attended by Heads of State and government of all the member States, as well as Former Nigerian leader and ECOWAS Special Envoy and Mediator to Mali, Goodluck Jonathan, and President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean Kassi Brou, among others.

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