Rise against coup, terrorism, Tinubu tells West Africa

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday in Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau, urged leaders of the West Africa sub-region to work for peace and defend democracy.

Tinubu was unanimously elected as chair of the 16-nation Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) at the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of States/Governments of the sub-region, the first he attended as Nigerian leader.

He unfolded his agenda for elaborate socio-economic plans for the sub-region and encouraged trade and investment among member-states.

He said Nigeria will organise a trade and investment summit in October to drum home the importance of private sector-led economic growth in the sub-region.

Opening the meeting, the immediate past ECOWAS Chairman and President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo, saluted his fellow leaders for sustaining the vision of the organisation despite the global economic headwinds and trouble spots within the region.

He cited Mali, Burkina Faso and the Republic of Guinea as countries where the constitutional order had been distorted, and praised Nigeria and Sierra Leone for sustaining constitutional order through the democratic process with successful elections.

The meeting was attended by leaders from the sub-region.

A statement by Tinubu’s spokesman, Mr Dele Alake, quoted the President as saying: “In furtherance of my vision for our region’s economic recovery and growth, Nigeria intends to convene an ECOWAS Extra-Ordinary Summit on Trade and Investment in October 2023.

“The event will provide an opportunity for member states to showcase their potentials and encourage match-making, in order to evolve business cooperation among the various organised private sector within the region.”

He called for the strengthening of the institutions of the body.

“In the area of strengthening our organisation’s institutions and ensuring effective performance, we underscore the need for the conclusion of the ongoing institutional reforms of the organisation.

“Given that community levy remained the biggest source of generating funds to run our organisation, we must ensure that our citizens being taxed must be positively impacted by the programmes and projects of ECOWAS. This is in line with the shift of the ECOWAS slogan from ‘ECOWAS of State’ to ‘ECOWAS of People,’” the Nigerian President emphasised.

The ECOWAS Chairman called for improved private sector participation in the effort towards the economic development of member states as well as their social integration.

“We would work collectively to pursue an inclusive economic integration, which will be significantly private-sector driven, in order to unlock the vast economic potentials of our region.

“We would actively promote trade, investment, and business cooperation among member states by addressing the barriers impeding intra-regional trade, as well as creating a conducive business environment.

“We must encourage economic partnerships to raise the level of trade and investments in our region, hence facilitating employment creation and sustainable development and prosperity for our citizens.

“To this end, we must look inward and work with our regional economic facilitation platforms such as the Federation of West of West Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) as well as ECOWAS Trade Organisation Network to attain our desired goals,” he said further.

The Nigerian leader, however, warned that the threat to peace in the sub-region had reached an alarming proportion with terrorism and the emerging pattern of military takeover that now demand urgent and concerted actions.

He said insecurity and creeping terrorism were stunting the progress and development of the region.

President Tinubu called for collective action from member-states, pledging that under his leadership, frameworks would be harmonised to actualise the dreams of ECOWAS.

“On peace and security, the threat has reached an alarming level and needs urgent actions in addressing the challenges.

“Indeed, without a peaceful environment, progress and development in the region will continue to remain elusive.

“In this regard, we must remain committed to the utilisation of all regional frameworks at our disposal to address the menace of insecurity,” he declared.

President Tinubu noted that ECOWAS had developed a security architecture, which he noted, “covers a wide range of areas that involved kinetic and non-kinetic operations, including preventive diplomacy”.

He added: “There is also the Regional Plan of Action on Fight against Terrorism 2020-2024 as well as the operationalization of the ECOWAS Standby Force on Fight Against Terrorism.

“I will ensure that we immediately harmonize these plans and mobilise resources as well as the political will towards the actualisation of the initiatives.

“As terrorists do not respect boundaries, we must work collectively to have an effective regional counterterrorism measure.”

On his emergence as Chairman on his first participation at the summit, having just started as the elected leader of Nigeria, President Tinubu stated that he was humbled and honoured by the trust to assume the leadership of the regional body, pledging his commitment to serve the interest of the community.

He said: “Indeed, I’m humbled and honoured by this trust, and want to assure you of my unalloyed commitment to provide the necessary leadership with dedication to serve the interest of the community.”

To underscore his commitment towards regional integration, the Nigerian President declared that he would prioritise political stability, peace and security, regional economic integration and strengthening of the ECOWAS institutions, declaring that democracy and good governance remain the abiding cornerstone of peace and sustainable development.

While decrying the emerging pattern of coup d’etat in West Africa where soldiers have toppled the popular mandate of the people through the barrel of guns, President Tinubu charged ECOWAS to stand firm in defence of democracy.

“We must stand firm on democracy. There is no governance, freedom and rule of law without Democracy. We will not accept coup after coup in West Africa again. Democracy is very difficult to manage but it is the best form of government.

“There is no one here among us who did not campaign to be a leader. We didn’t give our soldiers resources. We didn’t invest in them, in their boots, in their training to violate the freedom of the people.

“To turn their guns against civil authorities is a violation of the principles upon which they were hired which is to defend the sovereignty of their nations. We must not sit in ECOWAS as toothless bulldogs,” the President warned.

On political stability, he said: “You will all agree with me that democracy and good governance are the cornerstones of peace and sustainable development of every society. I’m fully committed to deepening democracy and good governance in the region.

“We must strengthen our democratic institutions and ensure the respect for human rights and the rule of law. I will enhance engagements with the countries in transition to ensure their quick return to democratic rule,” he said.

He appreciated the Authority of Heads of State and citizens of the Community for trusting him to lead the West African body.

President Tinubu said: “Your Excellencies, let me conclude by once again deeply appreciating the Authority of Heads of State and the citizens of the Community for your trust in me. Together, we can shape a brighter future of shared values of peace, democracy, and economic prosperity in our region.”

Credit to: Thenationonlineng.net

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